As consumers, for most of us, the greatest dilemma rests in either taking the best of the market collection or taking the cheapest form of the stock. While it is a genuinely relatable problem and we will always have hiccups taking that extra dime out of our wallets to pay for something that we are likely to throw after a year of use, let us get our perspectives straight.
What are we investing in exactly?
Every single enterprise is working hours and hours trying to create something that appeals to us, which is of use to us. The kind of ideas, hard work and time that goes into this entire process is maintenance with the hopes of a favourable end results in mind. When it comes to clothing lines, each company puts an entire team and several machinery into creating that one piece of cloth that you deserve. Naturally then, they need to price it at a rate that pays for that entire circuit involved in the process
Now understand what goes into the making of your clothes in the handloom industry. Weaving requires herculean time and effort, and especially art. At best, we can rely on the haal for machine help but the initial process requires mostly manual labour for the cloth to be the way that is desired. Understand also that the collection of the raw silk is a huge business on its own. The industry not only fulfills the weavers but at the same time various farmers, plot owners, caretakers etc. It is an industry that employs a mass regional population for the sake of the pure authentic silk. A time came the public lost interest in the traditional means of clothing and shifted to westernization. In this shift many kept holding on to old means while the rest flocked to malls and modern bazaars. Little did anyone anticipate the fall of cultural heritage, traditional designs and mortifs and in some cases like the Ahom Kingdom- the complete loss of the traditional heritage which includes the language, the female attire, prayers etc.
One of the most remarkable things we grew up around was the sort of variant culture that supported our lifestyles. We remember our mother’s regular attire, or the breathtaking muga set she will take out only for special occasions. We don’t realize this often, but these remarkable symbolisms of our culture and heritage end up meaning more to us in later lives when slowly and steadily nostalgia starts to creep in. At a time when survival of almost everything is at the expense of the loss or inevitable doom of its arch rivals, these cultural markers start to fade away at a faster pace and without us even realizing.
At the same time, market for the newly improvised traditional clothing that fits the contemporary India is also low. There are high end marketing for extraordinary products such as silk sarees and lehengas, but not so much for regular wears. In a scenario like this handloom falls victim to the corporate fashion lines that rely on fast fashion made to look ethnic. The type of fabric that is woven by the local community weavers are also sold by high end companies using similar methods but by machines. With the involvement of machines, the cost falls drastically which gives fashion companies more scope to higher their mark up prices. This something to work on in the near future because there is no stopping an employment vs machine competition, but we can definitely make wiser choices.
We hope that in the near future, organic, sustainable and impact clothing will reach the conscious masses of India and will make good choices in consumption as a consumer.
By Khamseng Bohagi.
We believe the medias foremost responsibility is to remain fair and unbiased. But when Assam media houses only covers a particular politically backed group at the Textile India 2017 publicizing it as “the only organisation that made it big at the event”, we Srishti Handlooms, as part of the Assam Textile community find it extremely disappointing and discouraging with this unethical method of journalism.
While we are very supportive of the organisation- Golden Thread’s media coverage and firmly believe that coverage on any traditional handloom organisation helps the entire textile community as a whole.
However, we also believe, there were many local and independent organisations, including us, that deserves our due credit. We have slogged hard to be a part of this national event and contributed as much as the media publicized organisation has to represent the handloom culture of Assam.
One of the most visibly significant things about Assamese attire is its two piece garment for ladies. While almost the entire country prescribes a long 6-9m cloth as saree for the women folk, traditionally, women in Assam wear a skirt-like lower part “mekhela” and drape over it with a “sador”. Currently, the idea of wearing a two piece saree over a frustratingly long one has appealed to the masses, igniting a noticeable popularity for the Mekhela Sador.
Assamese brides adorn one of the most beautiful albeit costliest silk, muga silk, especially pat muga which has a distinctive off-white shine while also being known for its quality and durability. Not many years ago every single bride prided herself in owning a fabric as stunning as a pat muga mekhela sador with the popular red motifs. The garment has been passed on as family heirloom for generations and each recipient had taken a great deal of care to keep it as good as new: as luck would have had it, the silk only improves its sheen with every careful wash.
Pat muga today has created its own distinct identity as a representation of the Assamese culture. The kind of rush that it generates for an authentic fabric rather than the low quality replica that is easily available in markets is a testament to the growing consciousness and appreciation of the consumers for the traditional garment.
It would thus be a mistake to consider the popularity of pat muga as an evanescent ‘moment’; the durability of its popularity is cemented by the unconsciousness need to own one in a lifetime. Occasions come and go, but an Assamese wardrobe shall always be ornamented by a muga set of mekhela sador. So much has this fascination grown that the muga fabric has easily seeped into other forms of attires a simple kurti, a mainstream lehenga suit or even the newest favourite, crop tops (as can also be seen in Srishti Handlooms collection as well).
Nothing sets the stage for the muga silk to gain the spotlight even more vibrantly as the Bihu season does. The current fad with cotton, cotton silk or other types of cloth, and their bright colours with contrasting motifs, do attract a lot of women. All sorts of innovative sador designs make their way into the market: Yet none steals the show the way a muga mekhela sador does.
Summers and Spring call in for fabrics that not only are vibrant but can be worn and handled in days of unwelcome, intense heat. In that regard, cotton mekhela sador of solid colours with intricate embroidery near the ends are a favourite ‘casual’ wear (As casual as a mekhela sador can get) for all women. Quite understandably, a muga mekhela sador can be difficult to handle at all times due to its dense quality.
Keeping this in mind, young girls mix and match different draping materials to go with a common muga sador, or possibly a mekhela and blouse combination with a different draping sador. It goes without saying that muga can easily blend well with any colour while also maintaining its uniqueness. A bright green sador blended with a muga mekhela and blouse, or a muga sador blended with a tangerine blouse and mekhela are the usual, unfaultable choices that does a lot of the elegance quota of the one wearing.
In a nutshell, what makes a simple mekhela sador so convenient and preferred for any warranted occasions is the ability and pace to experiment with it. Nobody is too young or too old to wear it, and frankly, no one needs a special excuse to flaunt it either. Yet the beauty of Bohag month coupled with the air of festivity and cheery environment adds to the glamour of bringing out the gorgeous attire out. Bihu, especially Rongaali Bihu, has served a special purpose to test the myriad of possibilities to make the entire get up of an average Assamese woman interesting. The sombre appeal of your classic assamese attire never fails to make its mark.
By Lymiee Saikia
If you were to casually explore the nostalgic past of Assamese culture, you will realize people were far ahead of their times than they seemed to be. While trying to encourage innovation, they remained perfectly astute with running their creations parallel with their beliefs and value systems. A perfect example of a very thoughtful concept is Eri products for winter clothing.
For those of you unaware, Eri silk is also known as ‘Ahimsa silk’ or peace silk. The reason for this unique terminology is the completely harmless process involved in creating Eri silk clothing in which the cocoon of the silkworm procured for production using less violent methods than the normal heat treating. This particular category includes other silk as well such as Muga or Tassar, all of which are heavily used by Assamese folk. The entire procedure involves Eri gardens (which the Srishti NGO team is proud to have as well) after which the Eri is then worked upon in cold temperatures and send to weavers for their imagination and creativity to work magic on the silk. This entire weaving culture has been handed down over generations and the perfection with which this art has evolved over the centuries deserves far more attention than it decidedly gets now.
Winter today may drive you mad with urges to get the perfect layer of warmth around you. But the noticeable mistake people make these is to dismiss available choices that not only give you the kind of warmth you REQUIRE but also let you be far more conscious about the consequences of your purchase. We, as an ethical-fashion-conscious team, believe in championing all possible sustainable ways to tailor clothing which brings in both an impact and environmental value. As much as we care about the quality of clothes we provide you, we also care the simultaneous positive ripple effect brought about in the households of several local weavers who magnificently work on such Eri clothing to keep their customers adequately warm as well as elegantly fashioned for the crippling cold.
Not only will the purchase of these beautiful Eri silk give you the winter care and comfort that you desire, but also the self satisfaction of having contributed to the uplifting of an entire community whose livelihood is based off of this culture of weaving.
In the Photograph:
Model: Elizabeth R. Thiek Stylist: Dhyani Mohan
Products: Srishti Hnadloom Eri Silk Scarf, Red Eri scarf, Mulberry and Eri Silk Scarf and Purple Cotton Wrapper
Nihal Kalita, surely understood well all the precious little things involved with hand-loom. He designed closely the butterfly into a beautiful depiction of the constricted life of a weaver. His work depicts the birth of hand woven clothes and the finish of it. Every journey taken by a single to combine into something beautiful and wearable; this art showcases the journey taken by a community from growing a butterfly till the birth of an attire.
On the 14th of April, the second day of the Assamese calendar, our village was hit by a massive earthquake, the source of which was hundreds of kilometers away over the Burmese border. Who knew that we would be ringing in the new year with such a massive shake?
Local sirens went off, and all the old ladies of the village started to give uroli from their front yards (a traditional warning call). As the aftershocks subsided, loud thunder cracked over the village, the sky went black, and heavy rain fell down upon us. The next day was clear, but little did we know of the real storm that was about to hit.
We celebrated the first two days of the Bihu festival with as much pomp and joy as always, but every night the rain showered down hard. A week after Bihu, a hail storm wiped out the electricity supply for the village. As we waited in our houses, the electricity company told us the transmitters were badly damaged. It took three days for them to restore power, while the rain unrelentingly fell, and the villagers continued to wait.
The rain continued to pour until all we could see was water. It was like looking out at the ocean, the land endlessly covered by water.
The fashion industry is ever growing and is very strongly inter-connected. Connecting industries from one end of the world to the other, the fashion industry is one of the most heavily working industries of this century. Unfortunately for global industries, this means that transparency can easily be lost. Within the clothing industry alone, there are cotton growers, silk breeders, fabric dyers, screen printers, sewers, not to mention zipper and button manufacturers and more.
With all of the middlemen involved, many big brands and retailers cannot point to the factories where their products are from. This causes brands to be unaware of the place or the people that are working for them. This lack of transparency and cost cutting often leads to human rights violations and costs of lives. It is unknown to most that all low paid wagers are the people who are making the clothes and are the worst sufferers of this chain cycle. There are many unsafe and unethical practices that involve around many of clothing production. Starting from chemical dyeing of clothes by hands, huge heating machines for calendaring etc. These processes show how much the addiction of fashion has pushed helpless people to cater to the unethical needs of the high society who dreams are beyond harmful.
This is why we are committed to transparency. Today is fashion revolution day, so take a minute to learn about our impact on the community we work with, what we’re doing to help promote transparency in the industry and how you can help by understanding the local artisans, handloom and handmade weavers, Eco-loving individuals committed to the welfare of a society and the environment.