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.