“In the last decade, we’ve seen barely educated youth designing patterns for some of the finest saris on CAD/CAM, weavers earning their profits via ecommerce portals, and women promoting their products via social media,” says Osama Manzar, founder-director of DEF, which began with weavers in Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh, 10 years ago, and now works with eight more clusters of artisans.
Bidyabati Meher, an ikat weaver from Bargarh district in Odisha who works with Indigene, was present at the show. “Working with these designers was a new experience for us,” she says. “Every day we do the same work through traditional methods. But after working with Ruchi Tripathi and Jaya Bhatt [founders of Indigene], we learnt a lot of new skills, and are willing to work with designers more often.”
DEF helps connect grassroots weavers to top designers. “The artisans are the real designers. The fourth- and fifth-generation weavers have rich design and colour sensibilities, and beautiful ways of putting everything together,” says designer Naushad Ali, who is based in Puducherry, and works with weavers in Musiri, a small village in Tamil Nadu.
The Sustainable Fashion Day, now in its fifth year at the Lakmé Fashion Week, showcased a total of 14 designers, including more well-known ones such as Rajesh Pratap Singh.