National Handloom Day, first celebrated in 2015, holds a significant purpose that we must reiterate on this occasion. As we witness the ongoing technology revolution, it becomes imperative to weave technology and heritage together to create mesmerizing handloom products. Our artisans possess abundant talent and skills, and it is high time we empower them by acknowledging and rebranding their designs as sustainable fashion, especially considering the growing concern over fast fashion’s environmental impact.
It would be most appropriate to reflect on the views expressed by Dr. Darlie Koshy on this occasion:
“Sustainability in an important aspect of handloom promotion. As sustainable and circular fashion, handloom has huge potential in the global markets that’s yet to be explored. With our legacy and tradition, India can lead the Global Sustainable Fashion movement. For this, we need to re-look at our promotional strategies with stories of positivity and weaver empowerment that can make them self-reliant or atmanirbhar, in the true sense of the word. Instead of sympathizing with the weavers or reiterating the disappearance of the craft, our strategy should build their confidence and help them strengthen their commitment to the profession by exploring innovative use of technology and connect with new markets.” Dr. Darlie Koshy – Educationist, Design Strategist, Chief Mentor-CBSS
This article aims to familiarize you with various aspects of the handloom sector, or rather, the emerging sustainable fashion industry. It will encompass discussions on technology integration, government initiatives, and other essential elements that contribute to its growth and sustainability.
India’s vibrant cultural heritage includes a thriving handloom weaving sector, with 23.77 lakh looms supporting over 35 lakh livelihoods. This facet plays a pivotal role in female empowerment, engaging more than 25 lakh female weavers and allied workers. The handicraft domain is equally crucial, employing approximately 68.86 lakh artisans, with 30.25 lakh males and 38.61 lakh females among them.
How does technology foster further growth in the handloom industry?
Technology is revolutionising almost every sector and Handloom has also seen many such tech advances in the past few years. Whether it’s skill development or design, technology is proving to be a great assistant to Indian weavers and artisans. Let’s dive into some of the initiatives from the government and corporate sectors:
DigiBunai, a computer-aided design (CAD) software, is an open-source software for textile design. The software helps the weavers create digital artwork and translate the saree design to be loaded onto the looms. The web portal also gives access to training material where people can get access to user manuals, video tutorials, handouts in different regional languages, and more. To read more about DigiBunai, please visit – https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/digibunai-empowering-handloom-artisans-with-cad-technology-for-sustainable-design/
Microsoft’s AI chatbot ‘Ruuh’
Similarly, Microsoft’s AI chatbot ‘Ruuh’ is also revolutionizing India’s handloom and handicraft sector by addressing key challenges. Through its innovative design capabilities, Ruuh empowers artisans to create customizable and contemporary patterns, injecting fresh vitality into traditional craftsmanship. Collaborating with weavers, Ruuh has introduced groundbreaking concepts like AI Ikats, showcasing the fusion of technology and heritage. Say this it’s part of Project Reweave
Ruuh’s AI-generated designs seamlessly fit, assisting weavers to create exquisite products that resonate with contemporary markets, thus demonstrating how technology can preserve the heritage and elevate communities through economic growth.
Government schemes for skill development and overall growth of the industry
The government of India has launched various schemes for the skill development of artisans and the overall growth of the Handloom industry in India
Integrated Skill Development Scheme
The Integrated Skill Development Scheme (ISDS) is a program by India’s Ministry of Textiles to enhance skills and create jobs in the diverse textile industry. It covers traditional handloom to modern textile sectors like weaving and garment making. The scheme collaborates with institutions, private industries, and state governments to train individuals, particularly those from marginalized groups. ISDS aims for inclusive growth, job placement, and skill development.
The scheme is divided into three main components:
- Component I – Institutions/TRAs under MoT
- Component II – Private Industry Partners in PPP mode
- Component III – State Government Agencies
Handloom is essential to ISDS, promoting traditional and modern textile skills. It focuses on organized textile industries and emphasizes wage employment. The scheme uses a monitoring system for effective implementation. In essence, ISDS boosts skills, jobs, and India’s textile sector’s growth.
North East Textile (NER) Promotion Scheme:
The North East Textile Promotion Scheme aims to modernize and develop the textile sector in the North East Region by providing government support for raw materials, machinery, skill development, design, and marketing. It seeks to enhance textile production value, upgrade technology, diversify products, improve market access, and boost labour productivity. The scheme covers various textile sub-sectors, including Handlooms, Handicrafts, Sericulture, Jute, Powerloom, Garmenting & Made Up sectors. Infrastructure related to the project’s success may be considered, excluding general infrastructure like roads and power.
To read about more such schemes, please visit – https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/top-5-handloom-development-schemes-from-the-government-of-india/
You can also read the compendium of Handloom Schemes – https://handlooms.nic.in/assets/img/Handloom%20Schemes/final%20book%208%20Nov%2021.pdf
National Handloom Day stands as a poignant reminder of the rich cultural heritage and exceptional craftsmanship that define India’s handloom sector. As we commemorate National Handloom Day, let us pledge to uphold and celebrate the beauty of handloom products, not merely as artifacts of the past, but as trailblazers of a sustainable and vibrant future.