Bee-ing Creative on National Handloom Day
While Yoga Day was given its due attention, National Handloom Day, also declared by Modi – who follows a mantra I like to call ‘when in doubt, declare a day’ – remains relatively neglected. A recent statistic estimates that India’s handloom industry engages over 43 lakh (4,300,000) people, making it the second largest employment-generating sector in the country after agriculture. Given that it also generates export revenue, and is a direct manifestation of Modi’s ‘Make in India,’ it’s even more surprising that there’s been little done to raise awareness about the importance of handlooms in general
I had the opportunity to educate myself about the handloom industry thanks to Creative Bee, an eco-fashion label that supports handloom-weavers in Andhra Pradesh. Bee-ing truly creative, they set up a mini-display in their store at Meherchand Market, Delhi that visually depicted the process of hand-weaving and hand-block printing, through which most of their garments are made.
Redefining the meaning of eco-friendly, Creative Bee’s sarees, stoles, western-wear and accessories are created using 0% electricity. Their products use traditional weaving techniques such as Kalamkari and Ikat. Kalamkari prints are done with a bamboo kalam (pen) once the cloth is spun, to give a hand-painted finish. These designs are often combined with handblock printing.
This yarn is stretched and tied on a warp yarn in a laborious process that requires immense precision and skill to ensure that the Ikat pattern gets evenly onto the cloth. Think of it as a more refined version of tie-and-dye. Here’s an Ikat kurta (which doubles up as a cape) that I stole from my mother’s closet 😉
Creative Bee supports over 400 weavers across Andhra Pradesh, in an effort to keep the profession alive. While power looms have mechanized the process of textile manufacturing in many parts of the world, they can’t provide the same finish that traditional handlooms do, explains Shivani Nirula who previously worked at Creative Bee and recently launched her own eco-fashion label ESKA. Shivani is wearing a hand-block printed Kalamkarti saree with natural dyes on handwoven Tussar silk.
“[The Handloom] teaches us the value and the eternal beauty of cultures and traditions,” says Bina Rao, the owner of and driving force behind Creative Bee. This also relates to the story behind why handloom Day is being celebrated today. 7 August 1905 – exactly 110 years ago – is when Mahatma Gandhi boycotted imported fabrics and advocated Swadesi fabrics such as Khadi.
While the Government’s initiative to unveil a new India Handloom brand is noble, it is as important to recognize existing brands like Creative Bee, which has been supporting handloom weavers for 19 years. So, in celebration, here’s flaunting my very own hand-woven crop top from Creative Bee, which is offering a 20% discount in honour of Handloom Day!