“Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.” - Leo Tolstoy
Happy National Handloom Day, green heart-ers! Today, we are excited to tell you more about handloom and all that it does to impact our Earth in a positive way. It’s a craft that is rich in history and important in its existence especially in the fight to make fashion and the textiles industries more responsible and conscious in its actions.
Handloom and hand-weaving is a part of the Sui process we treasure greatly. Not only is it a form of craft that is slow and green, but it also uplifts communities within India that take pride in the handicraft, communities that are often rural, underprivileged and under-appreciated. The rich, vibrant craft has been iconic in our Indian culture heritage for around 2,000 years and we hope to be a part of the voice that helps it flourish and become even more loved by our surrounding communities and beyond!
A Brief History of Handloom
If we were to look at where Indian handloom first originated, you would find yourself travelling back to the times of the Indus valley civilisation. You would also find that, even in these ancient times, Indian fabrics were exported to places like Rome, Egypt and China, showing just how popular they were. Almost every village had its own weavers crafting clothing needed by the villagers like sarees, dhotis, etc. Every item of clothing was hand-spun and handwoven.
As we travel forward in time to British rule, we would see the use of handlooms decline as India instead was made to export raw cotton that would be machine manufactured into a yarn that would then be imported back into the country - a process that was detrimental to the existence of weavers. Thankfully, the art was never fully forgotten and Mahatma Gandhi’s Swadeshi movement sought to revive it. Another notable event occurring in 1905, August 7th, is when other leaders of the freedom movement like Aurobindo Ghosh, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and several others asked Indians to boycott all British products and use only those made in India. To commemorate the fight to preserve our heritage, it was decided in 2015 to observe this date, August 7th, as National Handloom Day every year.
Our Love for Handloom
We at Sui have always strived to create connections that are not only beneficial for our earth but for our communities. How we have proudly been able to do so is by collaborating with ethical NGOs as well as rural artisans who live in communities dedicated to their particular craft.
Our handloom partner whom we have been working with on various projects since 2019, is WomenWeave. They have been providing handwoven fabrics for us and we have worked particularly closely with them for our most recent summer collection where many of their fabrics form many of our beautiful designs. This partnership is also very dear to our team’s green heart due to the fact that the NGO is dedicated to uplifting the women in their communities. Established in Maheshwar in 2002, they have since actively provided training and work opportunities for these women who are often, in India’s garment industry, overlooked and underpaid. In their own words:
“Where women have acted as “shadow weavers”, supplementing male family member’s work, WomenWeave creates opportunities for them to gain more control over and be recognised for their labour, as well as enhance their skill-set.”
And so, being that our own Sui team is female-led and seeks to empower women as much as possible, we are so proud to have them be a part of our green heart-er family and hope to continue to show the world how talented and hard working these women are!
Handloom: A Green Solution
Our love for handloom is not without its many reasons. Here are a few ways in which it benefits us, our communities and our planet:
Empowers our community… Like we have mentioned, handloom and hand weaving have been long standing craft traditions that have benefited many rural communities, and with the existence of NGOs like WomenWeave, there are people who are also striving to make sure it benefits as many as they can. By encouraging these processes to keep existing, we are not only setting up poorer communities to gain work that will better their lives but also spread awareness and appreciation of the craft which leads to our next point.
Enriches our culture... Handloom is such an important part of our culture and history. It’s been a symbol of freedom and patriotism that has even shaped India into what it is now - a leader in textiles with a deep love for traditional handicraft. We are a culture of artisans that thrives on sharing and uplifting the crafts we are surrounded by with many different regions known for particular weaves and fabrics.
Benefits our economy… At present India is the sixth largest clothing manufacturing country in the world as well as the second largest exporter textiles and clothing - there’s no doubt that our industry is incredibly important to our economy.
Better for our planet… This by-hand method cuts out the need for excessive (or even any) energy or electricity use. Looms completely operated by hand make this a slow, green and labour intensive process resulting in a carbon footprint (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions) that is close to zero. Moreover, being as this is a tradition long held by rural communities depending on their local connections, the chain of production is often at a much smaller scale meaning energy and emissions that would have been created from transportation and so on are cut down immensely in comparison to larger manufacturers.
We hope this has given you more insight into why we should all show a little appreciation for handloom. It’s a big part of our own green story but also the story of India. To show that bit of recognition, we would love for you to check out WomenWeave and all the work that they do, or you can support the craft by checking out all our handwoven pieces. Stay green and have a happy National Handloom Day!