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Even if we wore handloom once a week, says Siva Devireddy, founder and managing director of GoCoop, an online global marketplace for weavers, it will create work for millions of artisans.
“Handloom should be made a mainstream product, people from across strata should be able to enjoy it,” he says. “If you go to villages in the South, you will be able to see people wearing Ikat and Ilkal. Isn’t that craft as well? People are wearing handloom, and it is not completely unaffordable. However, it is important to make sure quality and design are maintained and that means it is going to be more expensive. Still it should continue to be a mainstream product.”
This is what has been driving the six-year-old enterprise, which has now built a network of over 350 weaver groups and cooperatives across 10 states, reaching out to over 85,000 weavers. Their interventions have largely revolved around the weaves in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, and Bihar. They are now moving further North to regions such as Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.
One of their latest collections of saris, ‘The Ilkal Saree Project’, was also featured at the Lakme India Fashion Week. The project, which brought in a ‘monochrome twist’ to the sari, sought to empower 80 women weavers in the Ilkal clusters of Karnataka through skill upgradation to ‘catalyse job opportunities by creating sustainable and scalable livelihood opportunities’.
“Ilkal is one of the largest handloom clusters in Karnataka. The saris woven there (in the regions of North Karnataka) are typically meant for local consumption. Since local consumption is not very high, it is hard for the weaver to make enough in wages. Unless we can make these saris more suitable for the contemporary market, in cities, or in urban areas, it will be hard for the weaver to fetch a certain price,” explains Siva.
“We have tried to reimagine Ilkal saris to make them suitable for everyday wear, for women in urban areas, even for working women. We can then help weavers increase their wages. If the weaver doesn’t get this kind of value, he will not be able to practise the profession.”
This project falls under GoCoop’s ‘Good Loom’ label, that presents woven fabrics for the contemporary market.
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For Siva Devireddy, 41, the just-concluded Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) in Mumbai was his first tryst with high-street fashion.