Glory of Warp ‘n Weft Handloom…..My Journey of 21 years

Posted on 19-Oct-2018 by Sagrika Rai
Glory of Warp ‘n Weft Handloom…..My Journey of 21 years

The onset of power-looms ended up adversely affecting the weaver community. The livelihood of tens of thousands of weavers and skilled craftsmen in the handloom sector was made more difficult due to this new technology. This was my drive to initiate Warp ‘n Weft in 1997 and overcome these challenges by recognizing the superior craftmanship of the hand and encouraging such weavers and their families to produce their fabrics by redefining their treasured hand-weaving skills. Today ‘handloom’ is the buzz word.

Are these efforts undermined by the ‘NaMo’ movement?

Production houses continue to churn out fabrics on power-looms and the market is burgeoning with cheaper replicas in polyester yarns in the name of the ‘Handloom Banarasi’. I steer clear off this path and refuse to cut corners. On days I am saddened by my personal interaction with customers who come to Warp ‘n Weft to match fabrics to a dupatta, get a blouse styled to a sari or talk boastfully of a Banarasi lehenga that they purchased at the price of an anti age cream; these cheap fabrics they may have bought at numerous pop up shows in the city or even at some reputed multi brand stores. These are often replicas of our designs or other appealing designs in obvious ‘art silks’ and ‘art zari’ and ‘power-loom’ produce. Did anyone know that the power-loom produces a minimum quantity of 5 dupattas or saris a day? The so called ‘Chanderi’, the usp of top brands or lengths of yardage with animal motifs that identify with some brands are also produced by the same machine. When the world is talking of fair trade, are we even safeguarding our legacy of hand weaving. Do we expect the weaver who has put in his lifetime sitting in a dark dingy work space with the light of one bulb leading his master craft to hope for a posthumous reward? At Warp ‘n Weft, we have been continually striving to protect the interests of the artisans and weaving community based in Banaras, whose welfare is realised through providing them fair wages:  and we are quietly in this for the past 21 years.

Powerloom and Handloom

Warp 'n WeftWarp ‘n Weft now synonymous with hand weaves is the blueprint for many a company that are popping up online and across cities within India and overseas, heavily inspired by our own brand. Each one claiming to be a branch of Warp ‘n Weft. It has now become routine for us to receive enquiries on faux handlooms showcased to online and overseas clients by such vendors through social media sites like Instagram and Facebook under our brand name. Indeed, e-marketing has spread its tentacles around customers not fully familiar with our signature.

What are we doing to safeguard the interest of the customer?

Is there any initiative by the government that protects the customer’s interests?

Is the ‘Handloom’ a movement of authenticity or just a loosely defined term, whose producers and proponents are to be taken advantage of?

We endorse handloom that is purely handwoven right from the dyeing to the weaving process. We take great care to hinge the production of textiles on our ethics, sustainability and social responsibility.

Warp 'n WeftWhile many a brand and companies use ‘handloom’ as their claim to fame, Warp ‘n Weft embraces the principles of ethical production and ‘fair trade’ to preserve the heritage and skills of the weavers who are the backbone of our brand. We authenticate our textiles and saris as “Warp ‘n Weft Handwoven” which has become a standard by which handloom weavers in Banaras measure and grade their processes.

Unfortunately, this does not address the issue of replication and inauthentic fabric produced by more aggressively marketed brands.

Warp ‘n Weft values this quintessential art, giving fair wages to the weaver for his labour of love. We promote this indigenous art to the buyer at an affordable price. This, we think, goes a long way to spread the word of ‘Warp ‘n Weft Handloom’ and ‘Banarasi’, as well as showcasing the fabrics popular with powerful, innovative women. Although, recently we have concluded that these efforts see greater light with a Bollywood Affiliation or a mention in the pages of a tabloid.


Warp ‘n Weft Banarasi Handloom

Handwoven fabrics have imperfections, often mistaken as defects, but this is what makes the manufacturing process authentic and traditional. We pour in our creative energies to make our brand as sustainable and ethical as possible. Besides, the classic weaves and motifs have women handing them down for generations. Fashion is influenced by global trends. Our production, however, is demand-based and customised as per client feedback; it does not necessarily lean towards trends in fashion but is inspired by a timeless aesthetic. We regularly take in client requests for colours and design and make changes in coordination with the weavers to optimise production time and control the cost. This extends from making the paper art work to hundreds of punched cards that eventually get harnessed on a wooden handloom frame. In addition, my team and I personally meet with the weavers to better understand their challenges and set about streamlining the supply chain and production process. This is, in a way, an organic approach that is integral to making a brand sustainable and does not give us 5 cheap pieces a day but maybe 5 superior projects a month with a completion time of 5 months.

To take practice of ethical practice and fair trade forward, we have also set up the ‘Warp 'n Weft Weavers Fund’ that is seeded from part of our sales profit. It is initiated to felicitate the senior artisan weavers who have been the soul of the brand for last two decades and are leaning into their golden years. The scope of the fund will be expanded to cover medical emergencies and education grants for the weavers' highly deserving children. A function in their honour is held every year where they are shown our gratitude for their dedication to the craft.

We hope our good patrons will consider our message as a thought on where the Indian clothing industry stands right now. In this month dedicated to Fair Trade, we ask you to consider the practices behind the clothing you purchase and how it affects the ecosystem of our artisans. Together, we only seek to bring you pleasure in your indulgence of quality Indian fabrics and the Warp ‘n Weft hand-weaves as we celebrate the glory of our 21 years without tarnishing our brand with deceptive practices. This is ultimately for you to have the greatest, most joyful experience of Banarasis that we can deliver.

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