Sustainable Fashion And Employment In India: As much as sustainability in fabrics, its usage and disposal is gaining momentum, another sector that is being revived under the sustainable banner is the ancient art of skilled weavers and artisans.
The ethical fashion steps in while sustainable fashion and employment in India is being included in the mainstream industry. Revolutionary activities like Who made my clothes?, haulternative etc. are creating much awareness about the plight and conditions of the employees, weavers, and artisans across the globe.
Weavers and hand looms are contributors to sustainable fashion and employment in India in the same. Handloom makes up the biggest part of the craft industry in India, along with traditional techniques and roots embedded in ancient artisanal traditions. However, it incurred a steep decline between the 2nd and 3rd census carried out for handloom, conducted in 1995-1996 and 2009-2010.
The handloom sector went down from employing 65.6 lakh workers in 35 looms in 1995-96 to employing only 43.2 lakh workers in 23 looms in 2009-10. Major competition from power-looms, uncertain markets, inability to adapt to the changing market are some of the reasons for this decline.
The Indian subcontinent is one of the only places in the world that creates textiles coming from the great skills of its master weavers and still has indigenous fashion. Overall, the classic hand weaving processes are diminishing, with mill-made textiles and synthetics taking over the fashion industries, China being a major player.
One of the India’s strong points is that there still exists a distinctive fashion graph, produced by the weavers and further designed by fashion designers. This is also because of the actual availability of organic fabrics. The most noticeable part of the weaving sector after independence is the rapid growth of power looms instead of handlooms. In the years 2016 and 2017, 25 lakh power looms employed 64 lakh people, accounting for 55.4% of overall cloth production.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the handloom industry started to fade way and lost its market share due to industrialization, dipping the sustainable fashion and employment in India of weavers and artisans. Increased usage of technology and the growing competition with power-loom cloth are the main features of industrialization in this sector. Weaving had to face a competitive market of foreign made products. This resulted in the domination of the power-looms.
Apart from this, the production system and capitalistic control are other reasons behind the situation of weavers. The merchants wanted to produce bigger quantities and have control over the rising number of labourers. So, the modes of organization and control over labour processes also changed.
The drop in wages of weavers is what led to departure from the traditional handloom industry. Essentially, the takeover by technological change, less wages and increasing prices of raw materials have had adverse effects on the handloom sector as well as the weavers.
Initiatives taken to revive the ancient craft
Constant initiatives and efforts made by revivalists and few NGOs have helped in saving some of the declining weaving traditions and heritage.
A NIFT graduate in textile design, Hemalatha Jain was keen on knowing ancient weaving traditions in Northern Karnataka where the art of ‘patteda anchu’ is a traditional technique. It refers to the pattern of checks and borders of saris. Jain did not have the funds to solely revive the art.
She collaborated with a self-help group for the weavers of Gajendragarh village, and it was up and running in 2015. Called ‘Punarjeevana’, it has 25 staff members, 17 being weavers and the others are dyers. ‘The heritage craft is still alive, and these weavers are back to weaving today,’ proudly says Jain.
Consumers attitude towards sustainability
Awareness about the ethical issues surrounding sustainable fashion have been in the spotlight for a while. Campaigns like #whomademyclothes and Fashion for Good are also influencing consumers to put more thought into their fashion choices. With a lot of transparency, consumers are learning to view brands for their ethics as well.
According to a report by Edelman, 57% of consumers agree that they would shun a brand that doesn’t display values. As a result, brands face a lot of scrutiny as well. Consumer attitudes have shifted to the thought that they want to see brands and designers conducting themselves in a sustainable way and creating ethical products.
Weavers and the handloom sector contribute greatly to the rich heritage of India. However, the sector faces major challenges like new technologies, production system that is unorganized, insufficient working wages, stagnation of manufacturing and sales and fierce competition from power looms and mills.
I Knock Fashion – Saturday Blogs
I Knock Fashion has interviewed and covered the story of many Indian Designers who work to uplift and revive the cultural heritage of India fusing it with technology and their creativity.
In true sense, the rise of sustainable fashion and employment in India can be attributed to them. These designers are directing their efforts in giving a global recognition to ethical and sustainable fashion that roots out of the skills of the weavers and artisans of India. Their journeys elaborate on the fashion they are eager to bring out combining India’s age old craft, fabrics and skills.