Saturday, February 21, 2009

Single-ikat patola from Surendranagar & Rajkot

Emerging notions of affordability and transforming profile of modern Indian women have made a big difference in the perception of Sari. New developments in sari — its designs and patterns, the color combinations and contrasts, the variety of materials and techniques — are rekindling the interest of customers for sari as a dressing option. Designers, traders, weavers and customers; all are experimenting. It is in this dynamic environment that we need to understand the single-ikat patola sari from Surendranagar and Rajkot region of Gujarat. This style has emerged strongly in last three decades in order to provide a cheaper option to celebrated Patan patola varieties.

Weaving of Patan patola on suspended loom

Traditional double-ikat patola weaving technique from Patan in North Gujarat is a highly intricate, very labor intensive and one of the high cost production of Indian handlooms. Due to its intricacies, Patan patola can be the costliest of all sari varieties woven. The Surendranagar and Rajkot patola are a low-cost variation of the traditional technique, using low-cost raw materials leading to a price differential of 1: 100 times. While a Patan patola could easily cost more than USD 2000, a Surendranagar Patola would cost just USD 20, of course sacrificing on all the merits of a genuine ‘Patola’. Government is patronising the low-cost patola weaving as it promotes employment for many handloom weavers in rural areas. A number of welfare and sustenance projects are being run by the government to popularise this single-ikat patola weaving in Gujarat. Private traders also support this variant as it has vast market of readily available customers from Indian middle class and lower middle class who otherwise cannot afford a genuine patola. With the huge cost savings in production and a perceived liking due to affordability factor, the Surendranagar Patola has became very popular in local markets of Gujarat in the previous decade. This has brought in positive changes in the lives of the many handloom weaver families who otherwise were not finding enough work.

Weft preparation for single-ikat patola from Surendranagar

But all is not well with this situation. Market for the authentic Patan patola has suffered. Now, connoisseurs value it and only rich are able to afford. The quality parameters of Surendranagar / Rajkot patola are yet to be standardized. Weavers need training to assure good design and quality. Raw materials are not in consistent supply. Quality of water available locally is not suited for good dyeing. Therefore colour matching and fastness of shades is always a problem. Getting the yarns dyed from distant places is not viable in long run. This and many other socio-cultural issues call for an in-depth study of the market and experts’ intervention in the design and production processes to bring in sustainability to this change.

A Patan patola sari on the loom

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

International Release of ‘Indian saris: Traditions-Perspective-Design’

First international release of the book is now scheduled. It will take place at the Nehru Center, London on 20 April, 2009 in presence of audience from academic circles and industry. The event is being facilitated by the office of the Indian High Commissioner to U.K. Coinciding with the event, a panel discussion is also being organised on the theme, ‘Design for Indian Textiles & Fashion: Tradition to Modernity-- a U.K.-India deliberation’. Five eminent design experts from U.K. and India will offer their views on the subject. The deliberations are expected to pave the way for much closer future ties between the design fraternities of the two countries.

Detailed programme and profile of the panelists will be available on this blog shortly.