Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Further Updates - Emerging Directions

The occassion of international launch of the book, 'Indian Saris: Traditions - Perspectives - Design' and the panel discussion has certainly been a great exciting event. The chief guest, experts on the panel discussion and the deligates dwelved into engaging interaction and dialogue. Many innovative ideas and possibilities came up and will require collaborative efforts from the design and art fraternity from UK and India. Our next two days at the London Book Fair 2009 were as rewarding with most people we met taking keen interest in the publication and related ties with India. Together we should be able to carry most of it forward through many forms of engagements with the Indian handlooms and handicrafts. Over coming few weeks, we promise to provide more updates, details and insights to you through this blog. So keep looking forward to it! We -- NID, The Nehru Centre and Wisdom Tree -- offer a big thanks for all your support in making the event a big success.

The sari book release at the hands of the Lady Flather at The Nehru Centre. left to Right: Shashank Mehta, Vijai Singh Katiyar, Shobit Arya, Lady Flather and Akhil Succena (photograph: Amano Samarpan)

Panel Discussion on, 'Design for Indian Textiles & Fashion - Traditions to Modernity' in progress at The Nehru Centre on 20th April 2009. The discussion has led to many new ideas for collaboration between UK and India. Left to Right: Jimmy Stephen-Cran, Sophie Roet, Eiluned Edwards, Karen Spurgin, Shashank Mehta and Vijai Singh Katiyar. (photograph: Amano Samarpan)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Author with The Baroness Flather of Windsor and Maidenhead at the Nehru Centre, London on the eve of book launch

The members of the panel discussion having a discussion prior to the event. Left to right: Vijai Singh Katiyar, Dr Eiluned Edwards, Karen Spurgin, Prof Jimmy Stephen-Cran, Sophie Roet and Shashank Mehta (partly seen)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Author’s Speech for the occasion of the release of ‘Indian Saris: Traditions – Perspectives – Design’ - (full text)

The Right Honorable The Baroness Flather of Windsor and Maidenhead, Esteemed experts on the panel discussion, members of design & art fraternity in UK and the distinguished delegates,
The first thing I would like to say is 'thank you' for having taken out your time to be with us this evening. Your presence is a demonstration of solidarity that you have in your hearts for the cause of Indian textiles. I am well aware that some of you have been contributing significantly through your research and professional work to the traditional handloom and handicrafts industry of India. For me, it is an extraordinary privilege to be in your company and share some insights gained through my close contact with the handcrafted textiles of India — with particular reference to the saris.

There could be no better place than London for the very first international launch of the book, ‘Indian Saris: Traditions– Perspectives – Design’ as long standing exchanges of UK and India in the field of textiles are unique from many points of views. Since the first contact established with India by the East India Company in 1606, British people found a special interest in Indian textiles. By 1618 itself, the company was successful in establishing its trade activities from both east and west coast of India. There is historical evidence that in subsequent and the early period of this era, an active trade of Indian textiles was established with important traditional textile centres like Agra, Surat, Ahmedabad, Bharuch, Bombay, Madras, Cuddalore, Masulipatam, Patna, Balasore, Malda and Dacca.

If we discount the dynamics of power and politics of that era, the British intervention in the region has had many positive impacts on the profile and structure of the Indian textile industry. Reputation of Indian textiles reached far and wide. Volume of production for many varieties was scaled up as artisans could find new market avenues. The interaction across the production centres was improved. New varieties of textiles specific to the interests of European markets were developed. The situation was to the gain for all stakeholders till the introduction and popularization of mill based production.

As you all are aware that oral instructions and rigor of apprenticeship were the only means of continuity in the traditional Indian crafts. It has been to a great advantage for all of us today that many British artists, scholars and surveyors, since their very early visits to India documented many exquisite textiles in great details. A great deal of revival initiatives in twentieth century for some languished Indian textiles by the heritage conservationist could only be attempted due to the availability of such records.

Though sari has never found a trade interest by the foreigners who dealt with pre-independence India, it could out-survive numerous trends in textiles and fashion due to inherent tradition bound continuity of certain ethos and values of Indian society. It remained one of the core products from the family of uncut-and–unstitched range of textiles to which Indian pit loom was originally fine-tuned and engineered for. The day Indian handlooms will stop producing saris; the very existence of handlooms in India will have no music. They shall loose the inherent identity that we all love and cherish.

In India, for a practicing textile designer, it would be a rarity if one did not get an opportunity to design saris. Designing hand woven saris offers creative opportunities much deeper than any other commercial category of textiles. But one would soon be concerned by a number of issues that are beyond the market success of new design collections. Host of issues such as, poor socioeconomic conditions of the weavers; survival and continuity of the icons of cultural identity that is constantly being influenced and invaded in modern India; tension between traditional ethics and tenets of globalisation; and of course the sustainability of diverse traditions of hand woven sari that could offer meaningful employment opportunities to millions, and so on; outgrow the otherwise simple design brief and call for meeting the larger challenges.

Earnest attempts were made with the interdisciplinary support systems of the National Institute of Design to meet the challenges of socio-cultural responsibility in designing saris. The design teams increasingly became multifarious and the collaborations in the field grew much deeper. Relationships with the market forces were redefined. Focus was brought to the empowerment of all the stakeholders from raw materials to production to distribution. Long term commitment and hand holding of the producer communities was meticulously embedded in the design methodology. An approach that not only creates the products that will sell but also nurtures the indigenous practices and identities to flourish. All this requires many new capabilities that were traditionally not considered by the textile designers. This book derives considerably from such ideas and first hand experiences.

At the turn of the 21st century, official records show that there are 6.55 million handloom weavers in the country. Nearly half of them are engaged in sari weaving itself. Further, a sizable number of people engaged in activities like supply of raw materials, sales and marketing gain from the industry. In addition to simple, sustainable innovative and environment friendly practices the diverse sari traditions exemplify that the weavers continue to have tremendous imagination and creativity. Each tradition in itself is such a relevant concept that it lends many ideas to set-up new formats of creative industries for much needed economic progress in the region.

The premise of this publication is that the emerging issues and problems related to the sustenance and development of Indian textiles and fashions are very different from what they were in the past. The new environment calls for a reassessment of the original objectives, approach and methodologies of design in this sector. The attempt of this book is also to establish new connections between the traditions and the modernity. I am hopeful that the efforts through this book in demystifying the role of design for saris to make it understood by larger cross sections of people in India and across the world will be rewarded through your valuable feedback and suggestions.
Thank you very much.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Baroness Flather of Windsor and Maidenhead, JP DL FRSA is the Chief Guest

The Rt. Hon. The Baroness Flather of Windsor and Maidenhead is the Chief Guest on 20th April 2009 and will release the book, 'Indian Saris: Traditions - Perspectives - Design' at The Nehru Centre, London.

20th April 2009
Panel Discussion - 1755hrs onward
Book Release and address by the Chief Guest - 1901hrs.
For detailed programme and the profiles of the panelists click on the following weblink;
News & Events ‎(Saris of India)‎

Baroness Shreela Flather is a renowned political figure from UK . Born on 13 February 1934, Baroness Flather has served as Deputy Mayor and as Mayor for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. She has been a life peer for the Conservative party since 1990 as Baroness Flather, of Windsor and Maidenhead in the Royal County of Berkshire. She was the first Asian woman to receive a peerage. She has been recognised as Asian Who's Who Asian of the Year 1996. She has actively contributed to the organisations involved in refugee, women, community, race relations and prison work. Baroness Flather is a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association and an honorary associate of the National Secular Society. She is also a member of Conservative Women's National Committee. As a member of the House of Lords, she gained attention for wearing a sari and for being among the first ethnic minorities in the house. She has also been teaching English as second language.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Strategic Design for Traditional Sari Weaving Handloom Clusters in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu boasts of maximum number of operative handlooms. In eighties, there were about 427,000 handlooms in the state. Out of which, nearly 283,000 are still functional as part of 1,354 handloom Weavers Cooperative Societies. The average annual production through these handlooms is around Rs.600 Crores.

Since 2004, ten sari weaving clusters have been undertaken by NID for this strategic design intervention. The clusters are Kanchipuram, Arni, Salem, Thirubhuvanam, Trichy, Vilandai Devangar, Rasipuram, Mannarkudi, Paramakudi, and Coimbatore. These design projects aimed to mobilize the intrinsic strengths relating to weaving traditions and culture and connect them to the needs of contemporary markets by developing innovative designs through value addition strategies.

Due to sheer size and uniqueness of each cluster, the design approach was meticulously planned as a multidimensional strategy. The methodology included need assessment and analytical research of the market forces to understand the consumer preferences. The outcome of this research formed the basis for the final design brief.

A key approach of the strategy was to expand the range of motifs and forms with the cluster specific flavor. This new palette of design elements along with traditional skills was used with contemporary layouts and unique styles.

The project was completely done on the digital platform which helped to complete a huge number of complex designs in a very short span of time. It also provided for development of specifications and communication of creative design components to the grass root level. The project demonstrates the unique use of IT for the handloom industry.

The product range designed includes saris, stoles, yardages and made ups that derive their design identity from the age old sari traditions. The collections in silk and cotton are aimed at domestic as well as export markets. While the new products are receiving a good response, the intervention has also succeeded in upgrading the exposure and capability of the weavers involved. Images shared here are part of some new developments from Kanchipuram and Paramakudi. Further details and the new outcome from other clusters shall be shared through subsequent posts on this blog.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A senior colleague comments on the book

Errol Pires, a noted expert of international repute on ply-split braiding, took out time to go through the sari book. He has over 25 years of uninterupted and unique contributions as the practitioner of his craft. He has exhibited his work widely and conducted a number of workshops for students and professionals. Prof Errol is a textile designer and a senior faculty colleague at NID. He teaches variety of subjects in textile design including 'Surface Design' and 'Craft Documentation'. Presently he also Heads the Textile Design discipline at NID. I am happy to share his initial comments on the book as below;

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

News & Events ‎(Book Release & Panel Discussion)‎

The members for the Panel discussion on ‘Design for Indian Textiles & Fashion: Tradition to Modernity' at The Nehru Centre, London are,

Dr Eiluned Edwards, LCF/V&A Senior Research Fellow, London, UK
Sophie Roet, Consultant Designer - Textile & Fashion, Clockwork Studios, London, UK
Karen Spurgin, Consultant Designer - textile & fashion; Co-founder, ao textiles, London, UK
Jimmy Stephen-Cran, Head of Department – Textiles, The Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, UK
Shashank Mehta, Senior Faculty (Industrial Design); Chairperson-Research & Publications, NID, India
Vijai Singh Katiyar, Senior Faculty (Textile, Apparel & Accessory Design), Chairperson- Design Foundation Studies & International Programmes, NID, India

20th April 2009
Panel Discussion - 1755hrs onward
Book Release - 1900hrs.
For detailed programme and the profiles of the panelists click the following weblink;
News & Events ‎(Saris of India)‎

“Neechod” or “Saaransh”

“Neechod” or “Saaransh” have no equivalent term in the English language that can be used to describe Vijai’s accomplishment. An ‘Epic’al essay on the most eloquent of feminine garments the Sari, “Indian Saris – Traditions- Perspectives- Design” by Prof Vijai Singh Katiyar is an outcome of decades of research, design and development both in creative as also in technology of production. He traces the history of evolution of the garment across various cultures and subcultures of the most prolific of the world’s cultures – Culture of The Indian Subcontinent, and takes us through a journey of the evolution across geographies and dynasties. Equally educative and entertaining to both – an expert or a novice, the compilation is a comprehensive publication addressing the vastness of the opportunity and the harsh challenges for the textile designers and the handloom weavers at the same time. Predominantly a handloom phenomenon historically, a sari offers the largest canvass amongst all garments of the world for the artist in the designer and the weaver to express himself in the most elaborate manner. This throws open a huge opportunity for innovation and creativity for the producers on the one hand and the contemporary designs and sensuous drapes allow making a fashion statement for the user on the other. It is very difficult to bring out in a brief note the deep richness and the vast comprehensiveness with which Vijai has treated the multifaceted business of the Handloom saris of India. An effort par excellence and an outcome so exceptional, has raised the bar beyond capacity of a mere mortal. I am sure the book shall be appreciated by the professional and the uninitiated equally well. Truly a connoisseur’s coveted masterpiece.

Dr Hemant C Trivedi is professor at Mudra Institute of Communication, Ahmedabad. He specialises in the area of retail communication. With 24 years of industry experience and over 10years of teaching, he has done substantial work on the textile sectors of India. His research work includes an extensive market study of domestic retail for handloom saris.