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.

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