NEW LEASE OF LIFE
New Lease Of Life
Cyclical patterns aren’t new to trends and behaviour, but what’s novel in this case is bringing back something in vogue, through careful inflection ! Prominent design house, Raas is going back to the roots to bring traditional weavers of Odisha in the limelight and thus helping in reviving the beautiful, ancient weaving techniques of Odisha that are fast disappearing. It’s happened in the past with the Paithani from Maharashtra, the Pochampally from Andhra Pradesh, the Kanjivaram from Tamil Nadu, individual designers have picked their favourite to create remarkable collections that showcase handcrafted fabric in all their glory. However, it is the first time weaves from the looms are finding the international runway. In fact, they recently showcased some exquisite outfits made from the ancient weave during an event in New Delhi that marked the presence of the Honourable Textile Minister, Mrs. Smriti Irani right after her #IWearHandloom initiative on social media. “I want to revive the fabulous tradition of loom weaving of Odisha through the designs so that it can make a comeback to mainstream fashion” says Mrs. Rashmi Mohapatra while we caught up with her at her Raas studio. Though they mainly weave magic through contemporary themed dresses, there has been some effort to expand the product base to home furnishings and fashion accessories as well. Unfortunately, over the last few decades, the hardship faced by the talented weavers, has been mounting steadily, something that clearly explains their fast dwindling numbers. Several factors have led to their decline which, incidentally, started way back, with the rise of the British Empire when anything indigenous became old fashioned
Now, of course, it’s time to get back to the basics and reclaim the lost heritage. Raas is not only making a concerted effort towards identifying weavers that are familiar with the original weaving method, but also sourcing handmade yarn from the longestablished centres. And all this hard work and attention to detail has not gone unnoticed. There has already been a significant change in the way it is being perceived by customers. Indeed, the right marketing strategy can make a world of difference not just to the survival of the weavers and their families but also to the craft itself! “Our aim is to throw the spotlight on the weaving tradition of Odisha and bring it to the centre stage, so that, it once again finds a pride of place in contemporary India and gets recognition on the global platform as well. This will, in turn, ensure the sustenance of this legacy along with its financial viability, says Mrs. Mohapatra.
The foremost challenge before them all is to find a way to woo the young fashionistas to pick up the rich, and often expensive, weave. “The weaves are heavy and don’tcome cheap. So they can’t be used on a daily basis in the traditional form. While people are willing to pay the price for quality, in order to attract the young generation, we will have to give it a contemporary spin, which is our trend forecasting for the upcoming showcase of the collection at Paris Fashion Week” From adopting weaver clusters to unveiling exclusive creations, Raas has surely pulled out all the stops to reinvent and showcase the traditional Odisha handloom. What remains to be done, is our share to layout the pathway towards the revival of the lives of these impoverished creators. ❏