At a time when every industry is focusing on restructuring to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, craft and textile industry, one of the worst hit sectors due to COVID-19, is still trying to find its ways towards revival. To discuss the impact of the pandemic on craft and textile sector and how government can help, some experts who have worked over years in craft and textile, came together for a virtual session on the topic, ‘Recrafting and Tailoring Artisanal Practices for a New Digital Economy’. Fashion designer Ritu Kumar and handicrafts curator Jaya Jaitly were also a part of discussion.
Talking about what is needed for Indian handloom and handicraft sector at present, Ritu Kumar said, “We have in India the second largest industry in the world in textiles. We have to look at our own country first, that should be the only thing we should be looking at and encouraging whatever areas are not being encouraged. The other thing is handlooms and handicraft are going to remain bespoke. They are going to be copied by every machinery there is at the moment. China is exporting the Banaras silk saris and selling them for peanuts, what we have to do is ask the government to stop that. If we have to copy our designs, let us do it ourselves, that would be one good way of saving a lot of our industries. The second is that if it is handmade, it has to be premium and there are enough people in this country who would pay for this.”
Adding on how government can help the industry, Ritu said, “The best thing the government can do is stave off some taxes and facilitate it. The art and handicraft sector in this country cannot afford the rents that are there for high-end retail spaces. The other thing that the government should not do is send 100 design students to weavers to tell how to weave. We have done this before and we did this when I was on the board, I was very against it. So design is also something where government should not intervene. If we do need design intervention, we need two-three people, who have 20 years of experience, who have worked in the field and they can then tailor some kind of work to be sent to the weaving centers. But if you ask me, we cannot teach the weavers how to do it, we don’t have a clue, they have it in their DNA, it is in their genes. Let’s look at all plans and schemes collectively and give some advice to the government that this is feasible and this is not.”
While online digital platforms are being encouraged, Jaya Jaitly observed that digital platforms aren’t the best option of sales for artisans. “Craftspeople have not found the e-commerce sector as rewarding for them as it might have been for others. They earn much more at a craft bazaar. What we have done at Dilli Haat till now is create bazaars which bring design input from customers. I don’t think that we should let COVID frighten us and think that we would forever be in this COVID world.”
Reference:Kaushik, D. (2020, November 6). Experts from craft and textile industry discuss the survival of handicrafts and handloom amid the pandemic – Times of India. The Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/spotlight/experts-from-craft-and-textile-industry-discuss-the-survival-of-handicrafts-and-handloom-amid-the-pandemic/articleshow/79083139.cms