Varanasi Weavers - Support and Regeneration - JANUARY 2007
Initial support extended to the weavers’ community was through a project supported by Bestseller. The weavers had to produce 13,000 scarves. This collaboration has introduced Upasana to the weavers’ community and gave an in-depth view of their working environment, work structure, lifestyles and the crisis.
Today the project stands at 60 weavers and 90 women who are involved in making buttons. The project has been ongoing for two years and following have been the achievements:
Social Development in Villages: We have been working with the weavers’ community to enhance their livelihood and lifestyles at skill level, personal level and community level.
Product Development: We have been able to expose many designers and organizations to the issue and they have been invited to work with the weavers. An extensive range of products have arrived out of all the collaboration and development.
Communication Design: A package of communication tools have been developed to present the project and effectively spread the project has reached domestic and international audiences.
Social Development in Villages: Upasana has been consciously involved in development of the weavers and their environment and life in 3 ways: development at skill level; at personal level; at community level
Development at Skill level:
They are being trained for fine weaving and technical understanding of weaving e.g. most of the weavers did not know how to weave jamdani or had low skill for this technique. Most of them also did not know a variety of fabric weaving techniques.
Women have been motivated to move out of their houses and join the men in the work sphere. About 90 women have received training in making the traditional Varanasi Buttons. These buttons has a marketing potential of their own and the women have progressed to a higher level of craftsmanship at making these buttons. Women have are also being trained as weavers.
For personal skill development, weavers and the women are given opportunities to attend trainings (both in house and outside) and exposure visits. In this way, two weavers have attended a CCI exhibition where their high participation and learning were appreciated. It was the first time that they had been outside Varanasi and Eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Development at Personal level:
Development at Community level:
In this journey of approximately one year of the project, to support weavers from every corner other activities of development like providing solar lamps to weavers, putting hand pump in their village and organizing
Health Camps for weavers and their families were also done.
Both women and weavers are organized now and they conduct their monthly meeting on time and do critical analysis on their points with positive attitude.
To bring in more projects and interest in the Varanasi textiles, the product had to be updated. In collaboration with various professional designers as well as design students, Upasana launched a phase of product development. Designers like Priyadarshini Rao, Dorothee (Gecko, Auroville) and design students from various schools like NIFT and Srishti, have lent their vision and talent to the project.
Some of the achievements in this phase have been:
The Varanasi silk and the zari have been worked upon to make it machine washable and give the product a longer shelf life.
Traditional accessories to the textiles have been revived, such as Tassels and Varanasi buttons.
Contemporary ranges of textiles and products have been developed. Through collaboration with designers, the weavers’ communities have been exposed to modern ways of working as well as contemporary aesthetics. The ongoing dialogues between the weavers and the designers have resulted in a richer revival of the textile. The Varanasi weavers are now able to see that it
is possible to transcends borders and breathe life into an old tradition. This realization has been key to the project. Organizations have collaborated on the project as well by adopting weavers’ villages and working with them to develop specific products and textiles. The alliance with Taj Group of Hotels has been successful in this aspect as they have adopted and are working with an entire village of weavers and developing uniforms and such products The outcome of the project is a range of materials and products that are very much rooted in the modern day context. The motifs showcased are inspired by the traditional aesthetics of the weavers and the overall feeling is one of comfortable luxury. We present to you our collection of textiles, ensembles and accessories that have been developed with the weavers in collaboration with many designers.
Textiles: With modern research we have been able to update the Varanasi silk. These products are now easier to maintain and handle as they can be machine washed and are dyed in fast colors. The motifs are inspired by traditional aesthetics coupled with contemporary trends. These textiles have worked on by in house Upasana designers.
The Launching collection: In collaboration with design students from NIFT and other professional designers from across India, a range of ensembles have been designed using the new collection of textiles and Varanasi buttons. The collection is inspired by the elegant wardrobe of the traditional Indian royalty. Building on layers of light, shimmering silk the ensembles culminate into modern attire. Simple lines combined in unique styles bring out the
Gorgeous Varanasi silk woven by the revived weavers
Scarves: Capturing the translucent delight of the traditional Varanasi Sari are the scarves. Light, wearable and chic, these scarves have been designed keeping in mind the uniqueness of the handloom.
Varanasi Buttons: An old and lost craft has been revived, that of the beautiful Varanasi Buttons. The women from the weavers’ communities have been trained in this product and they are now earning members of their family alongside the men. These buttons are more than fasteners and
can also be used as embellishments.
Various communication materials have been developed to spread the awareness of this project and inspire people to contribute in whatever way they can:
Varanasi Weavers catalogue – that presents the current launching collection and scarves.
Varanasi textiles swatch book – this has been specifically developed for designers, buyers and organization and contains the contemporary range of textiles that have been developed.
Website – the site contains all information and photographs and is an online portal for the project.
Presentation, booklet and DVD – this has been developed as a communication package to be able to give presentations in exhibitions, conferences, seminars, etc.
Network and Marketing
Ethical Fashion Show, Paris (9-12 September)
This fashion show has been the culmination of all efforts and collaboration. The launching collection was shown and the project was presented. Both have received extremely positive feedback and project has been now placed on an international forum due to this exposure. Companies, industry associates and designers have offered to collaborate with the weavers and many people have been moved by the project. We are in touch with the interested individuals and companies. Feedback received has shown us that our weavers now have the potential (with direction from the right creative source) to move beyond their village into the global textile and fashion market.
UNESCO, Paris (September)
There was an event held on the UNESCO campus in Paris to celebrate
Auroville’s 40th Birthday. Upasana presented the Varanasi weavers project
their and we received great appreciation. The project Varanasi Weavers in the Media
The project has been getting attention of the media, local as well as well
national. Recently an article was published in the Times of India celebrating
the project and its recent showing in Paris. The weaver’s collaboration with
the Taj Group of Hotels has also received coverage.