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"A woman will go and spend 2 lacs on a Louis Vuitton bag and wouldn't dare to argue in that store but you feel free to walk in at artisan's hub or shop or local house, or whatever, and say kitne pe denge (how much would you sell it for). There are signs at exhibitions, 'No bargaining please'. Why do we as Indians devalue our own products?" asked renowned fashion stylist, fashion consultant and choreographer, Prasad Bidapa at We The Women event in Bengaluru. He moderated the session, which was graced by the leading sari revivalists of the country, Pavithra Muddaya and Lavanya Nalli. Among other aspects concerning sari, we felt that this was the question of the hour. Both the ladies gave their valuable inputs.
So, Lavanya Nalli, Vice Chairman of Nalli Silk Sarees stated that it is mainly due to the lack of awareness that we undermine our handlooms and give preference to the luxurious handbags. She said, "I think some of this has to do with awareness. Now with a branded bag of one of the luxury brands, there is so much branding behind it. They say we use finest quality leather, we make it in factories in Milan and so on and so forth, right. But the artisan, let's say, who puts out a beautiful Kanjeevaram or a Benarasi sari, he doesn't have that platform, he doesn't brand it." With this, she raised an important point about artisans not getting their due credit and a relevant platform.
She also added, "He is using the best quality silk, he is making something that you can keep it in your cupboard and three generations later, your granddaughter will pick it up and wouldn't find a fault. He is using pure zari -gold but he doesn't brand it and if he doesn't brand, there is a loss. It is also a loss if consumers don't realise the worth of a handloom sari but now it is happening with sari revival programs."
She also stressed on the need of consumers to know how cumbersome and intricate it is to manufacture a sari, "I think as the consumers gets sensitized and realise that it painstaking. It takes weeks to make a particular sari, it takes sometimes seven months to make that sari, everything from dyeing to the weaving technique and then there is the weaver, he is not a factory worker, he is a creative entrepreneur. He is not mass producing something. So, I believe there is low awareness. If there is awareness about how difficult it is making a sari and the value he is giving. He can't go on making the exact same thing and giving it to you."
Well, awareness was one strong point but not realising the value of your traditional craftsmanship made for another significant point, which added weight to the fact that why we as fashion enthusiasts are devaluing heritage that is our own. The latter point was stated by Pavithra Muddaya, who is the Co-founder of Vimor Sarees and founder of The Living Textile Museum. She said, "Another thing I would like to add is that why we devalue it as a consumer and society, I think we have to take responsibility that this is our heritage."
She also spoke about how people make purchases, when there is discount and raised a question, "Do we need to be bribed to buy our own product is the question that I would really like to ask. We go and buy only when we see that 20 per cent discount and I see that it is something that really needs to change because it is something that belongs to all of us. Why should we wait for discount, when we are supporting our own culture?"
Apart from the aforementioned discussion, a lot of burning topics around saris like sustainability were raised at the discussion. What we liked about the session was that there was a lot of light thrown on weavers and artisans, who often get overshadowed by middlemen.
Photo Credits: We The Women (Facebook page)