'Customers still need to understand true meaning of handloom' (Lifestyle Feature)

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Jodhpur : Mohammed Yasin Shahabuddin and Mohammed Farooq Shahabuddin are two artisans from a small village called Piparcity. They are working with the brand Fabindia for over 30 years now and in these years, they say that though the customers' demand for traditional techniques, skills and hand-based processes have increased but not the knowledge.

"They reject the piece if there is small printing error which usually happens while applying hand technique. It is not machine made that will be 100 per cent perfect. The originality of handloom lies in these errors but customers don't understand that," Mohammed Farooq Shahabuddin told IANS during a visit to the manufacturing location in Jodhpur, where they make the decade-old Indigo Collection for Fabindia.

Almost an hour and a half's drive from the main city, the age-old charm of this manufacturing hub lies in the fact that even the wall hangings are made out of handloom. And not to be missed are the covers of the computer, operated by one of the youngest members of the family.

Farooq has two more brothers - one elder and one younger and all the male members of the family are into this business of supplying prints to leading fashion brands.

Some of the most in demand traditional block print designs that Fabindia has witnessed and these artisans work on are Ajrakh, which uses natural dyes to create intricate patterns with multiple overlays of colour. It is considered to be one of the most demanding hand block-print techniques in the world. The traditional colours found in this 13-step process includes jewel tones of red, indigo, black and white.

Also, Bagru is a craft that originated from the small town of Bagru, Rajasthan. The patterns and motifs predominant in Bagru are a juxtaposition of geometrical shapes and bird, animal and floral forms that create beautiful and elegant designs.

Dabu is another mud resist hand block printing technique that uses several hand block impressions and multiple dyeing steps in vegetable dyes to create a layered, printed fabric. There's also Kalamkari which is extremely popular. The technique uses wooden stamps to create patterns on fabric.

"We started our association with Fabindia in 1985 and from that time, there is huge change in work. I remember the time when we used to supply to some company but we stopped the order because of some error in one pice. For us, that's normal. But when we get rejections, it impacts badly," said Farooq.

However, they are happy with opportunities that come their way.

"The Indigo Collection is completely naturally dyed using block printing techniques such as Dabu, Bagru and Ajrakh. Fabindia's Malhar collection used the kharee block printing technique. The blocks in this technique are extremely fine and the imprints are in gold and silver. We enjoy doing such experiments as it makes us follow trends," he said.

How does the brand discover the different clusters and hire artisans for their work?

A brand representative explained: "Fabindia has been working in this sector for the last 60 years and has long-term associations with artisans. Fabindia works with artisans in their traditional settings, and sources fabric from across India. The artisans have a deep understanding of their craft and over the years their style has evolved to accommodate emerging styles."

The brand works cross the country with artisans from Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.

(Nivedita can be contacted at nivedita.s@ians.in)