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Bolly-Loom, writes Shalini Sharma | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis

With Lakme India Fashion Week happening as one writes this, we’re all praise for the stellar efforts of the fashion week organisers to promote the sustainability cause, which in India means promoting handloom weaves.

Handloom is having its hipster movement, has for a few years, especially with Raw Mango’s Sanjay Garg injecting a fresh vocabulary to the traditional with his contemporary, eclectic designs and silhouettes. Garg claims he does not need Kareena Kapoor Khan to promote his wares, which is a relief to hear, as fashion’s piggybacking on Bollywood has played itself out to ridiculous levels of competition and boredom. Enough!


But what about the whisper in the market that the handloom weaves from many designers actually have very little ‘hand’ to them, but more ‘machine’. It’s that quiet little secret that goes eerily unnoticed and uncommented, except by the purists — That most of the handloom wares offered by the big names of fashion have not been painstakingly woven by gnarled, worn hands but whipped out by snarky power machines. Is it honest? Shouldn’t there be a sign on the overpriced saris or lehengas stating ‘these are not 100 per cent made by humans’? Or is that irrelevant in a market where anything goes under the nomenclature of handloom. It’s time for a debate.


Meanwhile the best news for the Indian cloth is an exhibition starting this week dedicated to the man who was the 20th century’s messiah of the handloom: the late Martand (Mapu) Singh. The National Handicrafts and Handloom Museum in New Delhi along with the Devi Foundation are hosting an exhibit of some of the exquisite textiles created by this genius, drawing from his iconic Vishwakarma series. It is the most seminal exhibition on handlooms and not to be missed at any cost.  A big shout-out to textile historian Rahul Jain for weaving this together.


Meanwhile, Ritu Beri is the go-to girl for the Indian government when it comes to khadi. With the blessings of none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi and NITI Aayog member Amitabh Kant she has been inducted on the Khadi board as an advisor and stitched herself seamlessly into the job, creating a modern line of khadi ensembles to retail at government outlets. She even coaxed good friends Akshay Kumar, Virendra Sehwag and Shashi Tharoor to sport her designs and endorse the cloth. The wares flew off the shelves and now she has been called in for creating khadi uniforms for the Railways. Beri was the first Indian designer to successfully launch her label in Paris and even did a stint with Scherrer as their head designer. Today, she lives a champagne life in a massive luxe estate in Delhi with her husband and daughter, playing hostess to diplomats and French luxury heads. This career shift to working with the government should be frustrating but then Beri has always looked for fresh challenges to test her mettle.    


Delhi still continues to be the Mecca of fashion but the famous designers from that city (you know who they are) are rapidly yielding ground to the aggressive expansion plans of outsiders. Upping the ante in the capital in the past few years have been Manish Malhotra and Sabyasachi with their flagship stores in Mehrauli. Both have stores that practically swallow the retail space there. Even the reclusive Shobana Bhartia is spotted there, refurbishing her wardrobe. Last month, Kolkata’s Anamika Khanna did a soft opening of her store in the vicinity and was sold out in days. As if the heat from these three brands is not searing enough, the Ahmedabadi handsome looking duo of Shyamal & Bhumika are opening their flagship store at DLF Emporio. It’s a quiet, steady brand that has stealthily built up a huge following in the bridal market with their deft social media reach. Someone needs to red-flag Delhi’s notoriously flamboyant designers that they need to ride strongly into the fashion battleground — historically, the capital of India has always been conquered successfully by outside invaders! 

Society insider Shalini Sharma has two decades experience observing and reporting on the commerce and confessions of people who are generously described as celebrities.

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