Project LooM

How do you energize an ancient weave?

Are handlooms everyday wear or a luxury good?

In this edition, we present two points of view. One that is epitomized by Bai Lou, in which handlooms are encouraged and nurtured as everyday wear.

And the other that is presented by Darshan Shah, in which she presents handlooms as luxury wear.

In truth, they are both. It all depends on how you wear the handloom weave that is part of your life and wardrobe.

The Bai Lou effect

Bappaditya and Rumi Biswas founded Bai Lou in 2000 with one mission: they wanted to preserve and nurture the textiles of Bengal, particularly the cottons. Read about them here

“When we started, we saw weavers selling looms like firewood,” says Bappaditya.

The reason was the division of Bengal. Weavers from Bangladesh, belonging to the Basak community came to Phulia, which was then just farming land. They settled down in large numbers and began to do the only thing they knew how: weaving.

There was only one problem. The weave patterns they knew were the same Dhakai jamdani style. But with every generation, the links to Dacca reduced and so did the skill levels.

“We decided to turn this flaw into an advantage,” says Bappaditya. “We decided to create new textures which the market hadn’t seen.”

This resulted in the classic Bai Lou saree with its “matka body and transparent pallav,” as Bappaditya says. This was the Bai Lou jamdani. Created for modern women who didn’t want too much fuss or ornamentation. And priced to sell.

Bridal wear is where the money is but do you do it?

“We don’t do bridal wear because we want handlooms to be worn on a daily basis,” says Bappaditya. “Even Raw Mango has started doing bridal wear because that is where the money is. Our goals are different.”

Watch Bappaditya and Rumi Biswas talk about their journey here and in Project LooM’s Youtube channel here.

It is a fair point, one that was echoed to me by Uzramma too. If you want to promote handlooms, you have to encourage the everyday weave with the exquisite ones. Handlooms used to be commonly worn. They are not luxury goods.

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