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National Handloom Day | A dedicated collection of handloom saris for advocates

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As India observes National Handloom Day 2021 on August 7, this sartorial tribute to lawyers in black, white and grey, empowers women weavers and explores a new market for Kerala handloom

Vidhi, by Save The Loom, brings a designer touch to strict legal dressing. In India, advocates wear black, white and grey, following a dress code that is governed by the Bar Council of India Rules under the Advocates Act, 1961. Unfazed by this restricted palette, Ramesh Menon, fashion industry veteran and founder of Save the Loom, used the disruption caused by the pandemic to create a dedicated collection of handloom saris for advocates.

August bench

“Each sari is named after a leading female legal luminary of India. Information on her is provided along with information of the weaver and craft,” says Ramesh who worked extensively with Chedamangalam weavers after the 2018 Kerala floods washed away looms and livelihoods.

The names include Cornelia Sorabjee, the first female advocate in India; Justice Anna Chandy, India’s first female judge; Justice Fathima Beevi, the first female Supreme Court Judge, Justice KK Usha, the first female Malayali Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court; Justice Leila Seth, the first Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, Justice Sujata V Manohar , who has many firsts to her name, among others.

New markets

The project began when Ramesh was looking for ways to establish a market beyond Kerala’s two main festivals, Onam and Vishu. “India’s 2019-2020 Handloom Census reflects the sorry plight of the weavers. Their numbers have dwindled from more than 6,000 to less than 400 in just about a decade (in Ernakulam District). It shows that there is no young practitioner of the craft and no young consumer to keep the handloom going,” he rues.

Read More | National Handloom Day 2021: Calling all young shoppers

Ramesh explains that, barring cotton yarn that is processed in a mill, every other aspect is done by hand, by traditionally skilled workers. About seven to eight hands work on a metre of fabric and 12 to 15 persons are employed by a loom in its entire process from seed to store. About 96% of weavers in Ernakulam district are women and 85% are above the age of 45, he says, adding that wages continue to be low . Hence, the next generation does not want to continue with the ancestral craft.

Advocate and actor Santhi Mayadevi in a handloom sari from the Vidhi Collection

Advocate and actor Santhi Mayadevi in a handloom sari from the Vidhi Collection
 

After floods, the Kerala Government announced a policy of school uniforms being made using hand loom, but the pandemic shut down that project. Exploring new options, the Save The Loom Design studio, made up of young designers from NIFT, NID, Shristhi and other design schools, began to design textiles with handloom and khadi clusters.

Reviving post loom techniques

In August 2020, Ramesh launched Olam, which uses defunct pre- and post-loom techniques, while retaining the traditional way of weaving. He brought on board women of the Sreenarayana Seviaka Samajam, of which Justice KK Usha was the vice president, to tag and label the saris. “Justice Usha was a patron of the weaving community. She used to also talk about her fondness of saris and of the sober and appropriate dress code for the courtroom,” recalls Ramesh.

Breathe and dry textile

Ramesh says, while the three colour palette and the stripes gave designers enough room to play with, the fabric had to be worked on. “Textiles for women lawyers was an outcome of many conversations with judges, advocates and lawyers and the scope to develop material that suits the varied weather pattern across the country. Our in-house team’s R&D studied all the patterns and did surveys to develop a textile that can ‘breathe and dry’ easily in the hot and humid weather and give comfort to the wearer,” says Ramesh. He worked on making the fabric softer, more breathable and machine washable. “It had to be lighter and non-starched so that ironing is not difficult.”

Weaver Syna NS on the loom

Shyla NS, who has been a weaver for 20 years, says she enjoyed the process. Having learnt the art from a master near her home, she stopped weaving for nearly 12 years after marriage but has now restarted. Admitting that “weaving black and changing the design is a little complicated”, she says that knowing it was a tribute to women lawyers made her proud to be a part of this initiative.

Advocate Karthika Sukumaran is enjoying wearing the collection, which celebrates her mother, Justice KK Usha, “A designer’s touch to our conservative attire is welcome. The material is fantastic. I love handloom saris and it will be a hit with young lawyers.”

Defining black, white and grey

Pooja Menon, who currently works with Menon & Pai, Advocates, says, “These colours mean something. The black is a submission to Justice and white speaks of purity, integrity and goodness. I’m a lawyer; my profession calls for these qualities and our dress code is symbolic. It’s critical that we’re dressed appropriately. The collection is inspiring because these fabrics come with stories; of a flood, of the effort to save the art of handloom weaving, of weavers finding their voices.”


As India observes National Handloom Day 2021 on August 7, this sartorial tribute to lawyers in black, white and grey, empowers women weavers and explores a new market for Kerala handloom

Vidhi, by Save The Loom, brings a designer touch to strict legal dressing. In India, advocates wear black, white and grey, following a dress code that is governed by the Bar Council of India Rules under the Advocates Act, 1961. Unfazed by this restricted palette, Ramesh Menon, fashion industry veteran and founder of Save the Loom, used the disruption caused by the pandemic to create a dedicated collection of handloom saris for advocates.

August bench

“Each sari is named after a leading female legal luminary of India. Information on her is provided along with information of the weaver and craft,” says Ramesh who worked extensively with Chedamangalam weavers after the 2018 Kerala floods washed away looms and livelihoods.

National Handloom Day | A dedicated collection of handloom saris for advocates

The names include Cornelia Sorabjee, the first female advocate in India; Justice Anna Chandy, India’s first female judge; Justice Fathima Beevi, the first female Supreme Court Judge, Justice KK Usha, the first female Malayali Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court; Justice Leila Seth, the first Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, Justice Sujata V Manohar , who has many firsts to her name, among others.

New markets

The project began when Ramesh was looking for ways to establish a market beyond Kerala’s two main festivals, Onam and Vishu. “India’s 2019-2020 Handloom Census reflects the sorry plight of the weavers. Their numbers have dwindled from more than 6,000 to less than 400 in just about a decade (in Ernakulam District). It shows that there is no young practitioner of the craft and no young consumer to keep the handloom going,” he rues.

Read More | National Handloom Day 2021: Calling all young shoppers

Ramesh explains that, barring cotton yarn that is processed in a mill, every other aspect is done by hand, by traditionally skilled workers. About seven to eight hands work on a metre of fabric and 12 to 15 persons are employed by a loom in its entire process from seed to store. About 96% of weavers in Ernakulam district are women and 85% are above the age of 45, he says, adding that wages continue to be low . Hence, the next generation does not want to continue with the ancestral craft.

Advocate and actor Santhi Mayadevi in a handloom sari from the Vidhi Collection

Advocate and actor Santhi Mayadevi in a handloom sari from the Vidhi Collection
 

After floods, the Kerala Government announced a policy of school uniforms being made using hand loom, but the pandemic shut down that project. Exploring new options, the Save The Loom Design studio, made up of young designers from NIFT, NID, Shristhi and other design schools, began to design textiles with handloom and khadi clusters.

Reviving post loom techniques

In August 2020, Ramesh launched Olam, which uses defunct pre- and post-loom techniques, while retaining the traditional way of weaving. He brought on board women of the Sreenarayana Seviaka Samajam, of which Justice KK Usha was the vice president, to tag and label the saris. “Justice Usha was a patron of the weaving community. She used to also talk about her fondness of saris and of the sober and appropriate dress code for the courtroom,” recalls Ramesh.

Breathe and dry textile

Ramesh says, while the three colour palette and the stripes gave designers enough room to play with, the fabric had to be worked on. “Textiles for women lawyers was an outcome of many conversations with judges, advocates and lawyers and the scope to develop material that suits the varied weather pattern across the country. Our in-house team’s R&D studied all the patterns and did surveys to develop a textile that can ‘breathe and dry’ easily in the hot and humid weather and give comfort to the wearer,” says Ramesh. He worked on making the fabric softer, more breathable and machine washable. “It had to be lighter and non-starched so that ironing is not difficult.”

Weaver Syna NS on the loom

Shyla NS, who has been a weaver for 20 years, says she enjoyed the process. Having learnt the art from a master near her home, she stopped weaving for nearly 12 years after marriage but has now restarted. Admitting that “weaving black and changing the design is a little complicated”, she says that knowing it was a tribute to women lawyers made her proud to be a part of this initiative.

Advocate Karthika Sukumaran is enjoying wearing the collection, which celebrates her mother, Justice KK Usha, “A designer’s touch to our conservative attire is welcome. The material is fantastic. I love handloom saris and it will be a hit with young lawyers.”

Defining black, white and grey

Pooja Menon, who currently works with Menon & Pai, Advocates, says, “These colours mean something. The black is a submission to Justice and white speaks of purity, integrity and goodness. I’m a lawyer; my profession calls for these qualities and our dress code is symbolic. It’s critical that we’re dressed appropriately. The collection is inspiring because these fabrics come with stories; of a flood, of the effort to save the art of handloom weaving, of weavers finding their voices.”

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