Each handloom or handicraft product has its own unique story. Both the perfections and imperfections in terms of design and the material used gives a handcrafted product its unique identity.
However technological advancements are putting a dent on the production of handloom & handicraft products. Mechanization in particular is contributing to the rise of fake handlooms and handicrafts. How are local artisans being affected? How can you as a customer recognize authentic and fake handlooms? Let’s find out!
Challenges Faced by Local Artisans
A major concern that Indian artisans are facing is the presence of manufacturers that are using mechanized processes to replicate handloom & handicraft products. These bigwigs possess the required capital & manpower to manufacture products as per customer trends. They even have the necessary transport facilities & outlets to easily sell such fake products at affordable prices.
Worrying Fact: The replicas are well-engineered. This means you can’t easily identify the authentic ones from the fake. This is resulting in lost market share & income for our hardworking artisans.
Impact on Authentic Handlooms in Various Parts of India
Varanasi is home to the Banarasi Brocade which is in huge demand in the global market. However, the weavers behind this gorgeous fabric are slowly leaving the trade.
For starters, a handloom weaver takes almost 15 days to make a Banarasi saree. The earnings in a month fall in the range of INR 3000-4000. This is barely sufficient for an individual, let alone a family.
According to a recent study, there are almost 5 lakh weavers in Varanasi. But according to the 2011 census, only 51% of these weavers were actively engaged in weaving & spinning works. That number has drastically dipped to 10% today. Many weavers have switched from traditional handlooms to power looms. Although they can make more sarees with these, the underlying fact is that the original creativity, exclusivity & alluring designs will slowly fade away due to the mechanized processes.
Sualkuchi is a small town in Assam that is considered as the Silk Centre of the State. However, the Silk industry is struggling due to the inflow of Chinese silk. The local viewers understood the risks posed by this foreign silk in 2013 and sought to protect the interests of the local silk variety. A committee was formed by the Sualkuchi Weavers to keep unscrupulous traders in check.
These efforts might’ve been too late as recent reports suggested that around 50,000 to 60,000 Bodo households will lose their income. Why? Due to the counterfeit handloom and handicraft products!
A Point to Ponder: Customers often expect to get handloom or handicraft products at lower prices. What they don’t realize is that it takes time and serious efforts to make such sarees or products. This industry requires serious investment & collective efforts to showcase handloom/handicraft products as aspirational & unique.
Tips to Differentiate Between Fake and Authentic Handlooms
1. The Weaves
Observe the weave of a handloom saree closely. Normally, you’ll find some discrepancies or imperfections. Don’t worry! These are the design elements of Original handloom sarees. They are what truly makes a Handloom Saree unique & exclusive.
However, if you notice that the design is the same throughout the saree then it will most likely be a counterfeit one.
As discussed earlier, each handloom saree will have a unique design pattern due to imperfections caused by hand block or other printing methods. These inconsistencies add beauty & exclusivity to a handloom saree.
3. Saree Prints on Both Sides
While getting a handloom saree, notice the prints on both sides of the saree. In Authentic handlooms, you will find a mirror image of the prints that are present in the front of the saree. However, sarees that are made using power looms have different prints on both sides. This is because the printing process in a power loom consists of separate printing for both sides of the saree.
4. Saree Threads
Hand embroidered sarees feature a smooth finish on the reverse side that is soft to the skin. This is because weavers neatly snip off all the threads on the reverse side of the saree.
But in a machine embroidered saree, threads would hang loosely. The best that power loom weavers would do is patch them together. But the resulting saree will be uncomfortable to wear due to the uneven threads.
5. Ease of Drape
Sarees made with the help of mechanized processes have an ironed out/papered feel. Therefore, the saree will slide over your body resulting in an irregular drape. It will most likely make you look awkward & fluffy.
On the other hand, a hand block printed saree is much easier to drape. You can check its ease of drape by just trying out the pallu on yourself.
These are some tips to help you differentiate between fake and authentic handlooms & handicrafts. If you are interested in getting an original handloom saree then you should head over to Triyah. It boasts of an amazing collection of handloom sarees sourced from local artisans & craftsmen.