"Handicraft sector is getting very little visibility despite the call for 'Vocal for local'"

In a conversation with Mumbai Live, Prachi speaks about reviving the beautiful yet forgotten traditional weaves of India and make them more accessible to the urban woman.

"Handicraft sector is getting very little visibility despite the call for 'Vocal for local'"

Vyusti Trust is an initiative created by the founder of Vyusti, Prachi Saraf and her team to provide the likes of such skilled artisans with benefits that they are entitled to, yet not given – the kind of benefits that are usually taken for granted by the common man.

Vyusti Trust makes sure to look after the healthcare of the weavers and their immediate families, giving them access to proper medical care. They also look after the education for the weavers’ children who have aspirations of studying and making their mark in the world as businessmen, doctors, etc. but have rarely got the opportunity to pursue these aspirations.

Prachi was born and raised in an Indian business family in Bombay. She went to Cathedral & John Connon School and then further studied in Bombay. Later she moved to London to pursue further studies at the Cardiff University Whales, UK.

Upon her return in 2009 to India, Prachi joined hands with her father to run the family business. It was on this job that she discovered her interest and passion for Indian fashion and textiles.

She took charge of the family business as the lead in-house designer and went on to design, develop and manufacture fashion apparel and accessories for the company.

The family business gave Saraf an opportunity to closely work with the weaving community across India. This experience, led by her knowledge of design, strengthened by her sense of style and passion to create, led her to successfully start Vyusti, the for-profit social enterprise.

In a conversation with Mumbai Live, Prachi speaks about reviving the beautiful yet forgotten traditional weaves of India and make them more accessible to urban women.

What is the inspiration behind Vyusti and its designs?

Indian handloom, popularly known for its beauty and variety, can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization. The intricate texture and rich colour of woven patterns of handloom pieces can leave anyone spellbound. Vyusti is a fashion brand of handwoven products made by artisans residing in rural parts of India. The products include pure handwoven cotton and silk sarees and dupattas as well as shawls made of pure handwoven cotton and wool. The idea is to promote the beautiful yet forgotten weaves of India.

What is the idea behind this concept and key motifs?

Vyusti creates a space that enables Indians craftsmen and artisans to dream and achieve their dreams without having to measure its scale. The skill, precision and flair with which the weavers weave to create intricate patterns and designs is extraordinary and we at Vyusti want to help revive this lost tradition.

Simple yet unique, the collection is segmented into the following categories – Himroo shawls (Himroo is a fabric made of silk and cotton, which is grown locally in Aurangabad), sarees, silk sarees and dupatta. The colour palette is designed keeping in mind the individual categories and the philosophy of the Indian handloom. Shades of bright yet earthy tones of red, orange, yellow, brown, mustard, wines, blues, blacks, whites and indigo are the colours to look out for.

Colours depend on the patterns and the colours we have taken for Vyusti products are taken from what you usually see in Persian designs, be it in their furniture or even other garments. Vyusti reflects India’s rich culture and heritage through its unique hand-woven pieces built on the foundation of purity, craftsmanship and durability. Each garment at Vyusti is hand-woven using organic threads, creating fabrics of the highest quality that’s truly sustainable.

According to you, what is the future of the crafts and handlooms in the fashion industry?

Himroo is a dying weave. The ravages of time and the passages of history have slowly driven the chapters of glory into bygone memories, and so this weave is known as a dying art. But, in the narrow lanes of Aurangabad, Maharashtra, a splendid tradition of this intricately woven fabric still struggles to survive. The word Himroo originated from the Persian word Hum-ruh which means 'similar', therefore it’s inspired by Persian designs & has a very distinctive appearance to it. I feel that our future generation of weavers is not going to be able to revive this art. Back in the days, Himroo’s fabric, with its intricate Persian designs, glazed appearance and jewel tones, was a favourite of the royals and rich merchant families. "The finest fabric of the Deccan," is how Marco Polo described Himroo, according to research.

Why handloom industry is considered as one of the most important industries?

The handloom sector is one of the largest undefined economic trades after agriculture and incorporates an essential part of rural and semi-rural employment. In five years from now, I want my brand to be associated with all weavers and help them grow. This sector holds an advantageous position as it requires capital intensive, minimal use of power, is eco-friendly, can adapt to market requirements etc. I lost 5 weavers due to coronavirus and their living conditions. Handloom weaving is chiefly suburbanized and the weavers are mainly from the vulnerable and weaker sections of the society, who work for their livelihood and also contribute to the production in the textile sector. I want to help them grow. Manufacturing also doesn’t come easy with the handloom sector. With a limited number of artisans who know this skill, production takes way longer than expected. Currently, a few other weavers from a different cluster are going through training to learn this dying art.

Is the revival of traditional weaves, embroideries and crafts the need of the hour?

Since the COVID-19 lockdown, most of the artisans have been out of work, a falling economy, unemployment, reduced spending, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown have had a devastating impact on the handicrafts sector. Most of their products are "non-essential" which could be the reason why their alarming situation is getting very little visibility despite the call for "vocal for local" and 'Atmanirbhar Bharat".

Our aim is to offer the best quality products, pure silk and cotton at the cheapest rates available. Connecting artisans from rural India to the end consumer is our top priority. It is a traditional collection that incorporates the values of pure home-grown sustainability by Mahatma Gandhi and that of an Atmanirbhar Bharat laid by Narendra Modi.

The goal is to provide independence, growth and prosperity to the craftsmen that work with proficiency to create these rich and exquisite pieces. Vyusti was started with the intent to support local artisans by creating a platform to showcase and sell their products. The creators should reap the benefits of the sale value of their work. This gives them the opportunity to not only be self-sufficient but also upscale their lives.

In addition, Vyusti Trust provides several other benefits which help provide a better future and enhance the lives of such skilled artisans for generations to come. The idea is to give back to a community that has been working tirelessly and selflessly for generations without expecting very much in return and to make sure that in the years to come, the life they lead, is one out of choice and not helplessness.

What you do mean, when you say -- Vyusti is following the old traditional techniques with pure handwork?

I decided to start Vyusti, a fashion platform for our artisans or karigars after witnessing the impact of the pandemic on their livelihood. They were among the worst affected in the fashion industry. We work closely with our weavers to enable them to adapt to our evolving consumer preferences and current trends. Ours are not just pieces of clothing, they’re heirlooms of impeccable quality, lasting value & fair pricing.

Our products are luxury heirloom pieces that are completely sustainable. The value of sustainable fashion is that it showcases much-needed compassion to humanity as well as the environment. Moreover, the goal is to provide independence, growth and prosperity to the craftsmen that work with proficiency to create these rich and exquisite pieces.

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