4 Documentaries for an Indian Handloom Enthusiast | IndoWeave Fabrics

Sustainability has become sort of a trend rather than a philosophy and an ethos governing companies and products. But it is ok, maybe it needs to trend in order for people at the end of the value chain to understand its relevance.

Today we will talk about one aspect of sustainability which is livelihood. While India is always locking horns with China, Vietnam or Bangladesh to improve its share in the garments/apparel wear market; it is important to slightly look beyond and by beyond we mean, look back at some of the age old traditional textiles which are hanging by tender hooks of culture.  

For most of us, Bollywood is the place to turn to for the latest trends, designs and style. Our choices are heavily influenced by celebrities’ airport or restaurant looks and of course their movies. Some of the high street fashion also gets their inspiration from there. Remember Kareena Kapoor Khan’s Jab we met look of a long tee with patiala salwar. Quite a rage it had become with the young college crowd.   Fast fashion has made a place in everybody’s heart but the love for hand-woven and handmade products is fast catching every shopper’s attention. Handloom or hand woven industry in India is a treasure trove of slow fashion and of course culture and tradition. Weavers across India have fought several odds to keep the culture alive. Not only have they updated themselves with latest trends but they make a conscious effort to lure the city-consumers all over the world to their craft by keeping the products fresh, yet traditional.

We will not go into the magical world of India’s handloom clusters and their mastery in their art but we will dish out four inspiring documentaries for you to watch if you are really a textile or fashion enthusiast. These documentaries may have some grim facts but they give an understanding of the artists and their art. They also throw light on the need for us to cherish and grow this traditional industry to genuinely incorporate the aspect of livelihood in the sustainability spectrum. It is possible for machine-made and hand-woven to co-exist and flourish. 

  • Bunkar: The Last of Varanasi Weavers

I am sure you or your mother owns at least one Banarasi saree. The holy place of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges is always brimming with music, culture, tradition and purity. This documentary celebrates the lives of the handloom weavers and focuses on the challenges they face. It especially highlights the fact that many young people engaged in the craft are trying hard to keep it alive. One must know that Varanasi is not only a hub for luxury sarees but it is a fairly big cluster for handloom carpet manufacturing.

  • The Weaves of Maheshwar
Weaves of Maheshwar

Maheshwar is a small royal town in Madhya Pradesh on the banks of river Narmada and is home to a strong Maratha leader Queen Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar. While the town is picturesque with its natural beauty, fort, temples and rich culture, it also boasts of the famous maheshwari cotton and chanderi handloom fabrics. ‘The Weaves of Maheshwar’ is yet another documentary film directed by Storyloom Films and portrays the strength of the Indian handloom industry and its rich craft. 

  • Sambalpuri Weavers
Sambalpuri Weavers

Orissa is a beautiful mélange of nature’s bounty with tribal culture, music and food. We have selected two Odia documentaries for you to understand and celebrate the handloom clusters from Orissa. Ikat as we know it has been made popular by the Sambalpuri weavers. The sambalpuri ikat sarees in cotton and silk are much revered worldwide.

This documentary film, by ULB Films depicts the struggles of the Sambalpuri handloom weavers and makes an attempt to spread awareness among its viewers about the hard work and dedication of the weavers to their craft. 

  • Kotpad Weaving: The Story of a Race Against Time
Kotpad Weaving

Kotpad handloom is a traditional red and brown dyed handloom fabric weave crafted by the Mrigan Community from a little town of Kotpad in Orissa. You can see much of their craft in the modern wardrobe even today. This documentary beautifully captures the craft of this ageless tribal textile tradition and tries to address the challenge of its survival.

We hope these documentaries will make you appreciate the Indian handloom industry and encourage you to give a share of your wardrobe and homes to their creativity and craftsmanship.