Made in In­dia Weaves De­serve Our En­dorse­ment When Kok­i­l­aben wore a mag­nif­i­cent Patan pa­tola sa­ree to an awards func­tion this week she was en­dors­ing her sup­port and un­der­stand­ing for a rare and dy­ing weave. We need to do the same

The Economic Times - - Saturday Feature - Reshmi Das­gupta

Kok­i­l­aben Am­bani is known for her fond­ness for pink. She has been pho­tographed count­less times wear­ing shim­mery, glit­tery de­signer sa­rees in her favourite shade. So it was sig­nif­i­cant in­deed that she stepped up to the podium of the Ashoka Hall in Rash­tra­p­ati Bha­van ear­lier this week to re­ceive the Padma Vib­hushan on be­half of her late hus­band Dhirub­hai Am­bani, wear­ing a mag­nif­i­cent ruby coloured Patan pa­tola sa­ree.

Dou­ble ikat pa­to­las from Patan are the iconic sa­rees of the Am­ba­nis’ home state of Gu­jarat. The state also has amaz­ing tie and dye Band­hej as well as in­tri­cate bro­cade Asavali sa­rees, but Patan’s pa­to­las are ex­tra spe­cial given their rel­a­tive rar­ity, and even have GI cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. The fame of the weave has spread far and wide thanks to peri­patetic Gu­jaratis, and yet there are only a hand­ful of weavers now mak­ing these sa­rees.

One fac­tor, of course, is the price. Even the sim­plest Patan pa­tola costs Rs 1.5 lakh and re­ally ex­quis­ite ones come for at least dou­ble that. So it is not for the faint hearted or shal­low-pock­eted. A sec­ond, more im­por­tant fac­tor, is lack of aware­ness of its true value. The dou­ble ikats of Andhra are sim­i­lar, and even within the state, the un­com­pli­cated but still beau­ti­ful sin­gle ikats of Ra­jkot of­fer what many con­sider a bet­ter bar­gain.

As any­one familiar with the prices of de­sign­er­wear will know, Rs 1.5 lakh is not re­ally all that pro­hib­i­tive for at least one strata of so­ci­ety. A strata that is graced by Kok­i­l­aben and oth­ers. But de­sign­ers of­ten have first if not exclusive claim on those that can af­ford the best. That is not to say that those cre­ations do not de­serve their pric­etags, but it is heart­en­ing when those who can af­ford it, spread the love, so to speak. So­nia Gandhi has for long been a stan­dard bearer of beau­ti­ful hand­loom sa­rees. There are old pho­to­graphs of her vis­it­ing pa­tola looms but given her cur­rent so­cial­is­tic po­lit­i­cal plank, it may not be very wise for her to ap­pear in pub­lic in a weave that costs what many earn in a year. But the weavers are not in the same league as the wear­ers of their sa­rees and ur­gently need a fil­lip, so it is a dif­fi­cult di­chotomy.

So it is very heart­en­ing when pato- las – or in­deed any rare, dy­ing weaves – are worn by peo­ple who can in­spire or even goad oth­ers into buy­ing them too, thereby help­ing pre­serve a dy­ing art form. Kirron Kher and Shob­haa De in par­tic­u­lar must be com­mended for mod­el­ling and wear­ing Patan pa­to­las and other clas­sic weaves and hope­fully spurring some more peo­ple to in­vest in one of these tex­tile trea­sures. Be­sides Kok­i­l­aben, women be­long­ing to other top in­dus­tri­al­ist fam­i­lies do wear Patan pa­to­las on im­por­tant oc­ca­sions and reg­u­larly buy them. There are also knowl­edge­able peo­ple to help them ob­tain the best ex­am­ples of this ex­quis­ite weave. The rare gold bor­der and in­tri­cate flower pat­tern of Kok­i­l­aben’s Patan sa­ree, for in­stance, was noted and ap­pre­ci­ated by the afi­ciona­dos.

But how of­ten does the general pub­lic get to see such ex­am­ples – and their en­dorse­ment by those who have the means and the dis­cern­ment? When the young daugh­ter of a very prom­i­nent Delhi busi­ness fam­ily re­cently chose a Patan pa­tola for her en­gage­ment in­stead of a de­signer cre­ation, it sent an im­por­tant sig­nal that the next gen­er­a­tion is not averse to the lure of time­less tra­di­tional crafts.

That young scion’s en­dorse­ment is as im­por­tant as Kok­i­l­aben’s. But not only Patan’s pa­to­las need sup­port. The Prime Min­is­ter has asked us to buy In­dia’s most po­lit­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant weave: hand­spun khadi. But there are count­less other mag­nif­i­cent Made In In­dia weaves that de­serve and need our en­dorse­ment, in­clud­ing Patan. Kok­i­l­aben will hope­fully in­spire her cir­cle. We should do the same in ours.

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