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
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.