Madhu Jain: Craft Re­vival­ist and Tex­tile Con­ser­va­tion­ist

Craft Re­vival­ist and Tex­tile Con­ser­va­tion­ist

The Luxury Collection - - Contents -

The hand­looms sec­tor, which rep­re­sents the rich di­ver­sity of In­dia’s 2,000-year-old tex­tiles tra­di­tion, has a hands-on ad­vo­cate in Craft Re­vival­ist and Tex­tile Con­ser­va­tion­ist Madhu Jain, de­signer ex­traor­di­naire, whose name is syn­ony­mous with swadeshi. Madhu is a doyen of the In­dian crafts sec­tor, ev­i­dent from her many part­ner­ships over the years with Govern­ment of In­dia’s Min­istry of Tex­tiles. Crafts call for sus­tained ef­fort. From the time she launched her la­bel in 1987, Madhu has worked only with nat­u­ral fi­bres that are quintessen­tially In­dian in ethos and ex­e­cu­tion. This grav­i­ta­tion to­wards tra­di­tional, or­ganic tex­tiles is a re­flec­tion of her per­sonal sen­si­bil­ity, and she has carved a niche for her­self as the coun­try’s most re­spected craft and tex­tile re­vival­ist, whose fine creations and re­vival of rare and ex­tinct mo­tifs and tex­tiles are em­bed­ded in strong In­dian roots.

Up­dat­ing In­dian Tex­tiles

Madhu has ex­per­i­mented ex­ten­sively with tex­tiles and con­tin­ues to in­no­vate to craft unique blends that are char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally true to her “madein-in­dia” nat­u­ral fi­bres la­bel. Af­ter trav­el­ling ex­ten­sively through rural In­dia to meet mas­ter crafts­men and weavers, Madhu’s re­search led her to de­velop tex­tiles in dis­tinc­tive com­bi­na­tions of two dif­fer­ent weav­ing tra­di­tions from two states to cre­ate new tex­tiles, high on qual­ity and de­sign. This seam­less blend­ing is Madhu’s spe­cial­ity, mak­ing her a fore­run­ner in the in­dige­nous tra­di­tional weaves in­dus­try. Madhu has ex­per­i­mented with Odisha’s Ikkat weave, Andhra Pradesh’s Kalamkari craft, As­samese Mekhla Chad­dar, and Andhra Up­pada. In keep­ing with her pas­sion for eco-friendly tex­tiles, she was in­stru­men­tal in in­tro­duc­ing bam­boo fi­bre as an al­ter­na­tive tex­tile in In­dia. Ad­di­tion­ally, she has col­lab­o­rated with sev­eral NGOS in In­dia and Bangladesh that work with rural ar­ti­sans and lo­cal weavers. Her in­no­va­tions have re­sulted in a resur­gence of in­ter­est in In­dian’s tra­di­tional tex­tiles.

Pro­vid­ing Liveli­hoods to Ar­ti­sans

In­creas­ingly, fac­tory-pro­duced tex­tiles are in­un­dat­ing the mar­ket and fast over­tak­ing the nat­u­ral fi­bres sec­tor, forc­ing ar­ti­san com­mu­ni­ties into imi­gra­tion in search of other work op­tions. Pained to see the de­nuda­tion of In­dia’s tra­di­tional crafts mar­kets, Madhu felt an ur­gent need to en­sure these tra­di­tions would not lan­guish and slowly die out. Madhu re­alised that for the tra­di­tional nat­u­ral tex­tiles in­dus­try to sur­vive and re­tain its supremacy in ur­ban mar­kets, the key was to con­tem­po­rise tex­tiles while at the same time, be­ing true to tra­di­tion. This meant re­ly­ing on the dex­trous skills of In­dia’s mas­ter weavers and crafts­men whose craft has been handed down to them gen­er­a­tionally. In do­ing so, she sources ar­ti­sans who were once fa­mous for their crafts and who still prac­tice them. Madhu’s work has given a much-needed boost to this in­dus­try, pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment to over 500 mas­ter weavers and crafts­men across In­dia. Af­ter Madhu used bam­boo tex­tile as a base for the Kalamkari “Tree of Knowl­edge” for the 2010 Com­mon­wealth Games Open­ing Cer­e­mony, the Kalamkari sec­tor has wit­nessed a 500% growth. Her ex­cep­tional con­tri­bu­tion to the crafts of Andhra Pradesh is “fig­u­ra­tive” Kalamkari, ac­com­plished by in­cor­po­rat­ing in­no­va­tive fea­tures to the tra­di­tional craft by us­ing in­flu­ences such as Raja Ravi Verma’s paint­ings. Madhu’s twist in de­sign sen­si­bil­ity has given a new lease of life to this craft form.

Pop­u­lar­is­ing Craft by us­ing Fash­ion as a Plat­form

To pre­serve In­dia’s en­dan­gered crafts her­itage, the ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion is to en­sure mar­kets. Madhu has suc­ceeded in in­creas­ing aware­ness around hand­crafted tex­tiles and craft-based clothes. To reach out to a larger, national and in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence, she uses the plat­form of fash­ion to show­case In­dia’s her­itage, and to as­sure ur­ban mar­kets for rural weavers.

Next Steps

Hav­ing worked with var­i­ous govern­ment and NGOS in devel­op­ment, de­sign, and mar­ket­ing of in­dige­nous tex­tiles and crafts, Madhu aims to set up a chain of sup­port to en­sure steady vol­umes of work to In­dia’s ar­ti­sans, in­de­pen­dent of sea­son or the va­garies of fash­ion. Highly re­garded as a hand­looms spe­cial­ist whose life quest is re­vi­tal­is­ing and rein­vig­o­rat­ing dy­ing crafts, Madhu has im­pacted the sec­tor by giv­ing it a fresh lease of life.


Madhu counts among her pa­trons and clien­tele the Govt. of In­dia, the

Govt. of Jammu & Kash­mir and the Union Min­istry of Tex­tiles, as well as celebri­ties such as Sonal Mans­ingh, Nita Am­bani, Rani Muk­erji, Van­dana Luthra, Maneka Gandhi, Wa­heeda Rehman, Raveena Tan­don, Juhi Chawla, Milind So­man, Nee­lam Pratap Rudy, Princess Maha Al Sauduri of Saudi Ara­bia, and Mariam Fayesalle, First Lady of Sene­gal.

Time­line of Achieve­ments

Ma­jor Con­tri­bu­tions to the Hand­looms Sec­tor, in­clud­ing Awards and Mem­ber­ships

§ 1987: Launched the Madhu Jain la­bel to re­vive the

hand­looms sec­tor.

§ 1987: Cre­ated a col­lec­tion blend­ing Baluchari of West

Ben­gal with Kalak­shetra mo­tifs of Tamil Nadu.

§ 1996: Re­vived folk art Nak­shi Kan­tha in col­lab­o­ra­tion with

BRAC (Bangladesh), one of the largest NGOS in the world. § 1996: Rein­tro­duced the leg­endary Dhaka Muslin, which

had dis­ap­peared from In­dia af­ter par­ti­tion.

§ 1997: At Miss World Pageant show­cased Nak­shi Kan­tha

and Dhaka Muslin craft, win­ning in­ter­na­tional ac­claim.

§ 2000: As­so­ciate De­signer Mem­ber, Fash­ion De­sign Coun­cil

of In­dia.

§ 2003: Launched “Pro­jekt M” with Milind So­man to cat­a­pult

In­dian tex­tiles onto the world map.

§ 2003: In tan­dem with In­dian Tex­tiles Min­istry, Madhu

in­tro­duced bam­boo as an al­ter­na­tive, eco-friendly tex­tile.

§ 2003: Show­cased a Kalamkari col­lec­tion at Sin­ga­pore

Fash­ion Week.

§ 2004: At 7th World Bam­boo Congress New Delhi, for­mally

in­tro­duced bam­boo-based tex­tiles into In­dia.

§ 2005: Em­barked on “Kash­mir Project” with J&K govern­ment to re­store em­ploy­ment life­lines to lo­cal ar­ti­sans by sourc­ing, de­vel­op­ing, mar­ket­ing and pop­u­lar­is­ing Kash­miri hand­i­crafts in In­dia and abroad through mu­se­ums. Dr Karan Singh’s per­sonal col­lec­tion in Amar Ma­hal mu­seum pro­vided crit­i­cal ref­er­ence points. For the “Kash­mir Project” Madhu mixed tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary de­sign in Kash­miri hand­i­crafts, pre­sent­ing this to lead­ing mu­se­ums in New York—met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum, Mu­seum of Arts and De­sign, Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory, Ru­bin Mu­seum of Art.

§ 2005: Pub­lished “The Liv­ing Art and Craft Tra­di­tion of Jammu and Kash­mir”, a book that charts the his­tory of Kash­miri crafts and de­tails its myr­iad crafts.

§ 2007 Mem­ber, Cul­ture Com­mit­tee, South Asia Foun­da­tion, which pro­motes bet­ter un­der­stand­ing be­tween SAARC na­tions through crafts and cul­ture.

§ 2008: En­trepreneured a spe­cial show­ing of Great Liv­ing Tra­di­tions of In­dian Weaves and Ex­quis­ite Crafts­man­ship with es­pe­cial fo­cus on the sari.

§ 2008: In­vited by J&K govern­ment to present a pa­per on “A Jour­ney into the Liv­ing Arts and Crafts of J&K”, at South Asia Foun­da­tion Sum­mit, Sri­na­gar.

§ 2009: Of­fi­cial Style and De­sign part­ner, Miss In­dia

World­wide 2009, to pro­mote the tra­di­tional sari. § 2009: Nom­i­nated for “Marie Claire Fash­ion Award” for

con­tri­bu­tion to In­dian crafts

§ 2009: Awarded “25 Women of Ex­cel­lence” FICCI FLO

award in recog­ni­tion of ex­cel­lence in field of cre­ative arts.

§ 2010: De­signed a car­pet for Peo­ple for An­i­mals fundraiser. § 2010: In recog­ni­tion of her ex­cel­lence in re­vi­tal­is­ing the crafts sec­tor, for the Open­ing Cer­e­mony of the Com­mon­wealth Games 2010, was given the rare honour of craft­ing an in­stal­la­tion in the “Fabric of In­dia” seg­ment. Us­ing the skills of 300 weavers, 500 crafts­men and 200 hand em­broi­dery ar­ti­sans, Madhu de­signed and ex­e­cuted a giant 115-feet ecofriendly craft in­stal­la­tion us­ing bam­boo fi­bre and Kalamkari craft tech­nique.

§ 2011: Re­stored a rare khadi sari wo­ven in prison in 1941 by

Pan­dit Jawa­har­lal Nehru.

§ 2012: In col­lab­o­ra­tion with Je­hangir Art Gallery (Mum­bai) and Ensemble bou­tique, Madhu cu­rated a ret­ro­spec­tive of 25 years of her con­tri­bu­tion to re­viv­ing crafts.

§ 2013: Cu­rated a re­stro­spec­tive of mu­seum-qual­ity tex­tiles

and craft at Ogaan, New Delhi.

§ 2015: Cu­rated an ex­hi­bi­tion, Rare Tex­tiles of Gu­jarat, in New Delhi, which was in­au­gu­rated by Smt. Me­naka Gandhi, Union Cabi­net Min­is­ter for Women & Child Devel­op­ment.

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