Banarasi: A never ending fashion

Smriti Morarka along with her team of artisans from Banaras have been invited by the Turkish Embassy to celebrate the history of trade between India and Turkey on November 28

To celebrate the Varanasi and Turkey's shared history and introduce the city of Delhi to the exquisite creations from her looms, Smriti Morarka will showcase her Banarasi collection at the Turkish Embassy on November 28.

For the last 21 years, Tantuvi by Smriti Morarka has been engaged in reviving and preserving ancient weaving traditions from Banaras. Her endeavours have helped bring the Banarasi saree to the forefront in the closet of the modern Indian woman.

On being given the opportunity to showcase her collection at the Turkish Embassy, Smriti states, "Civilisations of Turkey and India have been producers of hallmark weaves in the medieval centuries and it is just heartening for our products to be hosted in their embassy. When someone coming from a similar tradition toasts your efforts in a field they understand, it is extremely humbling."

Talking about her 21-year-old brand, she said, "The birth of Tantuvi did not happen with a view of opening a brand, it was more a reach out to help the weaving community of Varanasi. At that stage I had no idea whether this initiative would be well received and go forward. Grateful that is has sustained for over two decades and grown from strength to strength to weave a niche for itself."

"My journey has been a deeply satisfying one. The initial few years of hesitation on the part of the weavers to accept my suggestions to their existing design sensibilities has now given way to them welcoming it and enthusiastically translating them into their work. It is particularly gratifying when I see the families of these weavers leading better lives than when we started off. The hopelessness in their eyes that had compelled me to play my role in saving this art, has now given way to hope – and for me that is what makes this journey so worthwhile," she added.

As the Founder of a clothing brand which aims to save the traditional weaves, Smriti believes that there are very few countries in the world, which can actually boast about their crafts, tradition, and art. She says that India is one of them and the country continues to patronise their tradition in the contemporary world.

"Competing on a world platform – efficiency and time management is challenging for our craftsmen, and they have struggled to get used to that. This is why innovation in our crafts have seemingly stagnated. To me, these Indian crafts are art. And just as you cannot compel an artist to complete their work of genius in a given time frame, these crafts too will thrive when allowed to work at their own pace and rhythm. Rather than compromising on standards of quality, design or intricacy in the name of efficiency – I personally feel that we should provide these crafts a secure environment to thrive – just as they were allowed to in the past," she adds. Recently, Khadi has come into the limelight as the 'fabric of India', about what she says, "Khadi is wonderful fabric best suited for the climate in the Indian subcontinent. It is wonderful that the government has brought it back into the conversation and given it the much-needed fillip. Yes, in turn, it has to lead to designers making an attempt to use khadi in their collections and this awareness is greatly helping the market of khadi to grow which is very encouraging."

In order to imitate Western culture, there has been a time in India that millennials started dropping the Indian ethnic clothes for trendy dresses and jumpsuits. But Morarka believes that even today, there is a larger degree of comfort in youth for wearing Indian clothing for festivals or ceremonies. "We are a step closer to making Indian wear in vogue and seeing urban youth voluntarily wear it more and more in their daily lives. If the younger generation can impart this respect for Indian garments and fashion to the generations that come after, we would have truly started a much-needed turnaround," she explains.

In the world of getting everything easily, there is a lot of piracy happening in the textile industry as well.

The Founder of the 21-year-old brand reveals the ways of identifying the original and duplicate Banarasi cloth. "Difference between the two are extremely subtle and sometimes difficult to put into words. It is the look, the touch, the feel, the drape and other inexplicable aspects that make the two extremely different."

Pull out the family heirloom Banarsi that was passed down to you, chances are they were real handloom. Touch and feel them, soak in their sensibilities and feel how real handloom engulfs you as opposed to a power loom fabric that stands a touch apart." Just touching and feeling the fabric can make you feel how real handloom engulfs you as opposed to a power loom fabric that stands a touch apart. She believes that awareness, experience, and exposure to genuine handloom Banarsi alone can help you tell

them apart.

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