Radhi Parekh still remembers the feel of her grandmother’s mulmul sari. “I could lie in her soft lap all day,” says the founder of the Artisans’ gallery in Mumbai. Years later, the same sari was made into cushion covers for Parekh’s nieces—and it still evoked the same feel.
Unfortunately, this can’t be said of the mulmul saris available today. “With the extensive amount of blending of fabrics now, the feel of the actual material is long forgotten. Many people can’t even differentiate between what’s original and what’s not,” says Parekh.
To offer people a sense of how a handloom product actually feels, Artisans’, in collaboration with the Lakme Fashion Week, will present an interactive three-day exhibition on its premises. Please Touch! The Handloom Experience, a precursor to the Sustainable Fashion and Indian Textiles Day, to be held on 25 August at the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, will showcase original and blended versions of around seven fabrics, including Khadi, the short-staple organic Kala cotton, the desi wool of Kutch, the North-East’s wild silks Eri and Muga, and Himalayan pashmina.
“It will be like ‘yarn tasting’, where participants will be blindfolded and asked to differentiate between the natural yarn and man-made fabrics. They will explore their translucency and opacity, and surface and texture,” says Parekh, who has sourced some of the fabrics directly from weavers. Some other fabrics and products, including clothes, stoles and home décor, will be showcased by six handloom brands and designers, including Maku (by Santanu Das and Chirag Gandhi) and Sunita Shankar. There will also be free workshops on knitting, crochet and jewellery-making.
Shankar, who has been working with weavers in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kolkata for over 20 years, will display garments woven in Bandhani, Ajrakh and Ikat. “It is easy to get tempted and buy a blend of silk which is 10 times cheaper than the original. But it will always be a bad idea in terms of sustainability and quality.”
Please Touch! The Handloom Experience will be held from 20-22 August, 11am-7pm, at Artisans’, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai. Garment prices start from Rs.1,500. For details, call 9820145397.