As the Task Force on Handicrafts definition (1989) puts it: ‘Handicrafts are items made by hand, often with the use of simple tools, and are generally artistic and/or traditional in nature. They include objects of utility and objects of decoration.’
The heart of India lies in its small and cottage industries that produce exactly these products. Through the 18th and 19th centuries India was known more for crafts than by arts, religion or philosophy as the quality of its products were so exquisite. Product offerings today include varied materials – from dress fabrics to soaps to carpets and jewellery, with the market for these products reaching beyond boundaries that one could imagine. The phase of globalization saw a growth in the handicrafts sector, which was a result of the increase in demand for ethnic and culture specific goods. Exports of Indian handicrafts have taken enormous strides since Indian independence, with the handicrafts sector forming the second largest employment sector, second to only agriculture.
Handicraft products are ultimately lifestyle products in the international arena, and changing consumer preferences and tastes call for a change in the products made and designed locally. The handicrafts sector is one of the major sources of foreign exchange earnings for the country.
From Bollywood’s Sonam Kapoor tweeting about her ramp walk in Khadi clothing made by her three favorite designers to models such as Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss option for Indian wear to brunches and other events, Indian ethnic wears like Saree, Salwar Kameez, Lehenga choli, etcare slowly making waves in the west as a popular clothing choice. Western celebrities have been wearing Indian clothing since the time of Princess Diana. Comfort and colour are two major plus points of this style of clothing, which helps its wearers make a statement in any crowd they are in.
According to Kim M Gunn, a senior lecturer at Edinburgh college, Scotland, “Fusion of traditional Indian textile and contemporary fashion can do wonders in both India and UK.” Kim feels that blending modern production techniques with traditional Indian prints and designs will contribute towards the progress of Indian production industries. “Digital printing in our country and traditional Indian fashion textile can develop new trends in fashion textile industry.”
Many Indian designers have jumped on this bandwagon early, and are already personal favorites of actors and sportspersons alike, in the West. They have set up stores in New York and Los Angeles and seem to exhibit no signs of slowing down in the near future.
E-commerce has been a boon to this sector, with startups like CBazaar, that have on offer Indian handicrafts such as jewellery, accessories, clothing etc. gaining popularity among wearers of ethnic clothing offering shipment facilities to locations internationally. Indian handicrafts have always been a popular choice among locals, gaining favour due to their price and versatility, and it seems like the West has started to catch up too. This could only spell good things for the handicraft industry in the country.