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Anita Dongre on Saving Indian Handlooms From Dying

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Designer Anita Dongre, who has moved one step closer to her dream of empowering the women of India by opening the fourth tailoring unit in the village of Modgaon in Maharashtra, says there has been a sense of urgency within the industry to save the country's dying crafts. She feels there is a better understanding of Indian textiles and slow fashion on a global level today.

"There has been a sense of urgency within the industry to save India's dying crafts. It's great to see not just the industry but also the government taking steps towards reviving handloom and making it relevant to the current generation," Dongre told IANS in an email when asked about her take on how the scene of handloom has changed over the years.

"Handloom is finally getting its long due recognition but I still think we have a long way to go and a lot more to do," she added.

The tailoring center located at village Modgaon, Dahanu Taluka, Palghar District, Maharashtra, is established under the aegis of Anita Dongre Foundation as part of its women empowerment initiative in collaboration with Tribal Development Department - Government of Maharashtra, Modgaon Gram Panchayat and Palghar District Collector Office.

The House of Anita Dongre Ltd. deploys its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects through its non-profit arm Anita Dongre Foundation (Section 25 Company) in multi-stakeholder partnership and collaborative mode in order to improve the quality of life of its stakeholders - including inter alia communities.

The foundation plans to have 50 such communities tailoring centers across the country in the next three years and is exploring opportunities to collaborate with like-minded and credible organisations.

So where do you see handlooms and textiles moving from here on globally?

"There is a better understanding of Indian textiles, crafts and slow fashion, on a global level today. It's amazing to see the progress we are making towards this as an industry. Social media also has been a huge enabler for us to tell our stories of Indian handlooms and textiles.

"Grassroot as a brand was born out of this very need to tell India's craft story and make it relevant to the global consumer of today. It was always my dream to showcase Indian handlooms and crafts on a global platform and the launch of our flagship store in New York brings that purpose further to life," she said.

Talking about the new tailoring unit, the designer said Anita Dongre Foundation works with the local governments and village gram panchayats to create local Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) and bring livelihood or employment opportunities to their own villages.

"Empowering the people of these villages by giving them access to a dependable source of income, in their locality is critical to arrest the tide of migration to cities. Modgaon is the fourth location where we have setup a community garment tailoring unit (in addition to Charoti, Jawahar and Dhanevari) in the Palghar District of Maharashtra.

"There are no skilled artisans or weavers in these villages - the women from these villages are unskilled labour who we skill in garment tailoring on industrial sewing machines by setting up such training-cum-production centres, and this has been our key objective," she said.

Added Dongre: "During the three months of training period, we train the women in basic and advanced skills of cutting, sewing and finishing garments and during this period every trainee is paid a stipend. Once the training is complete, we supply the center with fabrics and pay the women for the tailored garments on fair per piece rate basis so as to provide them with regular livelihood opportunities.

"Through this initiative, we mobilise women to create opportunities for skill development, employment and entrepreneurship. We currently support livelihood for over 160 women."

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