A Couple and Their Story of Love for Bharatsthali Handloom Sarees
Chandigarh-based start-up Bharatsthali brings handloom sarees online from all over India to the world, precisely at your fingertips.
– a term that, of late, has gained much momentum among the shehris [urban people]. Thanks to the designers, Bollywood A-listers and celebs have catapulted handloom back to mainstream. For en masse, the obsession for handloom is limited to an ikkat [silk] tablecloth, a block print kurta or an ajrakh [decorative] bedsheet. But what about sarees — those traditional glorious six-yard stunners with exquisite handloom work?
In this age of slide-on and move-on clothing, sarees are a long-forgotten saga. Despite being controversial, the famous designer Sabyasachi said a statement that had a moment of raw, naked truth, signaling a saree’s untimely departure from the commoners’ wardrobe, barring a few event exceptions like a wedding or a religious ceremony. This drop out of a handloom saree on a mass scale has created a knowledge vacuum. People can’t tell if a hand-printed piece of art came from India and so on. They don’t know if they should buy the saree and if at all they decide to make the purchase, the authenticity of the saree remains a mystery. The GI tag is too much trouble for people to understand outside the biz.
…And this is where Bharatsthali comes in. A love affair of Sumati and Pulkit Gogna, whose bootstrapped start-up educates, offers buying assistance to the customers and unfurls a whole wide world of sarees for you!
A long journey awaits…
Sumati recalls how at around this time a year ago, both Pulkit and she were taking a two-month long trip in a rented car scaling the entirety of South India to understand the intricacy of weaving, warp and weft, the block printing and whatnots on a first-hand basis.
“A lifetime is not enough,” she said.
Bridging the gap between artists and customers, Pulkit believes Bharatsthali is a fair-trade platform that eliminates middlemen. Increasing the profits for weavers for their work and letting the customer make informed decisions, this is where the handloom start-up makes all the difference. And yes, nudging people to move to the other side–The good ol’ handloom side!
Ethnic chic and confident?
“No matter what you wear, you need confidence. Don’t they call it the sexiest outfit?”, asked Sumati.
Easier said than done. How do you convince a woman to flaunt a saree who has to pack a lunch for her two kids and rush to the office using the metro?
It is not about side-lining the lifestyle for the sake of a saree. It is about including sarees in the day-to-day lifestyle. A salwar-suit is much-liked and is evergreen apparel because it is easier to sport, but there are linen and cotton sarees that are lightweight, easy to maintain and can be draped in a jiffy. The timeless classic like handloom silk or raw fabric can be reserved for the time when you don’t have to look at the clock every two minutes.
“Influencing and educating customers to adopt a saree is all we want. A linen-silk blend over Georgette or a handmade, handcrafted saree over famous designers,” added Pulkit.
The million-dollar question: Is it authentic?
Pulkit shares the dilemma of the fringe customer in handloom fabric. According to him, “A silk can be either at the lowest bracket or the upper bracket. And the pain point is you can’t tell between a fake and an authentic one unless you have the eye to notice the intricate details that matter.”
It could very well be one of the biggest ironies. All that can be done is hoping that you have an authentic product. Bharatsthali silk sarees are certified with Silk Mark India that is the benchmark of natural and authentic silk. A quality assurance that comes in handy when you plan to keep a heritage saree for the posterity.
Is it easy, marching forward alone?
“It has been bumpy, but since the beginning, we knew that we want it to happen gradually. Redefining sarees, changing perceptions and creating sustained relationships between handloom and the new-age generation isn’t an easy task. Well, this is just the beginning. Getting back to the roots takes longer and once you are there, it is the strongest bond there could ever be,” remarked Pulkit and signs off with a childlike grin!
This article was created and collaborated with Bharatsthali.