India is a country having 40 different forms of embroidery, while it is still hard to find hand embroidery, as most of it has passed on to machines. Yet, a few like chikan stitches and sozni stay alive as they are hard to move to machines. Two sisters, Malyada Goverdhan, a software developer and ex-IAF officer Ramya Rangacharya passionate about these traditional weaving and embroidery started the story of Hands of India in the year 2009.
The collection of antique sarees, stoles, and embroidery clothes in the vastra kothri in their family’s 200-year-old temple exposed them to different weaving and embroidery forms from an early age. The love for the handicraft traditions got the two sisters back together for this project. They travelled to weaver and embroidery pockets of the country to discuss ideas, patterns, and innovations while staying true to the integrity of weaves and textures.
To them, the employment they generated was more important than the craft itself as they mostly work with women artisans who make great use of the money. They were told from these artisans – ‘It’s ok if you pay us less, but pay us regularly’. They knew that the humble artisans were unaware of the real worth of their products, especially with the mass production replicas in the market.
In the course of 8 years, Hands Of India has also trained numerous youth who had dropped out of school in different vocations such as tailoring, photography, modelling, basic computers, accounting and management skills. Their employees are all first-generation salaried workers.
Their customers grew not just because of authentic handloom but because of their fit and designs. When they came for exhibitions, they bought along portable changing rooms, alteration kits and a tailor. The use of the alteration data helped them make changes in their product sizes. One example is when they realized the hip size of their clothes was very narrow since they were based on western sizing and not for Indian women.
They addressed all the lags faced by the handloom sectors. Their prices were nominal (almost close to the readymade clothes we get in shops like max, unlimited, trends!). They mastered traditional designs and delivered them in forms of western-ready to wear dresses, tunics, skirts, waistcoats and Indian ready to wear salwar, churidars, sarees, unlike other brands that don’t have this many choices. Their final collections consisted of hand block printing (from Rajasthan and Gujarat), Bandhani, Aari (Kashmir and UP), Sozni (Kashmir), Kantha and English stitch (West Bengal), Pattiwork, Chikan (UP), Phulkari (Punjab), Kasuti (Karnataka), Sujani (Bihar) and handloom weavings from WB, MP, Orissa, AP, Assam and Rajasthan. They introduced a whole palette of colours to the handwoven cloths. They introduced a whole palette of colours to the handwoven cloths. Finally helping fill our closets with eco-friendly, charming, elegantly fit and colourful clothes along with giving us satisfaction to have helped a weaver.
From the last two years, the brand has gone into the clearance sale and we found out that they are planning to close down the brand due to many other troubles. The corona lockdown has kept the online shop open. Being a person who has a keen eye for handlooms and hand-crafts, I would miss this brand as I could blindly trust its authenticity and that it never hurt my economy, unlike the options I am looking into, in case of replacements now.