clotNew Delhi: Veteran fashion designer Ritu Kumar says it is important to lower the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on handlooms to sustain the sector and improve the livelihood of craftspeople. India today has 16 million craftspeople who are working on textiles as an everyday profession, she noted. “This is… the size of most small countries; the population. It is very important to both sustain the craft and the art behind (handloom) as well as the livelihood of so many people,” she told IANS in an email interview, adding that the sector had the potential to be a huge generator of income.
“Today you see a lot of craftspeople’s children moving to the city and not taking up traditional crafts. It is important to provide incentives for them to come back and work. If we can lower the GST, or eliminate it, from the handicraft or handloom areas, it will give an incentive to the younger craftspeople to come back to this livelihood,” she added. Handloom fabrics and handloom apparel have been made taxable with GST rates of 5 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively. Kumar started her career in 1969 and has great understanding of traditional design and the innovative use of traditional crafts. She started with just four hand-block printers and two tables in a small village near Kolkata and pioneered the term “fashion” in the Indian context.
With an over four-decade-long journey in the industry, Kumar, whose list of clients include Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra and international celebrities such as the late Princess Diana and Mischa Barton, has seen the evolution in the fashion world.
“Textiles, in India in particular, have involved in a fairly spectacular manner. From almost being non-existent after the colonial ban on most handlooms and handicrafts, it has today evolved into the best of each discipline… whether it is weaving, printing or embroidery,” said Kumar. “This has not happened in any other country where most textiles and crafts were systematically decimated and were found in museums rather than in everyday use. This is the miracle that I’m seeing in India,” she added. The designer, who was awarded the Padma Shri in 2013 for her exceptional service in the field of fashion, textiles and craftsmanship, feels the history of Indian textiles was ignored in the 150 years of modernisation. “And we, from being one of the countries with the largest exports of textiles, became one of the largest importers of Lancashire and Manchester produced goods. So what we completely ignored was the historical significance of India as a creator of textiles and an influencer of fashion for centuries, a place where I think its slowly going to get back,” said the designer.
Kumar is currently showcasing at the fifth edition of the Nayaab exhibition that celebrates the magnificence of Indian weaves. It is curated by Rupa Sood and Sharan Apparao. “This is our first time being a part of Nayaab. It’s an effort to celebrate Indian textiles, which falls in line with our brand DNA. Nayaab strives for excellence and believes in celebrating the finest of Indian weaves by curating and showcasing the wonders of Indian textiles. “This edition of Nayaab aspires to embody the traditions of Indian textile heritage and epitomises the stories of the countless hands that have worked to create these masterpieces,” said the designer. The exhibition is on display at The Lodhi till Saturday.