Coming back to Indian fabrics, I would like to write about my visit to Indian saree capital a few years ago – a small town by the name of Kanchipuram, based on the East coast of India, just a few hours train ride from Chennai. This little town is known as a “Silk City”, as the main profession of the people living in this town is manual weaving of silk sarees, with more than 5000 families engaged in this industry for generations.
Every saree made in Kanchipuram is like a piece of art. The saree designs are traditional, inspired of temple sculptures – as Kanchipuram is also well known by its ancient temples.
I had an opportunity to meet Mr.C.R.Krishnan, the owner of „Sree Swamy Silk House”. Their family has been in the silk industry for five generations already. He told me more about Kanchipuram´s history as a silk city, its present and future.
He told me that all of the silk is hand made, with real silver and gold used for decorative patterns and images. Unfortunately on the day of my visit it was raining earlier, so i did not get to see the making process – too humid for weaving.
Saree is made up of a piece of fabric – 1m wide and 4-9m long that is wrapped around body in a specific manner, making it into a dress. Saree is worn on top of a long underskirt with a short top, called choli. Being almost 4000 years old fashion, it is still widely worn nowadays on auspicious occasions, such as weddings, festivals or on temple visits. Before it used to be that almost all women were wearing sarees daily, but fifteen years ago the number reduced to 30%, these days coming up to barely 5%. Traditional saree is being replaced by rather more practical salwaar kameez outfit(consisting of leggings, tunic and a scarf).
Mr.Krishnan sees the future of his company in preserving the fabric handmaking tradition and moving into lifestyle products market, producing curtains, bedspreads and furniture covers. Silk is marketed within India, as well as abroad – for example in London as fabric.