Meghalaya's weavers await designer breaks

Shillong, Oct 22 : Weavers and craftsmen in the northeastern state of Meghalaya know the styles of Ritu Kumar and Sabyasachi Mukherjee well and hope designers with such a wide reach will help them broaden their work base and increase their crafts' popularity around the world.

A welcome change from the fashion extravaganzas in New Delhi and Mumbai, the first edition of the Shillong Fashion Week, which started here Friday, saw the presence of local weavers and craftsmen in the audience.

In a way, it seemed to come closer to achieve its aim to promote northeastern designs and fabrics. But it is just the beginning.

Dressed in bright coloured Khasi attires, the womeb hogged the limelight vis-a-vis other girls, who chose to be fashion conscious and opted for western wear.

For Minali Chug, 28, it was her first time at a fashion week and she dressed in a pink-coloured Khasi outfit for it. She wanted to get "a true taste of fashion".

Initiated under the leadership of state Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, SFW is being held at the North Eastern Hills University (NEHU) convention centre here.

The event has been organised to promote Shillong as the next fashion hub for northeast India, to promote national designers in Meghalaya, to encouraging local designers and enhance their creativity, to promote tribal textile through ready-to-wear garments and to highlight ethnic and eco-friendly fabric.

The local weavers hope the aims are met.

"Ritu Kumar is my favourite designer. Though I have never seen her designs, but I have heard from tourists that she makes clothes with local fabrics from different regions," a weaver named Namgug Piyari, told IANS.

"We want these designers to promote right textiles of India rather than running after western designs," added Piyari.

Some weavers feel the fashion week is a welcome change for the state, which produces rich fabrics and its local craftsmanship is well-known. They only hope for due recognition, which they so rightfully deserve.

"Nobody understands how much effort it takes to work in loom and produce fabric. We are the ones who give India the best fabrics like the rich Naga silks and striped fabrics. It takes efforts, but we earn peanuts," lamented a weaver named Kamangi Kumar.

"I have heard that many Indian designers say that they are working days and nights to promote rich Indian fabrics. If that is so, then why are we not given due importance? I am hopeful that with this fashion week, people will finally see us," said Kumari.

None of them opened about the per day income, but one of them humbly said: "We earn as much that we can easily feed our family."