'Designers don't take undue advantage of weavers'

Nivedita Sharma

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Deepika Govind regularly works with weavers in the interiors of southern India. She begs to differ that leading designers like her, who sell their merchandise for lakhs of rupees, exploit local talent by paying low wages. In fact, weavers demand much more than usual from them, she says.

"When I go to villages for fabrics, I get shocked to see that weavers are getting peanuts for their work. They get squeezed by everyone -- from traders to middlemen. But it is a misconception that we designers also take advantage of their condition," Govind told IANS.

The veteran, whose forte lies in developing new fabrics, works closely with weavers and feels they overcharge anyone once they know he or she sells the material under a design label.

"We get squeezed because when they see us, they quote a price three times higher for the fabric. This is because they are not sure whether we will return to seek their services or not. They also have to work with the middleman, who takes maximum profits and that's the reason why they demand more from us," she explained.

But when a designer ends up paying a high fee to weavers, how does one make profit?

"For that, we are propelled to increase the price of the garment. People won't believe that a simple cotton sari costs me Rs.4,500 when it's ready for sale, and I retail it for Rs.2,500 because people are not willing to spend more than that."

"In Odisha, the weavers ask me for Rs.1,000 a metre for ikkat fabric. That's a very high charge. They charge what they want and I sell them for a price which I can justify. As I have to pay for so many workers and staff, who are involved with my work, I eventually have to increase the price of the garment. If I lose profit through one garment, I try to get decent profit on other garments," she said of her pricing strategy.

Govind started her fashion career in 2000 when she was one of the members in the first edition of the India Fashion Week, now known as the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week. Since then, she is actively involved with the bi-annual event, and showcases a plethora of hand-woven fabric and intricate designs on Indian garments.

She specialises in Kanjeevarm, ikkat and South Indian checks. She has two looms in the interiors of Bangalore, a group of weavers in Odisha and is currently working with three looms in Hampi, a tourist destination in Karnataka.

Her latest collection comprises ilkal weaves as the basic fabric.

"Unlike Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh that have fabrics native to them, Karnataka has only two major fabrics -- Mysore silk and ilkal. And because ilkal is close to Hampi, my favourite place, I decided to work with it this time. In addition to ilkal, we've explored Kanjeevaram checks and Chettinad checks too," she said.

Her latest collection of traditional kurtis, suits and saris is priced above Rs.9,000.

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