By P.T. Bopanna

Though I am not a fashionista, I take interest in fashion because I manage a group on Facebook which has predominantly women members.

Of late, I have been posting videos in the group put out by Hathkargha, a store based at Dehradun in Uttarakhand.

What impressed me about Hathkargha was the simplicity, beauty and elegance of their handloom products. They source their products from across Indian states, from Bengal’s Tussar silk to Rajasthan’s block prints. I wish to clarify that I am not endorsing any Hathkargha products. 

Personally I prefer cotton because that is the most suitable fabric for Indian climatic conditions.

My Facebook group of over 6,000 members has some of India’s leading names in the handloom sector.

Prasad Bidapa, the iconic fashion guru of India is a member of my group.  He is a pioneer in the Indian fashion industry since the last four decades. He has set a benchmark in the revival of Khadi and the traditional textiles of India for which he has become one of the most influential spokespersons.

Then there is Pavithra Muddaya, daughter of Chimy Nanjappa, who established Vimor at Bengaluru in 1974. Vimor is training and encouraging small town weavers to re-create and produce traditional, marketable sarees.

Another big name in my group is Arati Monappa of the Serenity Lifestyle Store. Arati enjoys experimenting with different fabrics using traditional and geometric prints in a contemporary, arresting medium to bring vitality to a dying craft.

Arati has contributed content for my various websites and books, on Kodava jewellery and food.

I feel it is time Indians gave up their obsession with foreign brands and develop love for Indian products.

The government’s demonetisation and the GST mess have rendered millions of artisans unemployed.

Though personally I feel prime minister Modi has a good fashion sense and wears elegant clothes, his flamboyance does not send out right political message.

The monogrammed suit he wore a few years ago during his meeting with American president Barack Obama in Delhi, was not a good idea. The suit which cost around Rs 10 lakh was later sold in an auction and later made it to the Guinness World Records as “the most expensive suit sold at auction”.

And Modi who tries to promote the slogan of ‘vocal for local’, should not have sported a Mayback sunglasses worth Rs 1.4 lakh. Instead he could have supported a desi brand.

The late prime minister Indira Gandhi was a fashion icon and was a connoisseur of handloom sari. When the occasion demanded, she chose Kanchipuram silk saree from Tamil Nadu.

Whenever I think of fashion, the only person who comes to my mind is the late Maharani Gayatri Devi, Rajmata of Jaipur, who was known for her impeccable sense of style.

In a well-researched article for the prestigious Seminar magazine, Mumbai-based writer Devaiah Bopanna dealt at length on what ails the Indian fashion industry.

In the article curated by fashion guru Prasad Bidapa for Seminar, Devaiah, noted: “For all the disproportionate attention and coverage you receive, you haven’t produced a single home-grown fashion label that has captured the imagination of the urban Indian like the way global brands have, and not a single label out of India that has gone on to become a massive global player in the world of fashion.

“People who consume fashion are an illogical lot. If the cabbie doesn’t return their change, a hashtag #Uber Drivers Are Cheats will begin to trend. But the same folks will gladly cough up 4,000 bucks for a pair of jeans and flaunt the damn price tag with panache. Some of them even wake up at the crack of dawn to go to a Jack & Jones outlet during a sale, fight their way into the store to pay vulgar amounts of money for a tee that says ‘Jack & Jones’ on it. In fact, if they don’t overpay for their clothes, they feel miserable about their lives. They will be judged by friends and their self-confidence will take a beating. It’s weird. But therein lies the greatest business opportunity of all time – the only set of customers who is thrilled to bits to pay inflated amounts for products that don’t cost much. Really, it can’t get more inviting than that. The only thing standing between you and a big label is the insecurity of human beings. You’re home if you make them feel like crap. Still, it’s not incentive enough for you to create a Superdry or Calvin Klein out of India.”

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