Loom to luxury PRESS KIT
Through improving the livelihood of Artisan Weavers and investing in their communities, Varanasi Loom to Luxury provides the luxury industry with beautiful hand woven silk fabrics whilst helping to keep the ancient tradition of silk weaving alive in Varanasi.
The luxury of hand-made silk is only the final output in a production process that starts at the loom with the weaver himself. We believe that a happy, healthy weaver working in a safe, inspiring environment is a resource with equal importance to that of the fine raw silk and dyes used in every product. Fostering the livelihood of a weaver by providing him and his family first with the basic necessities of life â€“ roti (food), kapada (clothing) and makan (shelter) â€“ and then helping him to build a better life from this foundation will not only result in a better product, but also help to increase his own self-pride, pride for his work and allow him to be a more productive and active member in his community. Once an individual is able to afford the basics of life, he will be able to excel further providing opportunities for education, improved health and a more rewarding social life for his family.
History of Varanasi Silk
The history of luxurious hand-loom silk weaving dates back hundreds of years and is an integral part of the rich history of India. In Varanasi, a city that was once home to hundreds of thousands of hand-loom weavers, the renown tradition has been suffering in the wake of the introduction of the power loom and harsh competition from cheaper factory textiles in China. As a result, the number of weavers has diminished significantly while they have been forced to seek other trades or face starvation.
Varanasi Loom to Luxury was created to preserve the tradition of hand-woven Banaras silk and the lives of the weavers who make ir. While the production of high-quality, hand-woven silk may be the final product, the production of a better standard of living for the weaver, his family and his community is recognized as a critical and necessary part of the process.
All of our fabrics are hand woven with jacquard looms using only the highest quality silk and materials. Varanasi Loom to Luxury offers a very dynamic range of products ranging from stock and custom order running fabric to traditional finished goods - saris, stoles and dupattas at a quality that meets the standards of both the domestic and international markets. Although we are working to preserve a tradtitional craft, we are always seeking ways to create new innovative fabrics or testing the limits of the traditions to create beautiful modern designs. Our production team - educated in modern textile design as well as the intricacies of the jacquard hand loom - will help turn your vision into woven art.
community facility center
The future of this traditional artisan craft lies in an understanding and awareness of the modern marketplace. This speaks not only to the design, but to the quality of product and service required to compete globally, which poses a challenge to the weavers who are working in inadequate, decentralized workspaces. To provide our weavers with the tools they need to succeed, Varanasi Loom to Luxury is creating a Community Weaving Facility, scheduled to begin construction early 2014. The building was designed by award-winning, London-based architect, David Adjaye who personally visited the weavers so he could design it to their lifestyles and specific needs. This modern facility is being built to address three goals: 1. Improve the livelihoods of the weavers while fostering an atmosphere of solidarity, inspriation and pride 2. Provide a resource for the community as a whole (playing close attention to the empowerment of women as well as the provision of social services, clean water, etc.) 3. Create a safe, healthy work environment which addresses production issues that currently prohibit the weavers from expanding their market The community facility center will provide greater control over production quality, faster communication between weavers and production management, and a greater sense of collaboration amongst weavers themselves. In addition, the eco-friendly facility will be equipped with climate control, efficient solar lighting and on-site resources for the weavers and their families. Each of these factors will result in significant improvements in quality and efficiency, which, in turns, leads to a more competitive position in the market and inhibits the growth of the business.
Improved quality control and time management
One of the greatest challenges the artisan community of Varanasi has faced is the inability to compete globally in terms of communication and standards of quality. With a local market whose tastes are changing away from the tradtional sari, the weaving community finds itself needing to adapt to a more diversified roster of clients in order to maintain their livelihood.
While this can be a challenge, Varanasi Loom to Luxury prefers instead to view it as an opportunity to promote and share this treasured craft throughout the world. The community facility center provides the weavers with the tools to tackle the challenges and gives designers an alternative to the mass produced fabrics that have now flooded the market. Bringing the weavers together physically will create a heightened sense of community and environment of solidarity. Allowing for instant communication, the facility will foster much greater cooperation between the weavers to solve problems and share experiences - a benefit that will be passed on to the buyer.
Creating a Stronger Community
The art of hand-loom weaving is one that is passed on through generations and must be learned from the age of childhood. That being the case, the younger generation of weavers holds the key to the sustainability of this craft. Our goal is to provide a beautiful, welcoming and inspiring environment where the weavers will not only feel pride for themselves and their work, but it will also foster the confidence to pass their skills down to their children.
Partnership with nest
In 2012, Varanasi Loom to Luxury formed a partnership with US-based NGO, Nest, who works with artisans in developing countries world-wide to promote peace and relieve poverty. Sharing the mission to protect the future of this stunning craft, Nest is supporting the business development of Varanasi Loom to Luxury by helping to improve management structures, streamlining operations and heightening efficiency. These resources are being provided with the ultimate goal of sustainability and self-sufficiency for the business and bringing a better livelihood to all artisans.
COURTESY OF MAIYE T
Our Silk in the Press
US Vogue Sept 2013 - Red Jacquard Brocade Pants
Women’s Wear Daily, May 2013 - Red Jacquard Brocade Pants and Top
Caylor said. ‘It’s the public perception that something ethical is sacriﬁcing on design. It’s granola or fair trade; it looks very hippie – all those assumptions.’ That’s the reverse of current food trends, she noted, which make the provenance of the heritage carrots on the side of your grass-fed steak a source of foodie cachet. ‘It was weird that fashion was the complete opposite. For us, taking design and making it a pillar of the way we operate, we presented a brand in which customers don’t have to compromise, and have the added beneﬁt of doing something really positive.’ At Maiyet, the people creating the clothes aren’t viewed as garment workers – they are referred to rather deliberately as ‘artisan partners’. The brand ﬁnds these craftsmen through Nest. At the beginning Rebecca van Bergen and her team scouted artisans whose areas of expertise she thought might be of interest to Maiyet; now the brand’s proﬁle makes her task easier. ‘A lot of it is word of mouth,’ van Bergen said. ‘Once you start giving away philanthropic dollars and market access, artisans ﬁnd you.’ The company requires retail partners to abide by fair-trade practices, including paying fair wages or higher and advancing 50 per cent of the order cost upfront, so producers can procure raw materials. Both sides sign contracts prohibiting exclusivity. ‘Our artisan partners have to be able to work with whomever they want,’ van Bergen said. And the retailer must indicate more than a passing interest in artisan work. ‘It can’t be a corporate social responsibility marketing campaign,’ van Bergen said. ‘That’s one of our goals, to ﬁnd artisans and skills that we can evolve and use over seasons,’ Caylor
added. ‘We really want the relationships we build to be fruitful over a long period of time.’ Today, Maiyet sources its wares from an artisan archipelago. In Indonesia batik artists create custom printing blocks for scarves and T-shirts; in Jaipur master jewellers craft delicate pavé-diamond cuffs. Anton, a brass-casting specialist in Nairobi produces Maiyet’s bestselling ﬁsh pendants in a home workshop where he also takes HIV/Aids orphans as his apprentices. Leatherworkers in Tuscany make the brand’s Aztec gladiator sandals. Nest and Maiyet measure the effectiveness of their projects through internal audits. ‘A universal outcome of the work we do is dignity and pride among the artisans,’ Caylor said. But these nods to transparency don’t change the fact that Maiyet is a luxury brand, with the mystical transformation of raw materials into $1,800 horn-inlay bangles that entails. ‘When we found the artisans we work with, we uncovered treasures of skills and products that we felt should be revered as the highest expression of artisanship and craftsmanship,’ Caylor said. ‘That is truly covetable, luxurious product. And it should be compensated as such.’ The proof is in the collections. For spring/ summer 2013 the design team (which includes former Céline, Yves Saint Laurent and Ralph Lauren designers) created a series of airy, white-onwhite embroidered dresses and bold, batik-printed separates inspired by their travels in Peru. At the autumn/winter show in February, Mongolian wool parkas and Varanasi silk ensembles caught the attention of the buyers as well as the press. ‘We were very sceptical in the beginning, because often these civic-minded brands don’t always
produce fantastic product,’ Daniella Vitale, the chief operating officer of Barneys, said. Then she saw the collection: ‘We nearly knocked Paul over to get it, we were so excited.’ Vitale said the brand has had ‘an incredible sell-through,’ achieving more than $2 million in sales in its ﬁrst 18 months at Barneys. Freida Pinto knows what women see in the brand. ‘I love the fact that they take things that are so traditionally ethnic and make something modern out of them: “It’s not like I’m asking you to wear a sari made out of this fabric; I’m asking you to wear a dress.”’ She smiles. ‘And it’s a great dress.’ Despite its global reach, Maiyet is still a threeyear-old brand. Barneys and Net-a-porter are its main stockists, with a few prestige retailers worldwide (including Liberty and Selfridges in London). Investors who contributed to Maiyet’s $10 million start-up capital – people such as Richard Branson and the ﬁlmmaker Abby Disney – are betting that the company will only grow. ‘Investing in a start-up fashion brand is not for the faint of heart,’ van Zyl said, adding that he foresees Maiyet clocking $100 million in sales within ﬁve years. But the founders’ grandest goal isn’t anything approaching global domination. It’s more like mass persuasion. ‘The ultimate gauge of success is that if you’re doing $100 million in sales, those revenues are generating the kind of social change and employment for our artisan partners that we dreamt of when we set this up,’ van Zyl said. Caylor nodded: ‘Having our peers who may not be thinking this way get increasingly aware of the way we produce, and seeing the world shift in that way, would be incredibly inspiring.’
‘The ultimate gauge of success is that if you’re doing $100 million in sales, those revenues are generating the kind of social change we dreamt of when we set this up’
Maiyet on the catwalk, from far left: shirt and top in hand-woven silk from Varanasi with Indonesian batik print, s/s 13; hand-embroidered tunic, woven in Varanasi, and silk shorts, s/s 13; silk top and trousers, block-printed and woven by hand in Varanasi, a/w 13
Telegraph Magazine, June 2013 - Red Jacquard Brocade Pants and Top
Women’s Wear Daily, May 2013 - Blue and Green Jacquard Brocade Jacket
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