CONTRIBUTED BY ILA FROM TEAM ZIBA BY HAND
I have been fascinated with the crafts of Madhya Pradesh since I got married. My extended family was living in Indore when I got married and the trips to the city would never be complete without paying a visit to the local state emporium and picking up the lovely Chanderi and Maheshwari suits and sarees.
Rehwa is a non-governmental, non-profit organization established in 1978 by Richard and Sally Holkar. Our NGO is based in the town of Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh India. We are situated at Ahilya Fort overlooking the sacred Narmada River.
What does Rehwa do?
Rehwa Society is one of the major hand weaving manufacturers in Maheshwar. Maheshwar is famous for its hand weaving tradition and serves a the centre of handloom weaving since the 5th century. The resurgence of this special tradition is owed to Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar, who ruled the state of Indore during the late 18th century. Due to the patronage of the Royal House of Holkar, Maheshwari saris were popular across India. Our textiles remain popular across the country and throughout the previous decade, gained further global appeal. Our NGO manufactures various delicate textiles including saris, dupattas, fabric, shawls, and scarves. Our textiles are produced with yarns such as silk, cotton, linen, wool, and tussar.Nowadays, our textiles offer a wide range of yarns, patterns, colors, and all of them are handwoven with love and care by our local weavers.
How is Rehwa eco-friendly, sustainable, green, and fair?
Rehwa textiles are exclusively made from organic yarns. Silk, cotton, linen, wool, and tussar are all from supliers that care about our environment. Furthermore, the dying process at Rehwa is ecofriendly. It is important to us to leave the smallest possible eco-footprint, which is why we online purchase yarns from India. Those yarns are manufactured by our weavers, who are all local people from Maheshwar. By employing local people, we make sure that they are granted a chance of employment and place a regular income in their hands. We support women weavers especially. With the earnings from their weaving, they have the opportunity to improve their livelihood.
Why do we do what we do?
Rehwa started in response to the reviving hand weaving industry. We set out with three major aims. Namely, to sustain the hand weaving tradition, empower local women by providing employment and a regular income, and provide housing, healthcare, and education to the families of our employees. The colony in Maheshwar was one of our projects which was successfully achieved. Many weavers found a home there and each house is equipped with a hand-loom, so they can work from home if necessary or preferred. One of our greatest achievements is Ahilya School for the weavers children. It ranks among the best school in Maheshwar and about 230 children are educated there everyday
I also spoke to Namrata , one the designers at Rehwa and this is what she had to say .
My name is Namrata Singh and I belong to the holy City Varanasi where I did my schooling. Later I moved to Kangra in Himachal Pradesh where I did my under-graduation From National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) specializing in Textile design. During my course I went to Swiss textile college, Switzerland on a summer program to learn more about fashion, textiles and management. Further I did a semester from the Glasgow School of Arts, Scotland where my garments were published in Scottish national magazine “Scotland on Sunday”, March, 2012. I received Best academic and community service award at NIFT with gold medal in textiles.
Further I moved to UK to do my masters from Birmingham City University specializing in Fashion & Textiles which I completed successfully with a distinction. I am a very calm and sober person and sketching is my passion. I have been sketching since I was a kid and now I am trying to blend my hobbies to profession. Clarity and intricacy is what depicts my style. Traditional designs and the boldness in colors attracts me. But my thoughts are not just bounded to traditional designs, I have a keen interest in geometric and abstracts too.
Currently I am working with Rehwa for 6 months. Before I went to UK, I did work for Rehwa for few months (internship) and it created my interest in handloom. Later when I moved back from UK after completing my course, Rehwa asked me to join them which was a really good opportunity for me as I was going to utilize my textile skills through handloom and I knew how things work. Working with handloom sector is different. You come to know how hard people work to give you the best quality products.
Another strong point which made me to work for Rehwa is – women empowerment. I strongly support empowering women as there’s a need for change in the society. Women are not just for household work and that’s what Rehwa proves. Here at Rehwa we train women how to weave and that’s how they can earn and support their families. We also have The Ahilya School for the children of the weavers. Rehwa is trying to keep alive the diminishing tradition of Maheshwari textiles and so are we giving our best to bring it into fashion through fresh colors, new borders and mixing traditional with contemporary designs.
It has been a great experience for me to work for this organization which is generating employment to so many weavers and specially women weavers, educating their children, and not to forget still carrying the traditional heritage of Maheshwar through their weaves.
As I am a textile designer, my main focus is on weaves and colors. I look after all the product range at Rehwa – Saree, Dupatta, fabric, stoles, scarfs. I have to design according to the season. Doing a trend analysis, color forecast and always keeping in mind our customers needs as majority of them are Indians. We are more into textiles yet but we are planning to move into apparels soon.
Life at Rehwa is very simple. People are kind, sober and down to earth. They will greet you with all they have. I frequently visit Rehwa to know the weavers well. How do they work, what changes need to be made. To share my ideas with them and to get their views too. Sometimes during lunch we sit together and share our meals, that’s how you learn to love and share happiness. And I guess to know them more closely one should pay a visit to Maheshwar and have a look around Rehwa society. And you’ll experience how they weave the love through threads.
As fashion changes so quickly, one always wants to look classy and trendy. And in my opinion cotton and silk never go out of fashion. Rehwa is known for its best quality, beautiful products and intricate borders. So why not have a beautiful Maheshwari textiles in your wardrobe. Indian women still prefer to dress up in classic saree when it comes to parties and occasions – whatever you drape, yet a saree makes you stand out in the crowd. I would just say- you should always wear what makes you comfortable. Its your confidence and charmn that makes you look beautiful..!
And I couldn’t agree more !
To learn more about Rehwa and shop their beautiful products , check out their website here .
Since the time I have started talking to people at Rehwa for this post , I knew I had to be back to Madhya Pradesh sooner than later . Although all the information above has been exchanged over emails ! But I can’t wait to report live from Maheshwar …