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     Volume 4 Issue 67 | October 14, 2005 |

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Breaking New Grounds on the Handloom Front

Imran H. Khan

Since ancient times, there has been an intimate relationship between clothes and humans. The function of clothes has not only been to protect the body from the elements, it has also been a symbol of wealth and prosperity as well as a manifestation of culture. People have used clothes to stress their individuality and to distinguish themselves. Cloth, therefore, plays a vital role in this interaction and the weaving of cloth is one of the oldest crafts. Perhaps the most famous yarn from this part of the subcontinent is Dhaka Muslin, a superfine silk yarn embellished with intricate hand embroidery. Bangladesh is also in the proud position of being able to boast of a variety of other handmade crafts like Jamdani, Rajshahi silk, Reshmi silk, among others. Bangladeshi handloom has yet to see a match in terms of quality and uniqueness in the global market.

Among the scores of fashion houses that have been instrumental in preserving our heritage by bringing Bangladesh's finer wares to the market, and at the same time facilitating these craftspeople, Kay Kraft is a common name.

Handloom as the name implies is manually made, and thus, in the automated world of the 21st century is a much sought after commodity to an international audience. In our country, the handloom industry's achievements and fame has a long illustrious history. There was once a time when muslin and jamdani were famous all over the world for their quality. Though the production of muslin has floundered in recent times, jamdani and silk are flourishing.

Behind this long history of handloom products is a large network of crafts people who work ceaselessly to create new designs and trends for the people of our country and the international front. Ideas and expertise handed down through generations more than make up for any want in "book knowledge" and result in designs and colours flaunting not just originality and authenticity but flavoured with a regional touch to it. Many of the weavers belong to the various indigenous races and so they bring in elements of their distinctive taste and culture to the produce.

Bangladeshi handloom products with their distinctive design and superior quality have created a niche for themselves in the overseas markets. We can now proudly claim to be equipped to meet the demands of the national and international market. An international expert's study reveals that the technical skill of the weavers of Bangladesh is second to none in the world.

Kay Kraft's recent endeavour to promote Bangladeshi fabrics included a fashion show followed by an exhibition of fabrics exclusively made by our local handloom artisans. The event was mainly to promote the local talents and to show how rich we are in weaving and how the designs are of international standard, if not better. Khalid Mahmud Khan, Director of Kay Kraft says that this project was in the pipeline for almost a year. After a lot of hard work, the dream has now become a reality and taken shape in the form of this event to give something very special to the clientele of Kay Kraft this Eid.

"We are currently dependent on the material that is made by these crafts people," states Khan. Why should we look to foreign raw material to make clothes when we have such a rich line of material right here? The artisans working in the handloom are not only providing us with an exquisite range of fabrics, but they are currently exporting them too. This brings in a lot of foreign revenue and also puts our country at the forefront of the global market. Slowly but surely, the market for handloom produced items in Bangladesh is growing. In the last few years, the growth in the market has been two-fold in each successive year. The main people to thank for the prosperity are the handloom crafts people and the people working behind the scene in the handloom industry. In the face of scarcity of design and technology, artisans are trying their best to make the best of the present situation. Kay Kraft wants to preserve Bangladeshi heritage so that they are not lost to the sands of time.

The prime attraction of the evening was a gala fashion show at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy followed by the exhibition. The show featured materials and clothes from numerous districts in Bangladesh, and the designers at Kay Kraft had designed the materials to suit the distinct needs of its patrons. One of the most unique aspects of the exhibition was the display of Kay Kraft's blended fabrics made by combining different kinds of yarns. These materials were used to design a special line of clothes that look good and feel good too.

This year, to celebrate the month of Eid, their new line will depict designer wears from Laharpur in Chapainawabganj which specialises in gamcha, lungi, godor sari, reshmi sari, and much more. Shahjaadpur in Shirajganj specialises in sari, lungi, striped materials and many more. Next up, Patarail in Tangail is ideal for producing their line of bhaitail sari, salwar kameez, panjabi, shirt material and napkins. Cloths from Manikganj, Narsingdi, Narayanganj, Comilla, Chittagong Hill Tracks and other districts too were put on display to add to the flavour of the exhibition. Kay Kraft was keen to show to their consumers how different regions of Bangladesh are famous for their distinctive wares.

Present on the occasion as the Chief Guest was Abdullah Abu Sayeed. He was full of enthusiasm at the success of the handloom industry and Kay Kraft. Sayeed referred Kay Kraft to a moving car. "If we see a car is going uphill, we call it progress. If it goes downhill, that does not mean it's not making progress," said Sayeed. "It means that the car could be gaining momentum to climb up a higher mountain. We are on route to progress and Kay Kraft is leading the way." The thing that the people at Kay Kraft have made possible today symbolises the fact that we are definitely moving ahead. Through Kay Kraft and other such fashion houses the rich history of our country will not be lost and the handloom artisans of this nation will find a proper footing in the society.

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