With her constant endeavours at reviving Rajasthan’s Kota weaves, Vidhi Singhania has carved a niche for herself at creating hand-woven and embroidered Benarasis, Kotas and Georgettes in the past two decades. She speaks to Guardian 20 about the   versatility khadi offers and the need to look beyond brands.

Q. You have been in the industry for over two decades. So how did your journey in the industry begin?

A.  When I started working with the Kota karigars, I decided to develop a few ideas using the Kota fabric as part of the corporate gifting culture. At that time I used to observe all the little things, and the saddest part is that the karigars wished that their children would not be what they were. So, from there I just wanted to translate Kota into a new and futuristic style, This gave birth to the brand, “Vidhi”.    

Q. We all know about your love for saris. How did your romance with saris begin?

A. I would always see my mother, Manju Sanghi, look so graceful wearing the gorgeous French chiffons. And I immediately gave my heart to saris , the way they reflect our culture, tradition and heritage and its history, splendour and grandeur.

Q. Your efforts at reviving Rajasthan’s Kota weaves are commendable. How did it all happen and how challenging was that entire phase?

A. When life sent me to Kota, by default I started working with the Kota karigars. With there being limited stores to shop from, I decided to develop ideas using the Kota fabric as part of corporate gifting. My inner aesthetics and interpretation, combined with the artisans’ skills and the ability to translate my ideas, together gave birth to the artistic Kota.

Weaving is a household profession, passed on from one generation to the next. From graph-making to yarn-dyeing to the finishing, everything was in-house—the only thing missing was the push to find an evolved market. It saddened me deeply when skilled karigars wished their children would take up some other profession, as being a Kota artisan wasn’t a lucrative option. I realised that this was the story of all handlooms—the skill was recognised, it just needed a platform. I took it upon myself to infuse that energy, to translate Kota into an avant-garde style statement, to be that textile revivalist who ensures the protection and survival of this heritage craft.

When I started, I could never imagine that my small endeavour to make a difference in the lives of the weavers would turn into something so beautiful. My current portfolio includes hand-woven and embroidered Benarasis, Kotas and Georgettes, bridal and trousseau ensembles, blouses and potlis and the Vidhi Home Collection comprising cushions, trays, coasters, table mats and napkins, and woven paintings.

“I strive to keep the traditional art of weaving and handloom alive through my creations. I can describe myself as a fond lover of the rich cultural traditions of India. My love for Indian textile and crafts has helped me to create magic with the fabrics.” 

Q. Indigenous weavers are often ignored in the country. Owing to this, many traditional forms suffer. How important do you think it is to encourage the weavers and craftsmen both in terms of recognition and remuneration?

A. Appreciation is a fundamental human need. Employees respond to appreciation expressed through recognition of their good work because it confirms their work is valued. When employees and their work are valued, their satisfaction and productivity rises, and they are motivated to maintain or improve their work.

Our weavers remain the backbone of the business. We collaborated with these workers to not only save a heritage but to show them what magic can be created with this versatile Kota.

Today, the biggest achievement for us is that the weavers make the market and demand the rates they want rather than the consumers. They are getting the credit and the name they truly deserve. Their art is appreciated and valued not only in India but all over the world. They are and will remain the makers of the biggest market in India after agriculture.

Q. The masses these days are extremely brand-conscious. Local weavers, despite putting in their very best and using the very best raw material, end up suffering losses. What are your thoughts on it, and how do you think we can possibly tackle this problem?

A. I think people should look beyond brands. The masses should always see the art and the material involved. The best thing we can do for this is, let the work speak for itself.

Q. Along with your finesse at Kota Doria khats, your zardozi work on khadi is also well-known. Where did you derive your inspiration from?

A. I strive to keep the traditional art of weaving and handloom alive through my creations. I can describe myself as a fond lover of the rich cultural traditions of India. My love for Indian textile and craft works has helped me to create magic with the fabrics. As khadi, it is completely handmade and natural in all aspects. It is a versatile fabric and can be moulded into clothing of different types from traditional Indian to Western contemporary. This inspired me to use khadi for my collections.

Q. There are so many ways and styles of draping the sari these days, like Coorgy, Rajrani, Bengali, Dhoti and others. Which one is your personal favourite?

A. A sari is an outfit which evokes much attraction and awe. It should come as no surprise to you that there is diversity even in the way saris are worn in India. Saris come in the most mesmerising avatars one can imagine. Such wide-ranging variety makes it suitable for all occasions—from weddings to formal functions and official meetings to social get-togethers. Moreover, it looks gorgeous on women of all ages and builds. I am truly fond of all the draping styles.


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