Not just sarees, contemporary Sambalpuri outfits too are all set to feature in other e-commerce sites and as per the current market trend and demand the exquisite Sambalpuri saree will no more suffer the ignominy of being a market-less wonder. For retail giant Amazon India is all set to sell these pieces of handloom art on its online marketplace.
Being the gigantic corporate that Amazon India is, this step will not only reduce the burden that weavers face for marketing their produce, but also add to the popularity of Sambalpuri sarees, which is considered the pride of Odisha.
A must in the wardrobe of every woman across the country today, the Sambalpuri sarees got a cult status when the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi adorned it on numerous occasions during her tenure. Even television anchors on Doordarshan flaunted it with grace. Since then, the admiration for these six yards of sheer elegance has grown country-wide and even across the globe. The demand has accordingly shot up.
And, now that Amazon India has decided to market it in a big way, it’s not just good news for Sambalpuri saree lovers across the country but also the weavers of Odisha. In fact, the officials of Amazon India reportedly organised a training programme for the weavers in Sonepur.
Talking to MCL, national award winning weaver Sukanti Meher said, “We got to know about this step taken by Amazon India through the Textile Department of the Government of Odisha. I think it will make things easier for both the weavers and the buyers as we can supply the product as per demand and the buyer can make a purchase sitting at home. For weavers like us, if we can run a business from home, it is definitely a bonus for us. Also, now that a company as big as Amazon India has been involved, the weavers will work as per the needs and wants of customers, taking special care of colour, longevity and designs of the saree. However, the only area of concern is that even one complaint on the website can hamper our image. Otherwise, this is a great move on behalf of Amazon India.”
Internationally acclaimed Odissi dancer Saswat Joshi, who has been spotted wearing Sambalpuri jackets and kurtas regularly, seconds Meher as he adds that though it is a great move, the weavers should focus on catering to the specific needs of online customers since Sambalpuri sarees are heavily priced.
Sharing his love for the handloom, he recalls the time when he visited abroad for the first time flaunting a Sambalpuri outfit. “I remember my father asked me to carry a Sambalpuri kurta with me. And the response I got when I wore it was just unbelievable. Everyone turned around to check out my outfit and many of them complimented me about the elegance of the kurta. From the colour combinations to the designs and the pure silk or cotton material, all of these add up to make Sambalpuri the most elegant outfit ever. In fact, I always make sure that my costumes for Odissi performances are made up of Sambalpuri fabric so that they garner the right kind of attention.”
He went on, “I flaunt Sambalpuri outfits with pride not because I am from Sambalpur, but it is my choice. And on the global platform, people have always appreciated this craftsmanship. Also, because I am the brand ambassador of Boyanika and I am also associated with Raas, which is a fusion Sambalpuri brand, I think if I wear these outfits, they will somehow be seen in the glamour world. I think the launch of Sambalpuri sarees on e-commerce sites had started three or four years back but the popularity could not go up through the move then. As far as attracting the youth is concerned, who are indeed the major users of e-commerce websites, I think the weavers should also focus on kurtas or jackets and not just Sambalpuri sarees. It’s time to sell these products as per their demand.”
Shreekant, who has launched a new clothing brand ‘Rangabati’ with a team of like-minded people, could not agree more. A marketeer by profession, Shreekant told us that Rangabati experiments and mixes up the traditional Odia fabric pattern with modern outfit designs, considering the current market demand and trend. And, they too have tied up with many e-commerce sites, even though not Amazon India.
Talking about the challenges while coming up with a venture like this, he informs, “The main issue that we face, or any other competitive brand like us, faces is with regards to the production line. The market is very unorganised. It is difficult for us to obtain a certain design for mass production because of this kind of market structure. And, the moment you talk about sarees, the major production takes place in Sonepur, Bargarh and Balangir and each of these locations have their own specialisation. Like, if you go to Sonepur, they do more of silk work. If you go towards Barpali area, you will find more of abbreviated designs. If one tries to contact, say a particular team or society of weavers, they might not be able to do justice with all the designs.”
He further explains, “Our vision and mission behind Rangabati is to make these items into a mass product. I, along with three of my partners started off with experimenting and wrapping the cloth in contemporary styles and we saw that it did work out. So we took up the project and we’re launching it ourselves in a full-fledged manner in the next few days. We are trying to market Rangabati as a mass product which comes in a reasonable budget despite being handloom merchandise.”
With so much to take place online, the future of Sambalpuri, be it the elegant sarees or modern contemporary outfits, surely looks bright and Sambalpuri outfit lovers all across the country have reasons to cheer.
Critically acclaimed filmmaker and jury Bijaya Jena, who lives in Mumbai, tells us how she loves all handloom work. “I have particularly been attracted to all the motifs on Odia sarees. They are so attractive. The intricate pallu and the border designs are just beautiful. I am very proud of our sarees. They truly represent the essence of Kalinga. We are a talented race for sure, but for some reason the marketing of the sarees has never went well and without marketing, the sale, and most importantly the popularity will not grow. It’s an appreciable move by Amazon India, but they should market it as the symbol of the rich cultural heritage of Kalinga. It is ancient and has remained untouched by the Mughal or British invasions. The pure essence of Odia sarees should therefore be propagated.”
Expressing her views on what other people think about Odia sarees, Jena, who has flaunted a purple silk Sambalpuri at the Cannes International Film Festival, points out how many people own a Sambalpuri saree but aren’t aware of its origin.
“I remember an occasion when this lady wore a Sambalpuri Ikkat and I asked her how she came to know about it. To my surprise, she replied that she was not aware that it was a saree from Odisha. She had just liked the design and bought it. It is therefore important that people come to know about the origin of these products. As far as I am concerned myself, well I love my Sambalpuri sarees. I remember I had ordered two of them some 30 years back from my relative, who then worked for the Handloom Department in Odisha and I still have it and flaunt it with pride,” she signs off.