The youth from the North-eastern region have always been considered different from the so-called main land India, in view of the look and the dress culture. It is most befitting as the forthcoming edition of Lakme Fashion Week (LFW), IMG Reliance in collaboration with the United Nations in India will host an action-oriented dialogue on the north-eastern region (NER) followed by a curated show featuring six sustainable fashion designers from the region on Sustainable Fashion Day on February 1, 2018 in Mumbai, at the five-day fashion week starting from January 31 and day two will be dedicated to textiles and sustainable fashion.
Designers from six of the eight northeast states- Manipur, Assam, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh will champion their work with artisans and are part of the curated showcase by IMG Reliance. The designers are Daniel Syiem, Kuzu, Jenjum Gadi x Exotic Echo Society, Khumantem, Tilla by Aratrik and Sonam Dubal.
According to Resident Coordinator, United Nations in India, Yuri Afanasiev, the proposed collaboration with the United Nations in India aims to boost the local sustainable economy of the NER. It is an attempt to showcase the exciting potential of the region to mainstream stakeholders, including brands and designers.
Afanasiev, further added that United Nations views the northeast as not only an abundant source of natural resources but also a powerhouse of economic opportunity. The Lakme Fashion Week is a great showcase for the rich cultural heritage of this remarkable region.
It is indeed a gate way for the fashion industry of the region, otherwise, many have taken it as racial discrimination, while other sections of the society realized that the world needs to be sensitized about traditional attire, its pattern, textiles and motif, for that more fashion shows and the tribals donning their respective traditional attire will help to educate the world.
Of course, attempts to attract investments in the north east region, particularly in the textiles and allied sectors were held recently through a two-day North East Investors’ Summit which was inaugurated by Union Textiles Minister Smriti Zubin Irani in Shillong on January 29, 2017, the theme being: Exploring Opportunities in North East Region. This Sumit was aimed at showcasing the North Eastern Region (NER) as a global destination for investment and exploring the possibility of bringing in convergence of efforts of various central ministries and North Eastern states to attract investment.
This Summit is a welcome move brought about by the joint efforts by the Ministry of Textiles and the Ministry Of Development Of North Eastern Region (DoNER) in collaboration with industry associations Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
The summit was attended by industries from the region and leading investors across the country to unlock the huge potential of textile manufacturing and generate new avenues for employment in the north eastern states. The event made an attempt to showcase new skills and advanced production technology Showcasing Opportunities in Textiles in the region, Entrepreneurship Development and Start-ups, Enhancing Reach of North East Textiles through Textile Design and Marketing, Ease of Financing of Textiles Industry in North East and Improving Infrastructure in NER.
Various Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) between industry bodies and state governments are expected to be signed because of the Summit, which will promote investment and boost manufacturing in the region. This is perhaps the first ever Investors Summit exclusively for north east region which will focus on manufacturing in textiles and allied sectors.
However, at the ground zero, the artisans, including the designers and weavers from the region have not adopted the textile manufacturing as prime profession; most of them are doing so as a hobby or part time profession. So also the rearing of silk warm or the eri is not done in full scale. Even weaving is still being practiced following traditional methods; hence it is difficult to have mass production, to attract investors from outside the region.
Next comes the undeveloped rural sectors which have been totally cut-off from the Industrial developmental sectors, where such talents are like a white elephant for the respective state governments. This is one of the prime factors which have denied the products access to the global markets.
However, few individuals who are accessible to a few of the Self Help Groups and cluster villages are running to the bank happily with a huge bounty, as they managed to reach the local products to the Fashion Industry, Online sale or having their own boutique, with exquisite collections using the traditional textiles as raw materials, while the weavers themselves are not being highlighted.
It is time for the stakeholders of the textiles industry to identify the flaws, starting from tapping the Human Resources, improving the tools and machines for the weavers, improve and promote the traditional designs and patterns, and organic colour for the global market and the work culture will surely go a long way in improving the textile manufacturing industry of the region.
Next, the stakeholders along with the local administration should pave the way to bail out the weavers by building the basic infrastructure like roads and networking to the global markets so they need not be dependent on the individual.
Once the stakeholders identify the drawbacks, it will be easier to work on improvement, otherwise at present any such Summit or workshop will remain formalities, where the investors, resources persons and the artists assemble without any constructive outcome and no one solves the other’s obstacles. If the Summit is serious, one needs to accept the deficiency, and work on improving the work culture, and then only one can attract the investors.
Meghalaya in particular should take advantage of the National Textile Policy because, as mentioned, many NGOs, individuals, designers and institutions are all trying to make ends meet while unemployment is on the rise. Hence, the state government through the Sericulture department should take full advantage of the upcoming Policy, not only to provide employment but also to be part of the Make In India programme and thereby contribute to national growth.
Meghalaya, where the high - living standards are confined mainly to the salaried section of the society due to the absence of production and manufacturing industries and entrepreneurship, any of the fashion shows in the city are limited to the same circle of the trendy population. However, the floating population of professionals, from central offices and outstation student communities, has also contributed to Shillong earning the nomenclature of being the fashion hub of the region.
Taking advantage of the situation, many entertainment or Even Management Companies or organizations are mushrooming in the state, and some hailing from outside the state are putting up shows both in the state and outside. At the same time, various agencies promoting the North East have further opened up the opportunity for exposure.
Any of the glamour industries, including the fashion shows and modeling have various grey layers, and it was never expected that it will affect Shillong so soon. In the past, many of the event management companies had cheated the local youth in the State either through non-payment of the prize money of the pageants, or not fulfilling the clauses of modeling contracts. For the past few years, various allegations have been emerging in various fashion shows including the Shillong Fashion Week (SFW). It is time for the authority concerned to be vigilant about such organizers, who not only make fast money but also mislead and exploit some of the youth.
Even the state government had sponsored various fashion shows, thinking it is one of the means to promote the state. Instead, the authority concerned should improve the infrastructure for the same, and at the same time promote the textile industry by taking advantage of the incumbent Prime Minister’s interest to promote North Eastern region, particularly the Handloom and textile. Also the respective individual should wear traditional attire more, which is one way to sensitize the world about the pride and identity of the tribal.