The Business of Art: Ritu Kumar and Himanshu Wardhan in conversation with Supriya Dravid
In a conversation imbued with creativity, this session of #JLFBraveNewWorld featured author Supriya Dravid shedding light on the journeys of two talented figures in the fashion and textiles industry: fashion-designer Ritu Kumar and Himanshu Wardhan, the managing-director of Etsy India. They discussed the ever-evolving world of fashion and textiles, particularly during the challenging times of the pandemic.
“It all happened by accident!” said Kumar when asked about her entry into textiles and fashion. She initially aspired to be an art historian and studied Western art. However, a museology course in Kolkata led her to the village of Serampore, where her curiosity about textiles began. She wanted to explore whether it was possible to revive the traditional silk-printed goods that were once exported to Europe from that region.
For Wardhan, his first textile memory goes back to school days, with changing uniforms each season highlighting the significance of textiles. Having set up an Etsy branch in India, Wardhan now interacts with creative entrepreneurs who design and make products at home.
One of the most fascinating aspects discussed was Kumar's emphasis on how craftsmanship is passed down through generations in India. She highlighted that textiles and handicrafts are an integral part of the country's heritage and provide employment to millions. Empowering artisans and their skills is essential for their success as entrepreneurs.
Connecting artisans with buyers is a challenge, and Etsy was founded with this purpose in mind. Wardhan explained that Etsy's platform connects buyers directly with sellers, including many women who are home-based entrepreneurs. Etsy has also been making efforts to connect with rural artisans and help them set up businesses online.
To preserve livelihoods, Kumar stressed the need to remove drudgery from the job and involve the younger generation. The use of technology, such as machine embroidery, can enhance the progress of handicraft workers.
The pandemic highlighted the privilege of accessibility to basic necessities, and weavers faced challenges. Wardhan mentioned how Etsy focuses on showcasing small entrepreneurs who craft their own materials.