UNDERSTATEMENT: Already downsized


UNDERSTATEMENT: Already downsized

So you are not into handlooms and don’t understand the local fashion industry’s growing clamour for all things hand-woven and handmade? Take a walk at Delhi’s Central Cottage Industries Emporium (CCIE), the one stop shop of the Made in India brand and you may return vindicated on your point of view. Is that too satirical for the most known face of the crafts revival movement of the Eighties?

A straightforward way to put it would be to wonder about the CCIE’s visual merchandising strategy. The entire four-level Emporium needs a revitalized idea of display tactics as well as a contemporary visual narrative if it must compellingly pull visitors into the idea of India. What it has instead are dense corners cramped with some of our finest instances of handicrafts and heritage. Yet what needs urgent attention is this club of depressed female mannequins jumping out, as if, from the middle of last century. I couldn’t spot any male mannequins but do look at this slideshow (See below) of depressed and sickly ladies (including a headless one) standing there sullenly, wearing—quite contrary to their appearance—some really beautiful handcrafted saris. Faces solemn if not shell shocked, reproaching customers instead of seducing them, hair all goofy and styled in wigs from the pre-Eighties, figures askance and oddly twisted without proper postures, some dress forms even have quizzical fingers (that is if their hands haven’t fallen off) asking questions that have never been answered.

For craft lovers, CCIE is a place with depth and promise if not buzzing excitement and ‘trendy’ shopping. And for those who care for distinctive saris, there are some exceptional pieces here including a few heirloom Patan Patolas and Paithanis brought in with the advice of seasoned collectors. The staff is rather courteous, patient and helpful. But unfortunately and laughably, some of CCIE’s better saris are draped on mannequins that seem lost between the anxieties of past and present India. All troubled souls.

Instead of having them stand there like caricatures from a bygone era, why not retire them and hire from the new sexy breed of dress forms? Or send them for lengthy cosmetic fixes, spas and beauty treatments to give them age-defying cheer and charm? That way, at least CCIE’s saris won’t look better folded on shelves.