The Hindu

Push for the Plastic Weave

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By Pankaja Srinivasan

From the Paris runway to Chennai’s pop up, we trace the journey of Coimbatore industrialist Kavitha Chandran’s brand of bags, Urmi

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The colourful koodais (baskets) that your grandmum wove with tubes of plastic just became haute couture. All thanks to Kavitha Chandran and her brand of bags, Urmi. Chandran, who employs women from in and around Coimbatore to hand-weave totes and clutches from recycled plastic, using age-old basket-weaving techniques from the region, says it’s all about women empowerment, sustainability and reviving an almost-forgotten craft.

The stylish Chandran could easily pass for a model herself, but is intensely private and would rather not have her photo taken. “But you are welcome to ask me anything,” she says. Chandran speaks about Urmi’s collaboration with designer Manish Arora at the recently-concluded Paris Fashion Week 2017 (PFW). His models carried Urmi bags, and now, boutiques in New York, Tokyo, Ibiza and Paris are selling them. The bags will also be seen at the London Design Fair in September.

Chandran, who was always fascinated by baskets, says the idea for Urmi was born when she saw an employee’s wife and mother hand-weave baskets. The idea took shape when she got into a discussion with Amirthavalli who ran a small shop near her textile factory in Udumalpet. From her, she learnt about the various weaves. “I learnt about the Malli Muggu (jasmine or flower bud weave), Shiva’s Eye, Star and the regular weave. The Nellikai (gooseberry) and the biscuit weaves are in the pipeline,” she says. Amirthavalli became the first point of contact and she gathered together other women who still practised basketry.

Speaking of her first lot, Chandran says, “I showed the first batch of bags at ‘Who’s Next Paris 2015’ and people loved it.” She was flooded with enquiries from across the world, and that got her thinking. “It was not just about a fashion accessory,” she says, “but one that ties in with my commitment to sustainability and women empowerment.” Chandran, who recently received the Astitva Samman Award by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was the President of the FICCI Ladies Organisation in 2012. “We provide women the opportunity of working from home, as for many, stepping out to work is not an option. They are given the raw material and specifications. The bags can take anything between eight to 22 hours to weave,” says Chandran, who now employs 40 women in Udumalpet and Coimbatore.

The Urmi collection has evening clutches, box clutches, shoppers, tote bags and casual bags. The next big thing is going bigger with events like the Amazon Fashion Week and Lakme Fashion Week.

Urmi is available on 16 stores online, besides their outlets in Puducherry, Kochi, Delhi and Jaipur. Bags are in the ₹3,200 – ₹5,000 price range. The Chennai pop up is at The Amethyst Room, from April 5 to 15.

*This story first appeared in The Hindu

 

 

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Dyers look for Rs. 200-crore grant

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R. Vimal Kumar

Owners of dyeing units affiliated to 18 Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) in Tirupur knitwear cluster are looking forward for release of Rs. 200 crore from the Centre which they sought through the State Government as a grant to offset their debts.

“Debts have arisen following the spending of Rs. 270 crore on research and development activities taken up over the last few years to improve the effluent treatment techniques and also to upgrade machinery, all with an aim to ensure we implement the zero liquid discharge (ZLD) norms stipulated by Madras High Court during the treatment of dyeing effluents,” said S. Nagarajan, president of Dyers Association of Tirupur.

According to him, a sum of Rs. 270 crore was raised by the dyeing sector entrepreneurs through bank loans and other borrowings.

The release of the grant was essential to replace some of the machines that had corroded over the years and to add more gadgets to ensure optimal utilisation of the installed capacity in the CETPs, he said.

The dyeing unit owners pointed out that utilisation levels presently stood at below 75 per cent of the installed capacity at the CETPs.

Meanwhile, a section of farmers, who had faced the brunt of industrial pollution that led to them move the court against the dyeing units, feels that the Supreme Court observation of ‘polluters pay’ in the ‘Dyeing unit owners versus Noyyal River Ayacutdars Association’ case should be respected.

“The dyeing unit owners should themselves bear the cost for any R&D activities as they were the ‘polluters’ who damaged the ecology of River Noyyal. It is their responsibility to restore the ecology and ensure further compliance of ZLD norms,” opined P. Sankaranarayanan, a farmer.

*This story first appeared on The Hindu.