Praveen Nair's studio in Chennai employs around 35 people in this embroidery unit producing bridal sarees for top wholesalers throughout the country. The company has been running for around a decade and at one point employed over 100 people.
Bridal wear is a big part of the garment industry in India with many hundreds of thousands of rupees spent on weddings. Brides are keen to have the most lavish, heavily embroidered and unique sari she can afford and all the guests seem to try and out do her! Praveen works with a number of established clients for whom he designs unique creations, with a maximum of 2-3 copies of the same design-no bride wants to be wearing the same as someone else!
To give you an idea the sari embroidery ranges from very embellished to wow-I-can-hardly-see-the-fabric-and-that-is-really-heavy embellished. Stitch work and a lot of beading make up the creations and the workers are highly skilled.
Praveen told us that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the workers willing and able to carry out this level of work. Chennai and the surrounding area has a high regard for education and one of the best systems in India. As education and job expectations increase families do not encourage their children to go into the traditional crafts and these skills are gradually being lost. Very few would be happy for their children to work in the garment or craft sector, where wages are low and opportunity is limited.
Praveen believes that in 20 years time it will be alost impossible to find labour for his work in Chennai. He told us that in areas such as Kolkata where poverty is high and education less available there are still entire families working in the embroidery industry and skills are still passed down preserving them for a longer future. However, this is tied up with the issues of poverty, poor conditions and child labour. India is changing and it will of course have a massive influence on the traditional skill base of textile production.
Josie rummaging in the sample bead store, heaven!!
Although Praveen produces predominately for fashion he has been producing a line
of bespoke geometric embroidery for a high end British company for several years.
Praveen was an incredibly generous host and a lovely guy to meet. He took nearly two days out of his schedule to arrange places for us to see and take us around Chennai. We are so grateful to him for his time and friendship which he offered so freely. It's people like this that made our trip so special. Many thanks Praveen!