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‘Green Fashion’ made in handloom


Day by day energy consumption in textile sector is increasing and shortage of power is barring the growth and production of the industry. Right now so many factories are waiting to come into action but shortage of electricity and gas are restricting. Manpower based hand loom industry can be considered as green industry and the products made in handloom should be branded and marketed not only in domestic arena but also in the international arena claiming the green incentives.

The handloom industry in Bangladesh is having a glorious past, questionable present and confusing future. This is the time to consider the Handloom sector as an integrated industry rather than small segregated cottages. Effort of the government authority and agencies working in the handloom sector is demand of time to make an integrated international brand of Bangladeshi handloom products that will have ‘Green Label’. The incentive for this ‘Green Label’ will help in poverty alleviation, rural development and greater nourishments of this sector. Micro economic challenges already are making life very difficult for the hand loom artisans. They cannot sustain any more without such kind of incentives. Authorities should try to take financial and marketing supports from the global sustainability projects and effects. An integral project can earn money from carbon trading as well. Our dedicated objective is to find out the barriers and problems of the Handloom industry of Bangladesh, to provide a solution to these problems and to identify the potentiality of this sector.

Overview of ‘Handloom the Green Industry’:

Historically handloom has got its predominance and heritages in Bangladesh. The tradition of weaving cloth by hand constitutes one of the richest aspects of Bangladesh culture and heritage. The level of artistry and intricacy achieved in handloom fabrics are unparallel and unique. The handloom can meet every need from exquisite fabrics of daily use. The industry has displayed innate resilience to withstand and adopt itself to the changing demand of modern times.

A manpower of about one million weavers, dyers, hand spinners, embroiderers and allied artisans have been using their creative skills into more than 0.30 million active looms to produce around 620 million meters of fabrics annually. It shares 63% of the total fabric production in the country designed for home consumption. Besides, it provides employment opportunities to a million rural people, 50% of which are female. Another half a million people are indirectly engaged in the industry. It contributes more than 10 billion taka annually to the national exchequer as value addition. (Source: Bangladesh Handloom Board).

This sector is responsible for a very high percentage of the nation’s economy, as Handloom industry is the biggest handicraft industry in our country(Ahmed, 2001). Recently the production of handloom is decreasing and dependence on powered mills is just opposite.

Here is a chart that represents the change from 1989-2004.

Source: (‘The Daily News Today’, February 08, 2005, Page- 10)

The chart is based on the above information and it represents that there is cross (X) relation between handloom production and mill production. Latest data could not be accommodated but the trend should have been continued. Alongside the above trend it visible from investigation that traditional artisans are being bound switch from their profession to the mills, power looms or other activities. But their specialty and capacity is being unused over the years. That how probably delicate fabric ‘Muslin’ disappeared. If the same trend be continued we may lose many other popular handloom fabrics in future. Integral government and non government effort for a ‘Green’ status for the industry can be a factor for a sustainable future for the industry.

Fig: Normal view of a local handloom.

Access to Credit for Handlooms:
Generally a large financial support with highly qualified engineers and extremely business experienced persons are required to run an industry which are absent in handloom industry. Hence naturally it is very unlikely to be able to arrange the financial support or manage the upper limit of loan for them. But some banks (such as Grameen Bank, Proshika etc.) offer small amount of loan for the changing of social view and developing micro finance industries. By taking loan from these NGOs can help them to change their view of life and the national prospect. Everybody knows that cost of fund is much higher for such micro-credits which is affecting the life of such artisans as well. An integral effort for creating ‘Green’ label for handloom products can give better access to the industrial loans that can be distributed or the benefit of that can reach to the artisans that can change their life.

Handlooms & its product brands:

Table: The hand loom sector
Items Number
Total Handloom units 183512
Total number of handlooms 505556
Total number of operational looms 313245
Total number of non operational looms 192311
Type wise number of looms Pit loom 169700
Frame loom 29212
Waist loom 141684
Semi automatic/ Chittaranjan loom 150407
Benarashi/ Jamdani 12383
Others 2170
Number of Weavers Number
Total number of weavers 888115
Total number of male weavers 472367
Total number of female weavers 415748

Source: Bangladesh Hand Loom Board

Handloom products include Place mats, Rugs or Blankets, Satranji, Crochet, Muslin, Tribal textiles, Silk fabrics, Sofa covers, Block Prints, Table cloth and Napkins, Towels, Dusters, Kitchen towels, Gents, Ladies and Baby Wear and Shirts, Punjabis, and other household linen in printed, plain or embroidered Khadi etc.

Hand loom or tant products are produced in some specific districts in Bangladesh and they are going from a long before. Actually people of these zones have achieved this quality by inherence. These industries are mainly situated in the following zone:

  • Narsingdi and Dhaka zone
  • Tangail zone
  • Sirajgang and Pabna zone
  • Rajshahi and Chapainababgang zone.
  • Chittagong and Rangamati (The zone of tribal people)

Narsingdi District:
Narsingdi, an area North West of Dhaka is one of the main weaving pockets for the industrial weaving production. They produce grey fabric, (plain cotton) which is then dyed and processed for the readymade garment industry. Narsingdi is well known for its handloom weaving, normally done on a 2 shaft or dobby loom operated with a fly shuttle. Narsingdi Sadar and Raipura upazila of Narsingdi district are famous for making different lungi, saree, bedseet, napkin, towel and mosquito nets. Besides different artistic sarees like jamdani, katan, bruket and titanic also producing here. The major producing areas are Rasulpur, Karimpur, Jitrampur, Chawla, Hajipur, Satirpara, Bhagdi, Patcdona, Amirganj and Hasnabad. In this district about 5.83% people are involved weaving business. (Source: Jatio E-thotthokosh)

Fig: a woman paying her concentration to produce a design

Mirpur Benarashi Palli:
The only Benarashi palli in Dhaka is situated at Mirpur, Section-10, Block-A, Lane 1-4, Dhaka-1221. It was established in 1995 and contains around 110 show rooms. Generally all class of people uses to come here for their marketing and middle or higher class people are found much. Lower classes of people also use to come but they generally buy sarees for special occasions.

Fig: weaver’s dream bird is designed in a saree.

In the past this palli was famous for benarashi sarees only but now all class of sarees like tangailer tanter saree, half silk, rajshahi silk, dhakai muslin, katan etc. In this palli advanced order is also taken. In that case the buyer has to inform one month earlier and have to pay 50-60% advanced cost.

Generally raw materials are imported from India, Pakistan, Srilanka, China and other countries. The products are also exported to those countries.

Tangail zone:
Tangail is another famous area for handloom products. It is specially known for sarees.
Tangail Saree – those couple of words can sketch a greater view of culture, heritage and an extensive exposure on Bangladeshi fashion. Saree is the basic dress of Bangladeshi women as well as most of the women in Indian subcontinent.

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Women gives emphasis to have and wear sarees made from fine cotton in Tant (handloom). Form the ancient period, weaving is the way to make sarees which still exist this days. Handloom Sarees are different than silk or machine made sarees. Tangail Saree is the most desirable cloth to the women who wear Saree all over the world for its fine component, color, design, especially handmade designs which are related to our nature, cultural symbols and other related phenomena. The quality of Tangail Saree is quite different than other sarees in Bangladesh for its special attributes and characteristics.

It never shrinks: because of cotton; the cotton is specially processed with melted corn.

Different and exclusive design: totally hand made design and exclusive design, which sometimes takes even a year to be complete.

Color: the color of Tangail Saree seems to rainbow in diversity. Besides, there are extensive colors and experimental designs are made up by the Tontubay.


Sirajgang and Pabna Zone:
This zone is not confined with the traditional sarees only; rather they produce almost all type of textile products.

Fig: handmade towel which is commonly known as gamchas.

Simple, with no fuss at all, Pabna sarees (as they are popularly known) differ from Tangail taant in a way or two. Though the textures of these sarees are dense and designs are not as innovative as Tangail weaves, Pabna sarees have their own charms. With brightly-coloured single-toned sarees with churi borders (multicolour), or thin golden borders, the famous Pabna check sarees and gamchas are a few of the attractions of the bazaar. The Pabna lungis are personal favourites of men who prefer this choice of comfort garb, but for women with the slightest knack for creativity, these lungis are seen as tops, kurtis or even kameezes. In fact, by adding a patch of applique here and there or a border or two, a kurti made out of the lungi can be really chic and innovative.

Rajshahi zone:
In this zone generally some silk product are made in handloom. But they are not so expanded. Generally small expand of hand looms are available in rajshahi, chapai-nababgang, naogaon and bogra.

The zone of tribal people:
The handloom industry in the Rangamati Hill District is a welcome employment opportunity for unemployed young females and underprivileged women, particularly the indigenous womenfolk. Around 2,000 underprivileged female workers are engaged in weaving at different handloom factories in the district. Their work in the factories includes weaving, dyeing of cloth and processing yarn. (Handloom fabrics of Rangamati: Prospects and shortfalls; The Daily Star, September 28, 2008)

Handloom items that have good sales include pinon-khadi (an indigenous material), shalwar-kameez, panjabi, frocks, shawls, fatua, shirts, bedcovers, floor mats, dining table mats and cushion covers. Tourists and visitors seem to like the handloom products. While local demand was minuscule in the past, currently a good number of locals are also buying the handloom items. Simultaneously, good quality handloom items are going to cloth traders in Dhaka.

Fig: tribal women working with handloom.

Local handloom product brands and their market:

Sl. Trading Products Name of the Market
1 Jamdani Demra Bazar, Demra, Dhaka
Jamdani Shilpa Nagari
2 Jamdani Noapara, rupgonj, Narayan
3 All Handloom
Gausia Market, Bhulta,
4 Handloom Products Baburhat Shekerchar,
5 Tangail Saree Karotia Bazar, Korotia,
6 Tangail Saree Bajitpur Hat, Adi-Tangail,
7 All Handloom
Shahjadpur Bazar,
Shahjadpur, Serajgonj.
8 All Handloom
Shohagpur Hat, Belkuchi,
9 All Handloom
Enayetpur Hat, Enayetpur,
10 All Handloom
Ataikula Hat, ataikula, Pabna

The declining productivity of handloom industry is caused by simultaneous activation of internal and external factors. “Most of the weavers left their inherited profession as it became tough for them to earn a living. Weavers, mainly the marginal ones, were counting immense losses, as yarn prices were unstable in the last few years”. (Gone are the days of weavers; The Daily Star; June 21, 2011).

Challenges and way outs:
As Handloom industry is the biggest handicraft industry in our country, it is the second largest source of rural employment after agriculture (Ahmed, 1999).Scattered traditional artisans are out of modern fashion and designs while still they are innovating at their best. Integral effective research and development system is must for creating new international brands or reaching the existing local brands to the international arena. Existing products are now being to India to some extent. Export to other markets should get preferences. Public or private authorities should come forward to make “Green Products” to claim special value addition and incentives for the products.

Although skills of our workers are up to the expectation level, they are lagging behind in capturing the modern technology due to lack of infrastructural support from the government (Sobhan, 1989).  Generally due to conventional process it takes much time to make the goods. Due to low production, workers have low income. So, many of them are eyeing on other professional fields. In many clusters, only old age people do the Handloom weaving, young people are not taking weaving craft as their profession. Training and skill development of the young and introducing them with modern designs can encourage joining the sector. Integral effort to link the handlooms and its supply chain under ‘Green’ will open a great era for the industry and people involved and also can solve main problems of the industry.

 If the handloom industry reaches to the effective level then around one lakh eighty four thousand looms can be activated. It will help to produce 40 crore meter of extra cloth which will produce work for more five lakh people. It will also help to export around 10 crore meter fabric according to international demand. (Bangladesh Handloom Board)

1. Ahmed, M. U. (1999): “Development of Smallscale industries in Bangladesh in the New Millennium”: Challenges and Opportunities, Asian Affairs, Vol.21, NO.1, Jan-march.
2. “Bangladesh’s Handloom Economy in Transition: A Case of market Unequal Growth, Structural Adjustment and Economic Mobility Amid Laissez-faire markets”: A Synthesis The Bangladesh Development Studies, Vol. XVII, Nos. 2 & 1.
4. Bangladesh Handloom Board; Visited on 4th may, 2012 and the information are updated from there.
5. Life Style: The Daily Star and some other news articles from The Daily Star.
6. The Daily Jugantor, fibre2fashion, wikipedia and some other websites.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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