# 9: Pavithra Muddaya, Vimor Handloom Foundation

Pavithra Muddaya, Managing Trustee, Vimor Handloom
Foundation has a family tradition of preserving India’s beautiful crafts. Her
mother Chimmy
Nanjappa was the first Manager of Cauvery Handicrafts, Bangalore in the late
50's. Cauvery Emporium at the junction of MG Road and Brigade Road in Bangalore
has been a cultural landmark showcasing the best of Karnataka’s handicrafts.

The idea of starting a saree business was
her father A C Nanjappa’s brainwave after her mother returned from the World
Fair in Montreal in 1967. On his goading Chimmy Nanjappa sourced sarees for a
Delhi buyer. Later while accompanying her husband for his work in Molkalmuru
she purchased some silk sarees, which she sold out of a trunk at home. After
her husband’s demise in 1974, Vimor was registered as a partnership between
Chimmy and Pavithra. What began as a necessity slowly grew into a passion to
saving handloom designs and supporting weavers to succeed, says Pavithra of
Vimor.

Kamaladevi
Chattopadhya,
Indian social reformer and freedom activist, the driving force behind the renaissance
of Indian handicrafts, hand looms, and theater in independent India was a big supporter
of Vimor. “Forty ago she appreciated that we were preserving traditional
designs and supporting weavers. Her biggest advice to me when the saree design
was not to both our satisfaction was ‘I do not want any excuses from you’. I
was upset at that time but as I got older I understood what she meant and now
this is a line I use with my weavers till date,” says Pavithra.

Over the last 50 years, Vimor has done
yeomen work in working with weavers and preserving certain weaving practices
and styles of sarees. “The most significant contribution that Vimor has done is
that we have saved many traditional saree designs from being lost. We do this
by recreating these designs with weavers. Doing this with empathy and integrity
for the artisan and his crafts is of primary importance to us. Design
intervention is undertaken in a step by step process accompanied by monetary
advances and assured buy back, allowing him to function in a risk free
environment, till he is independent.” This allows the weaver to grow
successfully without using the Vimor name but continuing to use Pavithra's
designs. Today this has created a ripple effect where some of the designs are
in continuous production for over 35/40 years impacting weavers unknown to
Vimor. This has helped weavers grown from weavers to businessmen, says
Pavithra.

This July the Vimor Handloom Foundation
has opened a Museum called The Museum of Living Textiles in Bangalore
showcasing textiles. The foundation will look at research and documentation of
textiles, livelihood training for women in distress and advocacy and publishing
weaver stories.

Some of the pieces are family heirlooms
while others have been donated by family and friends. On display is a datthi
seere,
woven for children, with a length of 3.15 metres. The devi
sarees are woven on much smaller looms to suit the size of a goddess’ statue. A
rare Chanderi saree runs upto 64 inches. There are some Chinese
and Cambodian collections too.

The Indian
textile industry is so varied with even neighbouring states having different varieties
and even within states like Andhra and Tamil Nadu there being many kinds of
sarees. Indian handlooms are known for their richness, exquisiteness, variety
and fine quality. “Handlooms comprise the largest cottage industry in the
country. Millions of looms across the country are engaged in weaving cotton,
silk and other natural fibers to bring out traditional beauty of India’s
precious heritage and also providing livelihood to millions of families. There
is hardly a village where weavers do not exist weaving out the traditional
beauty of the region. The skills and activities are kept alive by passing the
skills from generation to generation. What sets our handloom apart is the
excellent workmanship, color combination and fine quality,” says a well-known textile
retailer.

Pavithra, who has been working with the most
beautiful of colours, patterns and designs, says “This is the most beautiful
aspect of our country’s diversity. We should celebrate our local cultural
spectrum and use these as inspirations to create products that are aesthetic in
design, environmentally friendly and allows weavers to participate and succeed
financially. At Vimor this is how we have always worked not letting geographic
boundaries restrict us.”

The saree will never go out of fashion.
How it is draped, what is accessorised, what is designed may change, but “sarees
will always be attractive to women. Our strength at Vimor is our design ability
and our customers have always supported this journey. Thirty five years ago we
created working women’s light silks, these were price friendly, easy home wash
maintenance. At that time there were many women in executive positions and
these sarees were worn to office and meetings. We believe design has to reflect
the time, and purpose so as to allow women to celebrate their individuality. This
is what will always make the saree attractive,” says Pavithra.

Famous people drop in announced to Vimor
and Pavithra has respected their privacy and “not used their names to further
our business and they respect this fact.”

“Sheila Dikshit (late Delhi chief
Minister) came to Vimor, saw my aunt wearing a kodava style saree and was
curious about it, so we dressed her in the style before she left. When she
returned to the Raj Bhavan, she told us that the staff was amused that she wore
one style going and another coming back.”

Indian textiles are much sought after. “Weavers are benefiting from the global interest in Indian textiles as the sheer variety and skill is difficult to find in any other country. Today the youth are tech savvy with using Whatsapp and social media for marketing and can cater for any overseas customer to grow their business,” says Pavithra of the growing market for Indian textiles.