A decade ago, on visits to Pakistan and India, Bangladeshis would stock up on shalwar, suits and dress materials. A special occasion meant either rushing off abroad to buy clothes, or using imported materials to get them made. The general consensus was that good quality fabrics were not available in Bangladesh. Now a decade later, making such a claim would be a blatant lie. Our local textile market now knows exactly what people want and thus the quality, not to mention the variety, has certainly improved. No longer will customers stray because our taant, silk, khadi, and the whole lot are here to stay.
Talk about Taant
Taant shilpo has certainly improved and become immensely popular. When people say “Tangailer taant” no further introduction in needed. When stripped down to the bare essentials, that taanter sari or three piece we refer to is simply made of woven cotton. Yes all fabrics are woven, especially cotton but what puts taant a class apart is its texture, its motifs. Taant saris and three pieces have paved their way back into our markets capturing customers in frenzy. Not only is wearing taant in vogue, but it is comfortable and very suited to our weather as well.
Foreign silk saris have always provided competition to Rajshahi's silk saris. The high quality of today's Rajshahi silk has gained enough popularity for it to hold its own against any rival. In fact the local silk industry is almost a monopoly when it comes to buying silk by the yard. Stores like Sopura offer an array of silks in various colours and grades and lo and behold, they are all local. This allows for people to customise and create their own saris and three pieces.
Glamorous in Gamchha
The word gamchha is synonymous with designer Bibi Russell. While she works and thrives to popularise all local fabrics nationally and internationally, it is Russell who taught us to see gamchha, not merely as a low-priced local version of towels but also as a fabric that can be moulded to make any sort of outfit or accessory. Saris, shalwar kameezes, kurtas, fatuas, Punjabis, bags, you name it; almost anything can be made with gamchha material popularly known as Grameen Check. The lightness of the fabric and the array of colours in one single piece allow gamchha to epitomise the Boho look. Why go for that Lucknow kurta when you can wear one made out of gamchha and gain the respect of fashionistas even down in Greenwich Village?
Why wear khaki when you can wear khadi? It's local, it's affordable and above all it's ours. While our khadi industry has just been revived in comparison to India's khadi industry, nonetheless designers like Russell and handicrafts stores like Aarong, Kumudini, Arannya and Andes to name a few, have helped to create a market for it. Stores like Prabartana have used their own personnel, production techniques and expertise to make khadi into a comfortable cotton fabric fit for regular use as well. Generally on the slightly heavier side, khadi is ideal for clothes in any season, and to create accessories such as bags.
Tales of Jamdani
One can never talk about Bangladeshi fabrics without talking about Jamdani. In recent years Jamdani's soaring popularity has led people to back track to its roots, learn about the creation process and promote Jamdani weavers everywhere in the country, today. Yet, after so much research and writing, people still get lured into the tale of Jamdani's history, like they get lured into an old folktale, over and over again. The fabric itself is hypnotic. One can stare at the intricacy of the motifs for hours and still be unable to grasp the amount of patience, work and time needed to create it. Jamdani weavers are wising up too because now, jamdani three pieces are available in the market as well. So why go for a Pakistani three piece when you can get one made out in gorgeous Jamdani fabric?
The magic of Muslin
The Mughals adored it; the British were threatened by it. It was born in 500AD and died when the British took over the subcontinent. Yet Muslin is still alive, even though barely by a thread. We no longer have muslin saris like the ones showcased in the Victoria Albert Museum in England, that could be folded to fit in a matchbox, but we do have a different kind of muslin. Today's muslin saris are made with a different thread and in a different weaving process. Mirpur Benarasi Ward mainly produces them. The amount of detailing and embellishments on the Muslin sari determine the price. Muslin saris are mainly worn during festivities and special occasions like weddings these days.
The Benarasi market is booming in Mirpur where there are several thousand artisans. Weavers have added new technology to let fibres like rayon or synthetics to add texture and reduce weight of the Benarasi. Common people can now also avail it because of the introduction of the power loom. Benarasi is a special sari that people wear during special occasions. The sari's beautiful designs and rich texture make it ideal for bridal wear.
Indigenous people all around the world have always had a history of creating fabrics that carry each community's own signature. One of the most coveted fabrics in Bangladesh these days, our indigenous fabrics have a charm of their own. What makes it so coveted is that they represent age-old traditions kept alive over generations. They don't make a million yards of the same fabric because the type of loom they use makes it difficult and they don't make it while thinking of quantity demanded and sales margins. Thus the supply system of these fabrics works at its own pace. But indigenous communities are now working to spread their wings and hopefully very soon such fabrics will be more easily accessible than they are now.
Proud of Pride
Pride Textiles is one chain local brand that has brought quality saris to everyone's doorsteps with a more affordable price tag. Pride saris are the perfect blend of comfort, style and affordability. Pride's numerous outlets stand as evidence to this fact. What makes Pride so popular among its customers (apart from its price and quality) is that they have different categories of saris with a wide selection and this allows Pride to cater to clients of diverse tastes.
Now isn't that Dandy
Dandy Dyeing is the leading name in three-piece clothing in Bangladesh. For years and years we have spent thousands of rupees at Indian three-piece speciality stores. The birth of Dandy has now given us a local alternative. Dandy products are ideal for people who are not ready to run to three different stores to come up with fabrics for the shalwar, duppatta and kameez, each. Dandy provides people with all three. Dandy's selection has casual wear, party wear and office wear. These sets come in cotton, mixed and synthetic fabrics. Dandy also sells fabrics by yard. It is very suited for price conscious people.
Very Bexi indeed
For people in search of good quality cottons, tetra-cottons, voiles and twills, Bexi fabrics are ideal. Sold by the yard, Bexi's quality is something you can count on. Scores of fabric stores are stocking up on Bexi fabrics because of their growing popularity. These fabrics are ideal for tailor made clothes, comfortable wear and very suited for our weather.
Previously people in Bangladesh had limited choices when it came to shopping for clothes and fabrics. Over the years our textile industry has worked to improve and develop better quality fabrics and are in a better position to compete with the invasion of imported or smuggled materials. While there is a long road lying ahead for textile producers to take our fabrics and clothing to a more internationally recognised level, they have certainly succeeded in making our textile better exposed at least nationally.
Photo: Zahedul I Khan and Munem Wasif