National Institute of Fashion Technology, India
An assay of the Indian craft communities - an integral part of the Indian fashion industry
The contribution of the artisan to the fashion landscape of the country can hardly be overlooked. Imagine a ‘modern’ India sans crafts.
This paper based on the study of the Indian Crafts Industry is, also, in part, an assay of the Indian crafts community from a social constructionist perspective, attempting to document and analyse the knowledge exchange within and beyond these communities. The study seeks to identify and illustrate, the peripheral factors and issues, which affect that knowledge transfer, aiming to synchronise with the processes and requirements of the present.
It is exigent to understand the community structures, the outlook and the perception of crafts by the craftspeople themselves, for an effective comprehension of the knowledge exchange within the craft communities. To keep the knowledge wheel turning, the study finds an insistent need to encourage interaction and collaboration among the craft communities and various interest groups employing different means and media to do the same.
The idea draws from Wenger’s (2007) concept of ‘Communities of Practice’ – bringing together groups that share similar interests to join forces and facilitate each other’s needs. Craftspeople of different regions can likely find something of mutual interest, and sharing of knowledge will lead to the emergence of new ideas. The challenge is capacity building and enabling small-scale producers to use the information they access effectively.
Towards this end, a comprehensive and efficacious amalgamation of a more contemporary approach is required, employing the latest that technology has to offer. Mapping the ‘invisible’ knowledge exchange networks of the craft communities reveals the top-down structure of the crafts industry; which incidentally, is also largely the result of the widespread illiteracy. Replacing the top-down structure with a bottom-up one will provide a more proactive role for the craft communities, thereby also the impetus for a much needed change in their social status.