WE know her as the textile revivalist whose vision resulted in the intricately woven Benares saris showcased at the Taj Khazana outlets. And on the other hand, there is the delicious High Range preserve featuring Sweet Charlie berries or Seville oranges that some of us begin our day with, also courtesy her social work in Munnar with the Tata Foundation. Ratna Krishnakumar has many projects to her credit, but it is her work in both Varanasi and Munnar that keeps her on her toes. “It began as an attempt to protect heritage and craft, at a time when there were so many unemployed weavers in Varanasi,” says Krishnakumar. Besides weaving saris for Taj employees and Taj Khazana, the master weavers were encouraged to revive old Benares saris (under the guidance of Jay Ramrakhiani, a Mumbai designer). “We began getting requests from people who had preserved saris that were dear to them, and I can recall at least 40 to 50 such saris. A few years ago, a lady brought us a beautiful sari, a little over four metres, that belonged to her grand mother-in-law. She wanted it to be revived to gift it to her new daughter-in-law!”
What started as a Taj CSR is now an independent trust and Krishnakumar is working towards making the weavers self-sufficient. The village on the edge of Varanasi, adopted by the Tata Foundation 11 years ago, sees weavers dealing directly with online retail platforms like Jaypore and Parisera. “For the revival of classic saris for individual clients, all the team needs is the border or pallu of a sari and the colour to recreate it. Some of them take three to four months of labour,” says the lady whose love for textiles is what introduced her to Vijayalakshmi Nachiar of Ethicus, a Pollachi brand that creates fashion ethically. And that is why she will be in Chennai tomorrow, to participate in a panel discussion on textiles, called Warp & Weft, with Ananka Narayanan of Brass Tacks and Nachiar of Ethicus.
On January 23 at 4 pm, at Kingsley in Chetput. Details: 9962260372