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In Varanasi, A New Atelier Promises Hope and Craft Revival

Nest closed out 2019 in Varanasi, India, alongside Varanasi-based handloom silkweaving enterprise, Varanasi Loom to Luxury, as we proudly unveiled a new handloom silk weaving atelier designed to give local weavers from nearby Hindu and Muslim communities an inspiring place to produce their silks for luxury fashion clients like international brands The Row, Ceinne, and Talitha – as well as India based brands like Good Earth and Akarro. The atelier comes as part of a long-time Nest initiative to help rescue and revive Varanasi’s declining handloom tradition, which dates back over 600 years in the region. 

Nest performed extensive focus groups to ensure that the perspectives of the local weaving community played a central role in informing the building’s design, and partnered with the nonprofit architectural firm, Inscape Publico, to bring the design to life. The workshop is outfitted with 14 above-ground looms, replacing traditional pit looms to create a more inspiring and healthy work environment. Loom to Luxury’s leader, Jitendra, and his wife, Namrata, have formalized women’s participation in the business, helping several women to learn not only how to support the pre- and post-loom work, but to weave, as well.

Years ago, just one day after Nest first broke ground on the atelier, Loom to Luxury’s master weaver, Bhailal Ji had suffered a heart attack and passed away unexpectedly. Now at the opening, Bhailal Ji’s two sons and widow cut the ribbon on the atelier that we all knew in our hearts was possible. Sponsored by Loom to Luxury, Bhailal Ji’s sons have finished participation in a nearby Handloom School, ensuring that they, like their father, have the chance to become masters in their craft. And, with the building up and running, their futures look bright and full of promise. 

Nest’s Founder, Rebecca van Bergen reflects that the road leading to this pivotal moment was not always smooth “but our mission is to support artisanal communities and not only to be undeterred by barriers, but also to work to change the systems that threaten progress. The talented weavers of this holy land have always deserved better.” Thank you to the entire Nest family who has supported this project.