Avipsha Thakur’s journey in the world of handcrafted textiles has been nothing but extraordinary! Her love for ethnic Indian wear started when she was working with Roshni, a non-profit organization for underprivileged girls. It was here when she fell in love with doing something for the community and in turn, draping handwoven sarees that led her to create a sustainable fashion brand, i.e., Bunavat.
Bunavat’s primary product line consists of hand-woven sarees and at the same time, the brand is consistently adding more clothing items such as dupattas, stoles, and unstitched fabrics on their website platform. From Eri Silks to Bengal Jamdani to Bhagalpuri Tussar, their website offers a wide range of indigenous handloom products for consumers.
The First of Many Expeditions
On a vacation at the Rann of Kutch in 2018, Avipsha jumped in a cab to explore the artistic lanes of the place, where she came across block-printing craft.
As she spoke to the artisans there, she noticed a common thread, i.e., the struggles in the indigenous textile art industry. It was during this visit that an artisan opened up her home to a home-cooked meal while conversing about the generational craft of our country. “This is the kind of gesture that touches your heart and makes you want to do better for other people, no!?” says the lively co-founder & mom-e-preneur!
Behind-the-Scenes of The Indian Textile Heritage
With the founding principle of wanting to do good work, Avipsha traveled across the country and met many weavers. During this period, she heard very similar stories of the struggles of local artisans who, despite their exceptional skills, were facing challenges in sustaining their craft in handcrafted textiles.
Avipsha decided to be the voice for the artists!
She started to blog about the community in 2018 to showcase the rich heritage of Indian handlooms to the world. She envisioned people being part of the journey as they could also do something for the community. By sharing the stories of the textile weavers, their journey, their struggles and so much more, the blog was aimed at bringing the spotlight on the Indian handloom textiles.
In 2019, Bunavat started off as a curator website, with sarees from weavers across the country. By 2020, the brand had expanded to 36 villages across 11 states with over 1200+ artisans and weavers.
Bunavat was incubated by NSRCEL of IIM Bangalore during 2018-19. The brand was selected in the ‘Top 100 Women Entrepreneurs Startup Program’. Bunavat’s developmental initiatives at the grassroots with weaver communities were even covered by BBC, UK.met during that year. This became a vital part of Avipsha’s life as she found some incredible mentors who were able to guide her and the brand in the right direction in the cultural entrepreneurship world.
Bunavat as a brand is very conscious of the environment and hence Avipsha works only with natural fibers, only works with handloom clothing, and eco-friendly dyes. They also follow zero wastage of resources or fabrics. They use hand-spun cotton wherever feasible, this way reducing their carbon footprint and making sure their products are environmentally friendly.
Bringing In Perspectives to the Grassroots
The team of Bunavat conducted need assessment tests in various clusters of Bengal. The team realized that there was a dire need for skill development workshops or training programs for the weavers, back in 2019.
Avipsha and her team stepped up to educate the weavers from different handloom clusters, starting with Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh and a few other clusters in Bengal and Delhi. In their pilot workshop/training, some of the younger weavers were trained in photography, and social media communication, and the older weavers had more educational-motivational training for design inspiration, adapting to modern trends.
These development modules enabled the weaver communities to expand their reach online. Bunavat’s team helped people create their social profiles (Instagram & Facebook). This not only helped the weavers grow their online presence but also allowed them to keep their sales clock ticking, through their own online channels and with Bunavat’s platform.
Fast-forward to 2020: Covid.
At this stage, the weavers were already online, with knowledge on how to respond to their customers and the weavers themselves were able to put out visually appealing photographs that worked for them.
The brand crowdfunded and supported over 190+ families, with the hashtag #SUPPORTAWEAVER IN TIMES OF COVID-19. The organization covered the needs of these families during the Covid lockdown. Avipsha credits the customers for supporting them through and through, paying in advance, and being understanding of long-delayed delivery during the harsh lockdowns.
In 2022, due to various reasons and with Avipsha welcoming motherhood, the brand was on a short pause.
And Bunavat came back stronger!
In 2023, Bunavat 2.0 started with a new take on design! She jumped to embrace AI and combine it with traditional Indian textiles. Yet she was well aware that not everything could be replicated as is in the different forms of traditional art forms of Pen-kalamkari, Batik prints, Block-prints, etc.
The challenge now was to convince head artisans to adapt to the modern-day requirements while preserving textile traditions. It took her nearly 2.5 months to convince the head artisans to even try their hand at new designs! But Avipsha had cultivated trustworthy relationships over the years with the weavers, making them family, and because of these relationships, a lot of the weavers agreed to give the new designs a shot.
Weaves of the Heart
As an entrepreneur, Avipsha emphasizes that it’s the relationships with the weavers and the stories that enable any community to grow. She shares an example close to her heart:
“Back in 2018, I met this couple in Kolkata running their little entity of traditional Indian textiles. Their ethnic Indian wear products were really good. I wanted to order more products when I was in Delhi. They sent me photos of products on WhatsApp, but they weren’t sending me the products.
This kept on for two months, and I finally sent my mother to check on them. It was then, that we got to know that they didn’t know how to send a courier and had never ventured beyond the local market (as they were not highly educated). I was sending the address in English and they didn’t know how to read and write in English. Having an educational background helps but you take certain things for granted! So, you don’t know the challenges of the weavers in the indigenous textile art industry. Sometimes you just have to leave all your learning behind.”
Avipsha’s mother then helped this couple to reach a bigger audience and showed them the ropes of simple tech. That small communication opened up more sales avenues for them.
Making a Difference – One Stitch at a Time
Isn’t that a beautiful essence to have!? Enable the weavers to grow by themselves by giving them a helping hand to access the market better.
Today, Bunavat stands as a symbol of entrepreneurial success, social impact, and cultural preservation in the Indian textile heritage. Looking ahead, Avipsha envisions Bunavat as a catalyst for change, encouraging sustainable fashion, empowering more artisans, and promoting traditional Indian textiles on the global stage. She dreams of a future where every piece of cultural textile can tell a story, not just of tradition and artistry, but also of empowerment and hope.
Bunavat has woven a chapter that celebrates the spirit of entrepreneurship, the resilience of artisans, and the beauty of India’s textile heritage. As the threads of their story continue to intertwine, they inspire us all to dream, create, and make a difference—one stitch at a time.
Author: Maithili Rao
Maithili Rao is an engineer turned marketer. She is a Digital Marketing professional with more than 5+ years of experience working with various startups. Maithili enjoys interacting with dynamic individuals and writing about them, and the real-world connections; that matter the most in this day and age.