Narsapur hook popular in European fashion

Posted: Posted Date – 6:44 PM, Thu – Jun 2, 22

Hyderabad: Delicate and complex, feminine and graceful, a fine web of imagination… lace has always had romantic connotations throughout time and history. Crochet lace is something that we may have seen our grandmothers and mothers working with great pride.

These wonderful women sat by a window, creating loving gifts for their children and grandchildren in the form of blankets, tablecloths, ponchos and comforters. You all must have that piece of crochet lace in the family that you’ve been saving, made by someone you love, right?

I bet you must then know the famous Narsapur hook from Andhra Pradesh. What began in the 1800s with Irish missionaries landing in the Godavari region has grown into a thriving export industry in 150 years. Yes, crochet lace in India is that old!

Narsapur crochet lace has found great demand in Europe, especially the UK and France, and countries like Japan and the USA; nearly 85% of local production is exported. Many Western celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Rihanna have repeatedly brought crochet pieces back into fashion. Fashion high priests like Dolce & Gabbana and Christian Dior have used crochet in their designs.

The Hippie movement spawned a boom in the crochet industry – a time when many people made and sported colorful crocheted clothing. Even today, it’s considered cool summer and spring wear, ideal for the beach and a staple at iconic spring music festivals such as Coachella.

There are easily over 100 crochet export houses in Narsapur employing over 1.5 lakh female artisans, mostly from the Kaapu community. These women were not traditionally sent out of the house to work. So, after their housework, these women sat at home to crochet instead of being idle. They crochet at home and still consider it a hobby today, even though the number of women who practice crochet is slowly decreasing. The industry is not without its problems. Machine-made lace in China has taken its toll on this cottage industry. Adding to the woes, the pandemic has caused massive disruption, freezing exports.

Now, as the new world order takes hold after the pandemic, European markets open up and demand for Narsapur crochet lace picks up, I firmly believe that a simple gesture can give this industry in decline – by granting this inimitable handiwork a GI (geographical indication) label. This will ensure that this craft will see renewed interest, resist the onslaught of machine-made duplicates, and provide the crafter with the assurance that their work is recognized and appreciated.

(The writer is a hand weaver, avid craftsman and an active member of the Crafts Council. Instagram username: @rajeswariramachander)

Rajeswari Ramachander