Aruppukottai is a small town and municipality in the state of Tamil Nadu, located around 50 km from Madurai. It is famous for its cotton industry, mainly its spinning mills, and home to the Aruppukottai cotton sari. This simple weave creates an unassuming product that is in no way close to its flashier silk counterparts; however when it comes to comfort and durability, few can compete with this one.
Cotton manufacturing and weaving is one of the sustaining industries in this region. The weavers pride themselves in not only creating sustainable fabric, but also have been continuously developing ways to better their product. Wearers appreciate it for the comfort it provides. In Aruppukottai, they are now developing saris with organic cotton as the base fabric.
There are presently four clusters of weavers that are involved in the production. Since the past year, the transfer from regular to organic cotton has been introduced in a very positive manner. The labor too did not require any kind of special training for the switch. It takes an average of two days to weave one sari, which earns them Rs. 410 as daily wage.
Local influences create subtle changes in the sari that is famous for being lightweight and breezy. Weavers are now being taught to introduce new elements in the weave that will increase its appeal and complexity. Clusters of weavers from Aruppukottai are slowly and steadily making inroads into the production of cotton t-shirts, shirts and scarves. In addition to the cluster in Aruppukottai they are also being woven in Paramakudi and Dindigul. The Tamil Nadu Handloom Weaver’s Cooperative Society (Co-optex) is the only society in India making organic textiles.
The organic cotton is also locally grown and prepared to make the weave. After the initial processing this cotton yarn is dyed with Axon-free dyes, which are devoid of harmful chemicals, or with natural dyes made from plant and flower extracts. Since they are made from wholly natural materials, they are said to be safe for the skin as well.
Traditional Aruppukottai saris are dotted with small butas on a color palette dominated by shades of orange and green. In order to cater to today’s tastes, the weavers have been advised to increase the size of the butas and come up with a variety of designs on the borders using nature as an inspiration to complement the organic nature of the fabric. Co-optex has been liaising with the working women of many IT industries who are the target market for these saris to find out what they would like in terms of color and design. This has proven to be a boon for the weavers as the valuable feedback gathered over the years has helped mold the sari into what it is today.