Tell us your name, background and earliest textile memories?
My name is Mohammed Imran. I’m originally from Bangladesh. Living here in the UK for more than 15 years. Because I was grew up in Bangladesh, my own family members like my mother would mostly wear sari, so that’s where I got to know about saris. So mum would go to events, she’s got plenty in her collection so she would bring up 5-7 saris and look at me to ask, ‘which one is better?’ and this is how I know sari. I use to choose which sari she use to wear at the parties. Being Bangladeshi, we know our tradition and Jamdani is one of the main traditional saris in Bangladesh.
Where did you first encounter Jamdani, for example did you see any weavers at work?
I never a child, but in a fair, there’s so many fairs happening in Bangladesh. Sometimes they show a machine where the Jamdani is made. Not at a younger age, but when I went to Naranyanganj or Sonargaon where the main Jamdanis are handmade, not the machine made Jamdani. So I have seen ‘factories’ of weavers or Tahthi (Bengali = weaving loom), homemade Jamdanis in a Tahthi. I’ve been to their house. How much hard work they are doing to made Jamdani by hand, so yes I have seen the weavers. The earliest memory is from my mother, she use to say that she liked to wear the Jamdani sari and showed me one, saying ‘this is called a Jamdani.’
What’s the difference between a manufactured and handmade Jamdani?
This is the difference and is happening between the Bangladeshi saris and Indian saris. In Bangladesh in Sonargaon, the weavers run the machine with their leg and their hand. They pull the machine with their hands and use the shutta (string) and change the colour, and even their leg continues to work on the machine. In an automatic manufacturing machine they just put the design and it’s the machine that’s making the sari and not the man. This is the main difference. If you see a normal Jamdani in Bangladesh it’s starting at 6000-7000 taka, basic, but the same design in Kolkata (India), more colourful and more design, you’ll see it’s maybe 1000 rupees. It’s very cheap but it’s not the proper quality. I’m not complaining, I’m just giving you an example. This is the difference between the machine Jamdani. You will understand when you touch the material, you will feel it’s very hard. With machine Jamdani, some is very tough and hard. If you touch the handmade Jamdani the front part and the back part are the same design.
Tell us about what inspired you to enter the industry?
I started not too long ago. Last 5 years I’m running an online base called Shui Shuta Golpo which most London people know. I am a community journalist myself as well. I use to work for a Bengali TV Channel. I use to be a journalist in Bangladesh as well. My interest rose because most of the people in the community wear Indian sari. It’s availability, cheap price and the variety, most of the people wear Indian products. But when I started Shui Shuta and recently opened another one in Bangladesh called Laldip, I didn’t see the same feeling as when my mum use to wear a Bangladeshi sari. The majority Sylheti community they wear Indian sari too. They don’t wear the proper traditional Bangladeshi sari, even in this country’s weddings you won’t see people wearing the Bengali sari. They’re mostly wearing the Indian sari. This is how I thought that if I can bring the Bengali product, people might like it. This is how my journey started. I started with only 10 saris from Bangladesh and people liked it and this is how my journey started.
Do you think there’s a revivalist element to broaden understanding about Jamdani?
The biggest problem I am facing with Jamdani is that many people in this country know about Jamdani but do not know how to wear it. And because of the price in Bangladesh – if you go to any occasion and spend £100-£200 on Jamdani, you don’t know when you’re going to wear it again. Jamdani is mainly for collection. Those who loves saris, in every wardrobe there is a Jamdani sari. Jamdani is more than a sari, it’s a tradition, it’s our pride and heritage. Any woman who loves sari, they want at least one Jamdani.
Jamdani is defined through a flowered motif – what defines a Jamdani for you?
There’s so many different varieties at the moment. There’s flower, new designs are butterfly and different, different patterns. Mainly it’s flower based. They’re trying to develop the design as well. The main problem is the material in Bangladesh is very expensive. To make a sari the amount of product they need is short and hard to find out. That’s why the price is too high nowadays. Here is where Indian people make business. With our Bangladeshi Jamdani there’s a huge demand in Kolkata (India) and I know many people from Kolkata here. Every single person don’t just ask about Jamdani, they ask for Dhakai Jamdani. They have interest in Bangladeshi Jamdani because in India it’s not possible to make it the way our weavers make it, in India it’s not possible to make the same way.
Does Jamdani have a future with the new generation?
There is a new generation who are loving it. There’s definitely a future. But we need support, awareness, as vendors and manufacturers we must support our weavers. From the government as well, from outer countries as well. Many other organisations they love to work with heritage and tradition. If we support altogether, there is definitely a future. Many online groups are developing designs for Jamdani. There is a huge, big amount of interest in Bangladesh with Jamdani if we can maintain the quality and give a proper service to buyers.
Examples of Mohammed Imran’s collections from Shui Shuta Golpo and Laldip (© Mohammed Imran)