Laced conversations

Dealers in Kinari Bazaar talk about how machines changed lace making.

Amid the glitter of wedding jewellery, colourful costumes and garlands, strips of white lace are on display in several shops at Kinari Bazaar in Chandni Chowk. Lace dealers claim that their business is profitable and their shops are breathing life into a dying art form.

With the advent of machines following the industrial revolution, lace-making, originally a handicraft, underwent major transformation. Machines enabled mass production of goods, leading to a decline in most handicraft industries across the world.

Centuries later, repercussions of this change can be seen on various handicrafts, including lace, as handmade products struggle to compete with machine-made counterparts. "We sell both hand-made and machine-made laces. Because of lower prices, machine-made ones attract more customers. However, there are customers who only buy hand-made laces, which have more intricate designs," Rohit Singhal, a shopkeeper, said. Most lace dealers in the area run their family business.

Prabhat, owner of Prabhat Trading Company, a lace manufacturing company with a shop in the bazaar, said, "We have been running our business in Chandni Chowk for over 30 years."

Lace is brought to Kinari Bazaar from cities across the country. It is believed that some forms of lace-making were brought to India from Europe and port towns became centres for disseminating the art. Thus, the skill of making one variety bobbin lace which is also known as pillow or bone lace is being revived at various towns in Andhra Pradesh through co-operatives and self-help groups.

Lace dealers in Chandni Chowk voice their concerns. "The demand for these products is based on what is fashionable and, hence, keeps changing over time," Prabhat says. At this time of the year, woolen borders, velvet borders and cut work laces are in demand. In the summer, people prefer to buy cotton laces in subtle shades.

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