Issue dated - 09 September 2004
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NGOs can play a big role in promoting ‘Eri’ culture

Eri silk set to take the fashion world by storm

Steena Joy - Mumbai

India’s wild silks or Vanya silks have for years inspired designers to create distinct fashion statements in clothing and home textiles. These Vanya silks are of three types, each with its own distinct characteristics: Tasar, Muga and the lesser known Eri, which is now creating ripples in the business of fashion.

Known as Endi or Errandi, Eri silk is produced by the Eri silkworm and can be spun evenly or unevenly in coarse or very fine counts. This versatile fibre amplifies the elegance of silk, comfort of cotton and warmth of wool. Fineness, density, strength, cross-sectional shape and surface properties are unique to Eri.

Ironically, Eri production in India has been slow to catch up vis a vis its more popular cousin, mulberry silk. Which is surprising because according to Mr Joy Oommen, member secretary and CEO, Central Silk Board (CSB), “Eri silkworm rearing is easier than mulberry silkworm rearing as it is less disease ridden, requires less land area and as the Eri silkworm feeds on the leaves of Castor, Tapioca (Cassava) and Kesseru plants, which are very easy to cultivate and can be grown anywhere in the country. These plants can even be cultivated alongside other crops.”

To capitalise on this vast potential and widen the horizon of ‘Eri’ culture, the CSB has been promoting Eri production in not only the traditional North eastern states of Mendi, bordering Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh but also in the non-traditional states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Uttaranchal, Punjab, Bihar and Jharkhand. Additionally to facilitate better availibility of the yarn, Mr Oommen firmly believes that “NGOs can play a big role in promoting Eri production because silkworm cultivation can provide direct employment to weaker sections of society and that too without much land or capital needed.”

Another hurdle in Eri production was the spinning of the yarn. Mr Oommen explains,”Traditionally, Eri cocoons were spun by pulling the fibre and simultaneously imparting a twist to it to form the yarn. However, thanks to the technological advancement and modern spinning facilities introduced by the Central Silk Technological Research Institute (CSTRI), spinning of fine counts in Eri has now been made possible.”

He adds, “We have also started an Eri silkworm seed scheme under which CSB buys back any Eri silkworms available to create an awareness that there is a huge market for Eri silk.”

Eri silk’s thermal properties, high durability and flexibility to blend with other natural fibres like cotton, wool, jute and tasar or mulberry silk mean exciting new product development in terms of textures, surface effects, colour combinations and hand-feel.

Eri’s matt finish with natural sheen makes it unique in appearance. Designers and merchandisers are sourcing Eri silk and intelligently using it to their advantage, creating innovative home furnishings and made-ups, as well as in fashion collections. Premium and luxurious thin quilts and fur-cloth from Eri fibres embellished with motifs, embroidery and traditional Indian art, are just some of the immense possibilities for value addition in applications across the home textile product basket. As Mr Oommen puts it,” We call Eri the ‘millennium silk’ as we feel that it will be the silk variety of the future.”


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