The community needs your help. Buy authentic silk handloom sarees. If you shop for sarees on social networking sites, especially Instagram, you might have come across one such sponsored post by a store or a label. While it is true that the pandemic has wreaked havoc on small businesses and weaver communities — who have been forced to look at options to sell their wares online — there have also been stores and resellers who have been using this as an opportunity to dupe buyers.
And unlike shopping from established e-tailers, very few resellers on social media platforms offer returns or refunds. When Hema Pallavi, a saree enthusiast, found a pure silk Benarasi saree originally marked for Rs 11,000 being sold for Rs 6,500 by a retailer on Instagram, she thought it was a great deal and bought the saree. “Later, my tailor informed me that the saree was not a pure silk Benarasi, but was possibly a synthetic knock-off,” she says. At a time when shopping online is the norm, how can buyers ensure that they are getting their money’s worth without being able to touch and feel the fabric? Saree connoisseur Sharmi Adhikary, who has been actively advocating ethical practices for buyers and sellers online, says the first step towards ensuring a good buy is to do the research.
“It is very important to learn about the weave and the fabric that you want to buy before investing in it,” says Adhikary. “For example, if you come across a chiffon saree online and consider buying it, it’ll be a good idea to look up the characteristics of a pure silk chiffon saree — such as the texture, the fall — and, if possible, check out the rates from a few credible labels and stores to figure out the price range.” Several online retailers have been passing off synthetic sarees as chiffons and without the option to touch the weave, it becomes important to recognise it from its texture, Adhikary says. “Silk chiffons have these buttery crinkles and the price range starts from around Rs 6,000. So if you find an e-tailer selling silk chiffons for half the price, it’s better to be cautious because they might be misleading buyers with synthetic variants,” she adds.
Sharmi Adhikary in one of her silk chiffon sarees
Textile researcher Sreemathy Mohan points out that one has to be extremely careful while shopping online. “Many saree sellers have gone digital in the past year because their stores were forced to close owing to the pandemic. Unless you know the seller very well or you have bought from them earlier, you cannot guarantee original products. Some saree sellers promote their products as handloom but in reality, it might be powerloom,” says Sreemathy. Rather than buying from unknown brands, it is always safe to get your saree from a well-established brand, opines Sreemathy. “If you are someone who wears sarees regularly, you might know the popular saree brands. Buy sarees from them instead of trying news sellers in the town,” she adds.