The colourful Kutchi shawl has been given the geographical indications (GI) tag. Made from locally available wool and traditionally worn as a veil, this Gujarati craft has a 500-year-old history. “It took us almost two-and-a-half years — from motivating local weavers to form an association to filing the GI application — to get this recognition,” says R M Shankar, principal scientific officer of Ahmedabad Textile Industry’s Research Association (ATIRA). GI is a sign used on products, which correspond to a specific town, region or country. It certifies that the product possesses qualities or enjoys a certain reputation due to its geographical origin. “Initially, there was hesitation among the weavers, but we held sensitization programmes in different villages and explained to them how this tag would help get their products a better market. Cheap industrial imitations of their intricate designs by factories in Ludhiana have hit them badly,” he says. The association has grown from seven to 300 today. The shawl is the sixth Gujarati craft to get this recognition, others being Kutchi embroidery, agate of Cambay, Sankheda furniture, Tangaliya shawl and Surti zari. “This tag will help over 1,200 weavers of the Vankar and Meghwal communities in Kutch region spread across 210 villages,” says Kutch Weavers Association (KWA) president Gabhubhai Vankar. He says Kutch is the only regional cluster of weavers in India which can create intricate motifs in thicker yarns of wool, cotton and silk. Artisans still design and produce shawls for the local market, as it is widely worn across Kutch in the winter. Keeping with the contemporary trend, this shawl is now woven using Marino wool and incorporates traditional dholki motif. Woollen and acrylic shawls embellished with bandhni and embroidery are a rage, and a major tourist attraction in Kutch.