Since the 19th century, weaving and handloom have played a pivotal role in the district of Kannur (or Cannanore), and grew exponentiallyby incorporating European techniques under the guidance of visiting missionares like the Basel Mission. They were a key player in introducing innovations that ranged from wooden frame looms, to even the expansion to factories. But years later, while the missionaries left the state, the British took over the factories and most were eventually bought out by private, local entrepreneurs. Over the next century, Kannur become a centre for design and weaving, with the industry adapting to the times. Even today, the only National Institute of Technology in Kerala is located in Kannur.
In 1939 Cananor Guild, one of Kerala’s first luxury handloom brands was founded in the aforementioned district with a strong textile and weaving heritage, dedicated to preserving and promoting traditional craftsmanship. It was founded by Late K. P. Kumaran and Late Punnakal Kannan started with just five handlooms and grew under the eyes of the next four generations, over the next 80 years. While they focused on exporting handwoven products like lungis and shirt materials to the Indian market between the 40s-60s, they eventually expanded to supply terry towels and home furnishings, especially jacquard across the nation and even started exporting to Sweden, the UK, Germany and some Scandinavian countries. In the late 80s, they worked with a London-based designer, leading to even wider export of the brand’s fabrics to the UK, which in turn was distributed globally. By the 90s, the brand diversified into manufacturing home products and linens and even expanded to attires.
Today, the brand is led by Manjul Jayakumar and Vandhana Kollara Sunil (a husband and wife duo) who stepped into their roles in 2021 and are passionate about celebrating Kannur’s textile tradition and merging traditional techniques with contemporary designs. Manjul, who grew up around weaving and handlooms, was always inspired by the industry and went on to graduate from Cass Business School to work with a leading London textile company. Over the past decade, he has travelled extensively across the nation to varying textile clusters to expand his knowledge and form better networks. Vandhana is a seasoned design professional who has worked with renowned global organisations, and shares in her husband’s passion for fair trade handloom practices that combine modern aesthetics with traditional techniques.
The brand's catalogue includes hand-crafted high-quality textiles that add character and comfort to living space. Their collections include embroidered bed linens, decorative cushion covers, unique curtains, stylish kitchen and table linen, waffle weave towels, toiletry bags and much more. These are crafted using natural materials like cotton and linen with delicate embroideries, prints or even patchwork designs.
While they do craft modern, luxurious products, their pricing is considerably affordable owing to their collaboration with artisans and using partly mechanised looms, which cuts down on costs. To realise their vision for social responsibility, Cananor Guild as a brand under this duo, actively works with local artisans, especially the Kudumbashree units and the Cooperative Weaving Society in Kannur. While the craftspeople of the cooperative weave the actual fabrics using traditional techniques, the embroidery and tailoring are done through Kudumbashree, contributing to the state’s poverty eradication and women empowerment program.
With an eye on modern aesthetics, a passion for being socially responsible and backed by generations of knowledge and heritage of the Kannur weaving community, Cananor Guild, is still resolute in the brand's founding dedication towards the preservation and promotion of the traditional weaving of Kannur.
You can follow them here.