August 08, 2020
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Heroes Of The Sartorial Wars

India has some world-class fashion institutes and a rapidly growing industry

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Heroes Of The Sartorial Wars
Designs with fabrics from Odisha at NIFT Bhubaneswar
Heroes Of The Sartorial Wars

The world has borne witness to a legion of fashion warriors, arrayed in harness of glamour, take captive hordes of consumers across regions and brand them with their brands. There’s an endless, internecine conflict of colours, cuts and styles—and the battlefield is growing day by day, pushing the belligerents to forge new all­iances and capture regions for their support and survival. The whole world converges to compete for the coveted prize in fashion technology at the WorldSkills competition . In Ind­ia, fashion has been bullish about itself, and over the years we have seen the country’s own breed of fashion design warriors elevate it to one of the most glamorous, exciting, rewarding and promising career options in today’s world.

The textiles and garment industry, a great contributor to the Indian economy, is trying to grow into a centre of innovation in garments and design. Fashion and its gamut provide amp­le scope for choosing it as a career, and ­today, the industry has become so compartmentalised that it needs specialists in the fields of design, materials, management and production related areas. India has all it takes to create its own distinct feel in fashion—and the industry has done exactly that. Today, you see the graduates of Indian fashion schools stride the world stage with great success.

Pupils will soon be able to study ­fashion design together with subjects like chemistry, ­history and commerce—all pairs that complement each other.

Technology, with its power to connect INS­tantly and directly with the consumer through social media, has helped to democratise the industry and its ­attendant glamour—it’s gone from a secret and exclusive club to one that inv­ites mass participation. The appeal of fashion as a career has grown commensurately with this, inspiring more and more young people to pursue fashion education; this goes hand in hand with the industry’s growth in scale and scope over the past few decades.

Having a designer in the family is now a point of pride for many—and this is such a phenomenon that the daily horoscope forecasts on primetime channels have begun to issue prognostications such as “If you are a fashion designer aaj aapka din mangalmai hoga and aapka lucky colour hai black”.


Students of NIFT Delhi with a very demanding customer

Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari

The CBSE’s move to introduce fashion studies as a school subject in 2004 gave a further fillip to fashion education in India, exposing the younger generation to design at an early age and encouraging more parents to let their children choose it as a career in preference to more conventional paths. It won’t be too long before pupils have the option to study chemistry and fashion with elements of textiles INS­tead of PCM, as well as other combinations such as history with design and, most probably, commerce with design. Looking at these pairs closely, it’s clear that the subjects actually complement and supplement one other.

To add to the above, the National Design Policy, 2011, which emphasises the importance of strategic plans to promote design interventions in India, has already helped in building platforms for creative design development, as well as facilitating promotion and partnership across many sectors, states and regions for int­egrating design with tradition and technological resources. The walls between various dom­ains of design are growing increasingly transparent, and with changing technology there’s new knowledge evolving daily. Opp­ortunities lie ahead for those who seek them.

Weaving with tabletop looms at NIFT Patna

Time was when design as a career would app­ear confusing and technical at the same time to aspiring students and their parents, who didn’t know where to place a designer in the industry. Today, there’s a galaxy of fashion icons, professionals and institutions with very diverse exp­eriences helping aspirants connect the dots so they don’t end up with a linear future path and a limited perspective, but rather with a broa­der understanding of the human interface and a better design experience. The worldwide res­urgence of artisanal and handmade products has also given rise to a new demand for individually crafted products of fine quality.

Indian fashion education has seen huge acc­eptance in the international arena, leading to significant opportunities for collaboration with the world’s leading design schools; this has opened up pathways to develop new programmes and organise student and faculty exchanges and research cooperation across countries. India’s design schools are now offering doctoral programmes, which itself is a great achievement that acknowledges the scope and international acceptance of such programmes. As a result, many aspiring students are looking ahead to establish a name in the fashion world, and these numbers are increasing year after year. Fashion encourages great talent and creativity, and people who do things for themselves stand out, as in any other profession.

Nevertheless, design education standards in India are still somewhat patchy. Some institutes are world class and others are struggling to make sense of the basics.

Indian design ­institutes now collaborate with the world’s top schools, with exchanges and research ­cooperation, and offer ­doctoral programmes.

The National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), with its 16 campuses across India, is all set to fill out the frame of fut­ure fashion education through the new curriculum it will introduce from July 2018. With the changing dynamics of the market and the imp­act of this on the industry and allied sectors, educators will have to collaborate with their students to address new areas. I understand that the country’s other leading fashion schools are also adopting this framework.

There is high demand for fashion design courses in India.  It carries a vast scope to emb­ark on a career not only here but also internationally. Moreover, it’s not limited to fashion houses or boutiques, but can extend to the film and entertainment industries and other media via television channels and programmes.

At times, one might see a disequilibrium in the supply and demand for design graduates, but with the landscape poised for new spe­cialisations and developments in the sector, including digital manufacturing, social inn­ovation, sustainability and new business models, there are many new career paths emerging in fashion. And if one is interested in culture, people, films and style, this industry will ­continue to appeal. I believe that there is never a dull moment in fashion.

The humble thread has seen many changes and will continue to do so, even as it permeates and holds together the innovators of the past and present—and the future.

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