Emphasis On Textile In Fashion Design Curriculum

It is debatable that some schools of thought promote the development of design prowess alone and do not lay much emphasis on technical learning.

A holistic fashion design curriculum engages its learners in subjects ranging from the development of a strong foundation in design, giving direction towards the development of sound aesthetic and a clear understanding on design principles pertaining to form, shape and colour amongst other fundamentals. Technical subjects such as Pattern Drafting, Garment construction along with digital design techniques are a mainstay. During this process, knowledge of textiles is consequential by exploring its handling, feel, fall and structure while transforming them into a garment. While learners are given basic information about weaves, structures and patterns, geographical and cultural heritage, it is the prerogative of institution whether to delve deeper into the finer musings of textile development.  

It is debatable that some schools of thought promote the development of design prowess alone and do not lay much emphasis on technical learning, given the aim being to produce designers and not tailors or seamstresses. It may vary and while some may ignore too much emphasis on students engaging in construction themselves, it is important to engage learners in the substantial understanding of textiles which form the basics of any garment design process.  

While textiles form an integral part in the study of monarchy’s, significant trade liaison, community distinctions and sources of economic sustenance, its historic relevance is as integral as its contemporary advancement.  

We understand great fabrics, make good garments. But designers rarely reflect on textiles, the emphasis is always on either the embroidery or other forms of surface embellishment. Seldom do aspiring designers take to the drawing board with a desire to develop a fabric before venturing to silhouette development. Therefore, it is up to the schools to emphasize on the art of textiles in design courses and not only schools that offer specialisation in textiles exclusively. 

Textiles play a very important role in the functioning of our industry and this has led to specific areas developing as key manufacturing and suppling hubs. Places like Ludhiana, Surat, Coimbatore and surrounding areas cater to the larger manufacturers while natural resource centres like the states of the North East, Maheshwar, Bhuj, Calcutta, Orissa, Chennai, Kanchipuram, Kerala, only naming a few, cater to the design fraternity and in some cases brands too. This barely skims the surface of the vastness of the contribution of the textile industry. While nuances of the business of fashion are taught, the business of textiles is equally important. Study of the economics of textiles will facilitate an appraisal in understanding and will also encourage thoughtful development of quality fabrics. 

We in India, have a rich culture of weaves, but lesser-known to the common man. Exploring textiles that literally weave the socio-economic network of communities is more of an emotional journey rather than just of developmental progress and this resonates largely with textile connoisseurs who are working extensively with the artisans and their kin. Most of whom choose to abandon the craft in search of more lucrative careers as it is not sufficient to sustain on craft and handloom-based textiles and small and medium scale facilities alone. Thus our new generation of designers should have an in-depth knowledge of these artisanal gems and should be encouraged to bring them to mainstream design platforms in order to have their designs exude not just the reflections of global trends but tell stories of legacy and of the weaver of their fabrics.  

Various efforts are being undertaken to make textile the hero of a collection. Governing fashion organisations do support these initiatives and make sufficient contribution in promoting it at fashion weeks, though a lot more needs to be done. Publications and Social Media platforms do their significant bit as well, but the seed must be sown at the grass-root level. 

Designers have presented collections that have brought out salient features of sustainability amongst other factors like the sheer skill of the artisan. Some have even collaborated with artists and paintings to recreate them on fabric with mind-boggling techniques. Some have abandoned the high ceilings of their ateliers to engage with the artisan on a day to day basis and each day have an interesting story to tell. Hence it is common to see the artisan walk to the head ramp along with the designer, sharing the limelight and glory. The common endeavour is to innovate and to meet the growing demand of the evolved consumer who wants to know Who is behind the making of their clothes. Textile and craft have also fuelled many discussions by highly influential people from the fraternity who have been tirelessly working to bring due credit to the artisan. It is thus as important as any other topic of relevance in a design program. 

Evidence of technology meandering through every scope of life is seen, so in the case of textiles and clothing, which is considered an essential mode of survival, second only to food followed by housing. We have also seen the emergence of tech-driven textile development. As Technology plays a vital role in the development of new fibres, weaves and textiles, it also extensively applied in the revival, sustenance and promotion of age-old techniques that are at the brink of extinction in some cases due to archaic practices that can be replaced with advanced applications that don’t tamper with the authenticity of the craft but ensure more efficient production. It is common knowledge that fabrics are now being woven out of recycled plastic, ocean waste, alternative sources of natural fibre like bamboo, pineapple etc. New Age development of materials like bio leather and such techniques are leading us to a more sustainable world of conscious living, whether in clothes we wear or developing conscious lifestyle choices. 

Is it not then inevitable to make our proteges adept with the relevant advancements that we see both nationally and globally? It is a multi-pronged approach of conserving, contemporising, and innovating and the discussion must begin in the classroom.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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