Fashion Design a Niche Course? Time to Rethink

Fashion design is the art of application of design and aesthetics or natural beauty to clothing and accessories. Fashion design is influenced by cultural and social attitudes, and has varied over time and place.The entry to most top colleges in this field is through entrance exams which comprises of a combination of Aptitude Tests and Creative Ability tests. While the former is common to other exams also, the latter tests the person’s creativity and artistic abilities.

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There are several stereotypes associated with the pursuit of Fashion Design as a career option in India and is considered by many as a frivolous pursuit without any major career opportunities. It has acquired the image of a female oriented course, so apparently men should not go for this option. Society typecasts its students as rich kids with money to burn. All these stereotypes miss the mark heavily. Fashion design may at once stage have been a niche course, but today it should be accepted like many others as a viable career option. 

India has been known for its textiles since ancient times. The country had ancient trade links for export of cotton to various parts of the world especially West Asia, North Africa and Europe. Several design centers sprung across the nation. Towns or regions such as Chanderi, Dhaka, Kanchipuram, Banaras, Bishnupur, Mysore and Murshidabad emerged as major cloth weaving centers. The relation gained strength with the arrival of the Europeans to India from the sixteenth century onwards and India became a major source of export of textiles until being colonies. Post colonization India became a source market for cotton to be woven in Manchester. Textile especially cotton was so important to the idea of India, that the Charkha or the manual spinning wheel became the symbol of Indian self Independence. 

Even today textile plays an important role in the economy, and forms over a tenth of overall exports as per the data provided by the Ministry of Textiles. After agriculture it employs the largest number of people. Cotton contributes to the largest chunk of the total. Silk, jute, wool and human made fibers make up the rest of the market. This is the importance of weaving and the textile industry to India that the country’s financial capital Mumbai started out and continues to bear the sobriquet Manchester of India. We even have Manchester of North (Kanpur) and South (Coimbatore). 

In such a scenario, it is sad that the very industry that produces textiles is considered a niche. Fashion design as a course has evolved to a way more than a mere fancy designer labels. While catering to film stars, models and fashion designers, the industry has progressed beyond. The Bachelor of Fashion Technology, for example, is a science based course which imparts knowledge on design styles. These design styles are used by major apparel chains to create clothes for the general Indian public and not exclusively for the celebrities. A good number of such professionals end up at ethnic design labels, helping in creating Indian brands for a multi-national audience. 

In fact, right now only the tip of the iceberg has been touched upon. The Indian textile industry is extremely fragmented and dominated by smaller units. There are incentives galore for small industrial units, which is why many industrialists have avoided consolidation. Due to their lack of scale most cannot employ professional designers or managers. A lot of the employees also remain part of the unorganized sector. This industry needs to open up to liberalization. That will enable professionals graduating from the NIFTs, NIDs or Pearl Academy, to get greater work opportunities with such textile units. 

As of now the trend is moving upwards with some opportunities already in hand. One can be a stylist in a large store, One can also choose the related field of décor design. A fashion graduate could join any of the top labels and be into fashion communication. Design thinking also plays a big role in several corporates which see aesthetics, visuals and colour as key ingredients in business success through customer engagement. That is another role that the fashion graduates can play. This tile can best be played in post a graduation in fashion technology or design, a person works for a few years and then pursues an MBA, There is even a course dedicated to Luxury Management run by a college in Gurugram named as Luxury Connect Business School that has a tie-up with a leading brand in Monaco. One can even opt for a specific Retail Management MBA which is far more a commonplace. Such a person will get hands-on training plus ingrained managerial abilities. 

The entry to most top colleges in this field is through entrance exams which comprises of a combination of Aptitude Tests and Creative Ability tests. While the former is common to other exams also, the latter tests the person’s creativity and artistic abilities. For some courses the Creative Ability Test (CAT) is even exempted, thus clearly proving that entry isn’t much more different than several other courses. Thus it is time to rethink, the blinkers need to come off. Fashion Design is much more than high-end fashion but indeed ubiquitous across fields, and with the professionalization of the garments industry, it is only a matter of time that jobs will galore in this field . 

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