Fashion Talk
Avi Keswani

Avi Keswani

Co-founder and Director
LISAA School of Design

Today’s student is better at multitasking

Co-founder and Director, LISAA School of Design, Avi Keswani was awarded the Nirbhaya award in 2014 and Bharat Gaurav Samman award for her work and contribution in the field of education. She is also invited as a motivational speaker cum mentor at reputed institutions such as IIM Bangalore, FICCI etc. In an interview with Kiran Sahija, Keswani talks about her journey as well as the virtual and meta world and its pros and cons.

Fibre2Fashion: How would you describe the journey that led to the establishment of LISAA School of Design and the CREO Valley group?

Avi Keswani:

The journey was a search for a calling. I was always interested in both arts and science. Coming from a very academically oriented family, it goes without saying that the family’s preference was that I pursue science. Both me and my husband studied abroad and understood the difference in how education is pursued globally. After my MBA, I worked for a California-based startup for a while and then took a break to be with kids. That’ when I got a chance to rekindle my passion towards arts and culture… and from there the journey of LISAA and CREO Valley group began.

Fibre2Fashion: Since you come from an IT education background, what challenges did you encounter developing a design-based institute?

Avi Keswani:

Post my engineering I also pursued an MBA from California. What I loved about getting my MBA was that the principles of management were quite generic and had a 360-degree scope for application. Most of our classroom education material was primarily research paper and discussions. So, the learning was much more wholesome.

Not coming from a design background had its pros as well, as we embraced much more heartily design sensibilities different from our own... which isn’t always easy when designers with different approaches and sensibilities come together.

On a personal level, I have always tried to keep myself close to the heart of academics. I picked up Semiotics and it still is one of my favourite subjects. Much later, I got a Diploma in Design Thinking from Stanford University. I have been teaching Design Thinking, Semiotics, Marketing, and Organisational Behaviour to students at LISAA School of Design, Bangalore for seven years now.

Fibre2Fashion: What was the motive behind launching a France-based school in India?

Avi Keswani:

After studying in the US, my husband and I realised the relevance and value of an international degree. We also knew that Indian students had the talent and aptitude for arts and design. Our belief was that if we could bring in the right international setup, curriculum and tools, we could help our students explore their true potential in design.

Before we started, I had a list of qualities that I was looking for in my future business partners. Surprisingly, LISAA School of Design’s pedagogical approach perfectly matched the set of values I had in mind.

Needless to say that the French are known for their design sensibilities across the world. The nuances that we were looking for, including an emphasis on art and drawing skills, industry-centric approach, and futuristic sense of design while valuing the traditional art forms—all of these reflected in the modules and curriculum design by LISAA.

CREO Valley was envisioned to be the umbrella under which many art forms would be taught. At our campus today, it is easy to see how students from various disciplines not only learn under the same roof but also learn from each other and grow. For e.g., it’s not uncommon for us to see Interior students helping Film Making students design a set or Fashion students taking help of Photography students to plan their collection’s photoshoot or Fashion films or Graphic students helping film students nail their posters etc.

Fibre2Fashion: These days, we see a switch towards Augmented and Virtual Reality. What is your take on it?

Avi Keswani:

The use of AR and VR is quite prevalent in design. Building renders and walk-throughs for customers have been in use for over a decade now. Recently I saw AR being used to show the inner workings of a wall, including the formwork, construction joints etc.  Such technology makes QA much easier. You might have heard of VR-based fashion shows and AR trial rooms. Like any technology, the design will definitely be enriched by the use of AR and VR. Wastage of fabric can be avoided by using technology, and custom fits also become truly possible. In urban jungles, AR-VR can be used to destress by experiencing a forest from your living room. So, I definitely see the potential in the use of AR-VR. In fact, currently, I am pursuing my research on the use of AR-VR in the field of ‘sustainable fashion’.

Fibre2Fashion: According to you, what are the pros and cons of ‘meta’ world?

Avi Keswani:

COVID-19 really brought us close to understanding the true benefits of metaverse. In their 2022 report, Gartner predicts that 25 per cent of people will spend at least one hour per day in the metaverse by 2026. The increasing amount of time global citizens are spending in metaverse has encouraged brands such as Gucci and Adidas to launch their stores in the metaverse. One of the bags by Gucci sold for over $1500 in the metaverse, which is more than the price of the same bag in real life.

Although when it comes to design, be it fashion, interior, or product, sensory experiences play a huge role in not only experiencing the product but also serve as major inputs for a designer. Sometimes I wonder how far technology can take us towards bringing to life the haptic aspect of the experience.

A worrisome aspect of people, especially the young generation, spending too much time in the metaverse is how it would impact their concern for mother earth, i.e., impact on sustainable behaviour. If spending time in metaverse, which is by itself addictive, also has an escapist tendency attached to it then we should truly be vigilant about how much time our kids are spending in the metaverse. An interesting topic of research could be to see how spending time in the metaverse impacts our consumerist tendencies i.e., whether mindless consumption would be fuelled just by clocking in hours in the metaverse. These are a few dangers we can foresee, not to forget the carbon footprint caused due to the use of technology itself. Most people ignore that completely. We must not forget that this energy-hungry technology could potentially increase our carbon footprint multi-fold.

Fibre2Fashion: Do you think that virtual fashion shows will one day completely be able to replace live fashion runway shows in India?

Avi Keswani:

As mentioned above the role of haptic experiences is huge in fashion, which is hard to replicate in a virtual environment. Also, when it comes to access to AR-VR devices, the cost of technology is also something one must consider, while we are considering how soon would AR-VR experiences be available to the masses in the luxury of their homes. As and when they become available, I doubt that virtual fashion shows can completely replace live fashion runway shows as it takes away largely the thrill and experience of attending fashion shows.

Fibre2Fashion: How can your institute contribute towards the trend of augmented reality? Is it possible to introduce any specialised courses?

Avi Keswani:

Our Graphic Design students are exposed to AR-VR in third and final years. They have designed AR-based visiting cards and apps that turn surroundings into surrealist art. We have plans to introduce few modules of AR to our Interior Design and Fashion Design students as well.

Fibre2Fashion: How would you express the change in behaviour, perception and imagination of graduates of current time as compared to the past times?

Avi Keswani:

The global melting pot that was anticipated is very much here. In many ways than one, we live in a global village. Careers that would have seemed far-fetched are now accessible to the masses. Dearth of opportunities is a thing of the past. Today, more than ever, there is a need for students to be focused.

Due to the exposure to a plethora of ideas, today’s student is better at multitasking and is capable of eclectic thought processes which is great when students have a sense of purpose and commitment towards their passion.

I truly believe that for students who have the right vision, support, curiosity and are willing to work hard to make their dreams come true, the world is their oyster. Almost everyone is wise at 60, genius is someone who has the foresight to create a bright future at 20!

Fibre2Fashion: With so many fashion schools spread across the country, what makes your institution stand out?

Avi Keswani:

Apart from the state-of-the-art campus in the heart of Bangalore city, eclectic blend of full-time and part-time teachers with varied experience in the industry, a student who enrolls at LISAA not only gets a French Diploma but also a degree from Bangalore City University. The sense of community and belonging along with the emphasis on hard work are unique qualities that we nurture here at LISAA. Unlike other schools, we focus immensely on hand skills, which means students are encouraged to stitch their own collection, similarly in Interior and Graphic too, we make sure that students in the first year and beyond spend enough time sketching, creating hand-stitched garments, and thinking about the world from a glocal perspective (global standards with local approach). Smaller batch sizes mean individual attention to every student’s unique talent and career trajectory. Our students come from different states and countries as LISAA School of Design brings the essence of the French Design Curriculum and makes it accessible at a convenient location in the heart of Bangalore.

LISAA Bangalore has tie-ups with popular institutes across the globe, and students enrolled in design courses of the institute get a chance to spend some of their time in these institutes. The student-exchange programmes of LISAA and its partner institutes are a great help to students in gaining practical exposure to design practices around the globe.

Fibre2Fashion: What is the vision for LISAA for the forthcoming years? Any expansion plans?

Avi Keswani:

The vision is to expand to a bigger campus with more space, both indoor and outdoor. As a design school, one pre-requisite is to always stay relevant and ever engaging. So, the process of exploring new concepts, new ideas and staying a few steps ahead or at par with the industry is always something we aim for... so, the expansion for a design school is an everyday process... conceptual expansion is a must!

Published on: 21/09/2022
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