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Fashion Talk

Dr. Sameer Sood

Director
National Institute of Fashion Technology

NIFT Gandhinagar is poised to redefine the future of Indian design and craftsmanship

The National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) Gandhinagar, located in the state of Gujarat, India, is a premier institution in the field of fashion education. Renowned for its comprehensive curriculum and innovative teaching methods, NIFT Gandhinagar equips students with a blend of creative flair and technical expertise, making it a pivotal centre for aspiring fashion professionals in the country. The institute’s Director Dr. Sameer Sood talks to Fibre2Fashion about the Indian fashion and design industry and NIFT’s role in it.

Fibre2Fashion: Could you share what inspired you to pursue a career in fashion education and how you came to lead NIFT Gandhinagar?

Dr. Sameer Sood:

After completing my engineering, I pursued a Master’s in Garment Manufacturing Technology, which marked my initial foray into the fashion education sector. Following this, I accumulated approximately 17-18 years of experience in leadership roles within the international fashion industry. Subsequently, I transitioned into academia, joining NIFT Bhopal as a Professor. Later on, I took a deputation to NIFT Gandhinagar, where I assumed the position of Director. This journey brought me closer to the world of fashion.

 

F2F: As the Director of NIFT Gandhinagar, what aspects of your role do you find most fulfilling in supporting students and artisans in the fashion and design field?

DSS:

As the Director of NIFT Gandhinagar, my greatest joy stems from observing the students and artisans blossom creatively. It’s incredibly rewarding to guide them in discovering their unique talents and instilling in them the confidence to thrive in the fast-paced world of fashion and design. Our collaborations with seasoned industry professionals not only provide valuable insights but also open doors to exciting opportunities, helping our students build a network that can propel their careers forward.

Furthermore, I am deeply passionate about nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset amongst our students. By weaving the essence of entrepreneurship into their learning journey, we are preparing them to navigate the complexities of the business world with poise and agility. Simultaneously, our focus on integrating the latest technological advancements ensures that our students stay ahead of the curve, ready to embrace the ever-evolving landscape of fashion and design. Through these concerted efforts, my goal is to foster a sense of pride in our rich cultural heritage and empower the next generation of creative minds to leave an indelible mark on the industry.

As the Director of NIFT Gandhinagar, I find immense fulfillment in:

> Deliverance of a curriculum that blends theory with practical skills for a well-rounded fashion industry preparation.
> Cultivating industry connections, organizing workshops, internships, and placements for real-world exposure.
> Inspiring creativity and innovation, emphasizing design thinking and sustainable practices.
> Collaborating with local artisans, understanding their needs, and providing platforms for their traditional craftsmanship in contemporary settings.
> Hosting events to engage the local community, raising awareness about the societal impact of design.
> Cultivating an inclusive environment that embraces diverse perspectives and cultural influences in design.

The satisfaction comes from witnessing students grow, succeed, and make meaningful contributions to the fashion and design industry, empowered by the education and support they received during their time at the institution.

F2F: Could you describe some of your favourite Indian handloom and handicraft traditions or designs from various regions of India, and explain why they resonate with you?

DSS:

Recently, I have developed a profound resonance with khadi, Ikat, and Ajrak. Khadi's representation of self-reliance and sustainability aligns with my appreciation for tradition and practicality, echoing India's freedom movement. Its enduring charm, comfort, and historical significance make it a fabric that holds a special place in my preferences. The intricate ikat patterns, originating from various regions in India, continue to enthral me as they seamlessly merge traditional artistry with modern fashion contexts.

Furthermore, my connection to Indian handloom traditions has been enriched by Ajrak, particularly the rich heritage and symmetrical patterns from the Kutch region in Gujarat. The earthy hues and geometric motifs of Ajrakh textiles are not only visually captivating but also environmentally conscious. The intricate process of hand-block printing with natural dyes adds a timeless appeal, and what intrigues me is the sustainable aspect—employing natural dyes and age-old techniques that echo an eco-conscious approach.

The craft sector, among other industries, stands as a pivotal source of employment in the self-sustaining Economy, providing livelihoods to millions globally. It also serves as a major revenue earner for countries, contributing significantly to the economies of both developed and emerging nations. Moreover, this sector plays a crucial role in sustainable development, offering time-tested techniques in sustainable fashion arts and livelihoods.

Increased global awareness of the rich and diverse handloom and handicraft sector in India holds great potential for our artisans and weavers. The sector's contribution to both creativity and economic growth reinforces its importance on the global stage.

F2F: In your view, what has been the most noteworthy transformation or change in the Indian fashion and design industry during your tenure as director?

DSS:

During my tenure as Director, the Indian fashion and design industry experienced a remarkable evolution, marked by a pronounced focus on sustainability, inclusivity and emphasis on technology.


Sustainability Embrace: There has been a discernible shift towards sustainability, with a growing number of designers and brands actively adopting eco-friendly materials, incorporating ethical production processes, and emphasizing responsible sourcing. This movement signifies a collective commitment to fashion that seamlessly blends aesthetic appeal with a heightened awareness of environmental impact.

Inclusivity Transformation: The industry has undergone a positive transformation in terms of embracing diversity and inclusivity. There is now a conscious effort to celebrate diverse body types, cultural representations, and gender inclusivity on runways, in campaigns, and within design collections. This shift represents a significant stride towards fostering a more representative and inclusive narrative within the fashion space.

In our recent Khadi-focused fashion shows, we actively celebrated diverse body structures and ensured the inclusion of all segments of society. From influencers to artisans, individuals from various backgrounds graced the ramp walk, embodying the core concept of inclusivity.

Technological Leap: Integration of technology into the design process has been noteworthy, with digital design tools, 3D printing, and augmented reality revolutionizing how designers conceptualize ideas, create prototypes, and engage with consumers. This technological leap has accelerated the pace of innovation and design experimentation, pushing the boundaries of creativity.

Recognition of Homegrown Brands: A striking trend has been the surge in recognition and success of homegrown Indian brands, both domestically and internationally. These brands, deeply rooted in Indian aesthetics and craftsmanship, are gaining prominence, offering unique narratives and design sensibilities that resonate with a global audience.

Consumer Shift towards Conscious Consumption: A significant evolution in consumer behavior is evident, marked by an increasing demand for transparency in sourcing, ethical practices, and a preference for quality over quantity. Consumers are actively seeking brands that align with their values and beliefs, contributing to a more sustainable and responsible industry.

While these transformative trends underscore a maturing industry, it's crucial to acknowledge that this is just the beginning. There is still substantial work ahead for the industry to fully embed and integrate these sustainability and inclusivity principles into its core ethos.

F2F: Could you outline your vision for the future of Indian design and crafts and the specific role that NIFT Gandhinagar will play in bringing this vision to fruition?

DSS:

Envisioning the future trajectory of Indian design and crafts, NIFT Gandhinagar emerges as a dynamic force in shaping a narrative that harmonizes traditional craftsmanship with contemporary innovation. At the heart of this vision is the institute's commitment to integrating cutting-edge technology, exemplified by initiatives like 3D printing, which not only propels creative exploration but also safeguards the intrinsic value of heritage crafts.

NIFT Gandhinagar distinguishes itself by prioritizing sustainability within its design education framework. By leading by example, the institute emphasizes the use of eco-friendly materials, ethical production practices, and sustainable methodologies across diverse design disciplines. This not only instils responsible design principles in students but positions them as torchbearers for a conscientious and forward-thinking industry.

The institute's collaborative efforts with artisans and local communities form a cornerstone of its vision. NIFT Gandhinagar becomes a catalyst for empowerment through workshops, skill-sharing programs, and entrepreneurial initiatives. By bridging the gap between traditional crafts and contemporary design, the institute plays a pivotal role in ensuring the continued relevance and livelihoods of artisans.

On the global stage, NIFT Gandhinagar envisions itself as a standard-bearer for Indian design and crafts. Through strategic international collaborations, exhibitions, and exchange programs, the institute aims to showcase India's rich design heritage, fostering cross-cultural dialogues, and providing global market access. The institute's strategic collaborations with government organizations underscore its pivotal role in steering the future of Indian design and craftsmanship.

As NIFT Gandhinagar embarks on this transformative journey, it remains steadfast in its commitment to nurturing a new wave of industry professionals and craftsmen. Through a holistic approach that balances tradition with progress, the institute is poised to redefine the narrative of Indian design and craftsmanship, leaving an indelible mark on the global creative landscape.

F2F: What improvements or alterations do you aspire to implement in the fields of fashion education and the fashion industry in India?

DSS:

Guided by the profound wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita, particularly the verse

"पृथिवीं धर्मणा धृतां विश्वं आयुः सज्जनाय।" (Earth is sustained by righteousness; the entire universe is sustained by the good people), In line with the learning from Bhagwat Gita.
My vision for the future of fashion education in India revolves around three key pillars: sustainability, cultural preservation, and inclusivity.

Firstly, I aim to lead technological advancements that prioritize sustainability in the fashion industry. This involves promoting eco-friendly materials, ethical production processes, and responsible sourcing to create an environmentally conscious fashion ecosystem.

Secondly, I advocate for the integration of traditional craftsmanship and cultural heritage into fashion education. By incorporating local artisanal skills and traditional crafts into the curriculum, students gain insights into India's rich cultural tapestry, contributing to its preservation and celebration.

Thirdly, I envision fostering a more inclusive and diverse fashion industry by promoting diversity in body types, cultural representations, and gender inclusivity. Celebrating differences and embracing a broader range of perspectives will make the industry more representative and resonate with a wider audience.

Additionally, I emphasize the importance of global exposure for fashion professionals. Collaborating with international institutions, participating in exchange programs, and showcasing Indian design globally will enhance the industry's competitiveness and contribute to cross-cultural dialogue.

Furthermore, my vision includes initiatives to support entrepreneurship among students and artisans. This involves workshops, skill-sharing programs, and platforms empowering individuals to merge traditional crafts with modern design solutions, nurturing creativity and sustaining livelihoods.

In summary, my goal is to shape a fashion education landscape that produces professionals creatively adept, ethically conscious, globally competitive, and committed to preserving India's cultural heritage. These improvements aim to foster a sustainable, inclusive, and globally relevant fashion industry in India.

Aligning with the National Education Policy (NEP) of India, my vision incorporates key concepts, including a flexible curricular structure, credit transfer, skill integration, entrepreneurship promotion, and global exposure. These elements provide a dynamic and personalized educational experience, nurturing fashion professionals with diverse skills, global awareness, and an entrepreneurial spirit.

F2F: What advice would you offer to students and professionals who are interested in pursuing a career dedicated to promoting and preserving Indian handloom and handicraft traditions?

DSS:

To those aspiring to dedicate their careers to promoting and preserving Indian handloom and handicraft traditions, it’s crucial to recognise their cultural significance and embrace sustainable practices. Collaborate with local artisans, advocate for their work, and invest in skill empowerment programmes to ensure the transfer of traditional knowledge. Uphold ethical business practices, including fair wages, and organise cultural events to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for these age-old crafts.

F2F: Finally, can you share any recent success stories or notable achievements related to Indian handloom and handicrafts that NIFT Gandhinagar has been involved in?

DSS:

NIFT Gandhinagar received the prestigious 'Education Leadership Award' at the ET Ascent Business Leader of the Year ceremony. The institute's initiatives, 'Vasudhajan' and 'Nirayamaypanth,' showcased at the G-20 summit, aligned with PM Modi's 'Mission LiFE.' 'Vasudhajan' highlighted India's crafts and culture, symbolizing the five elements, while 'AyurVastra – निरामयपंथ' presented during the G20 Health ministerial meet emphasized sustainable, Ayurvedic-inspired fashion. The campus also secured top placement records among leading fashion institutes, acknowledged by India Today and The Week magazines.

Finally, can you share any recent success stories or notable achievements related to Indian handloom and handicrafts that NIFT Gandhinagar has been involved in?

Interviewer: Kiran Sahija
Published on: 17/11/2023
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