For those who can form an instant connect with textures and nurture a penchant for dabbling in colours, a career in fashion offers a lot of promise.

People who pursue a career in fashion are looked upon with awe. Indeed, creating a look, and sending out a powerful message through patterns, wool, threads and colours is not something everyone can do.

However, for those who can interpret hues, form an instant connect with textures, and dabble in colours, fashion is rapidly emerging as one of the most sought-after career options.

Divyaa Ramanujam, a final-year student who is currently pursuing her bachelor’s in Fashion Design from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Chennai concurs. “Try as I might, I could never find it in me to develop any interest in maths, physics, or law. Fashion, on the other hand, always interested me. Colours and fabrics mesmerised me. Pursuing a course in NIFT has been a great experience,” she adds excitedly.

There was a time when a career in fashion evoked the ire of parents. However, there has been a drastic change in this attitude over the last decade. Increasing awareness among students about what the fashion industry has in store for them, and their ability to convince their parents to permit them to pursue their passion has resulted in greater demand for careers in the industry.

Mridul Jacob, Design Specialist at Wills Lifestyle in Gurgaon agrees. “Earlier, parents were determined to ensure that their children pursued medicine or engineering, and the kids too would give in without resistance. Now, students are able to take a firm stand on what they want,” he says.

Practical experience or theoretical knowledge?

While creativity is the name of the game, fashion cannot thrive solely on creative freedom. The courses offered by various fashion institutes like NIFT, Pearl Academy of Fashion, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, International Institute of Fashion Design, Chandigarh, and others, play an instrumental role in streamlining the talent of aspirants.

“A combination of theoretical knowledge and practical skills are a must,” opines S. Ramalingam, Director, Pearl Academy of Fashion, in Chennai. “While we do have exams that test the theoretical knowledge of students, we focus more on projects. Exams restrict creative freedom as people tend to focus on rote-learning. Here, at Pearl Academy, we have project-based assessments where students are asked to maintain a ‘learning journal’ where they keep track of their projects. In fashion, learning-by-doing is the best way to gain more experience.”

On the other hand, Sunita Shankar, a Delhi-based fashion designer who made her foray into fashion in 1994 explains how formal education in fashion is important in order to gain creative expertise.

“Formal education makes you yearn for more; it gets you thinking. It helps you to channelise the mind, explore and think in a certain way and arouses the curiosity that a person needs, in order to succeed. Education and practical experience are interdependent, and an aspiring student of fashion cannot be successful without both.”

However, fashion designer Rehane Yavar Dhala feels that while a basic degree in fashion is important, it need not necessarily guarantee that an individual has the skills to make it big in the field.

“Going abroad and pursuing higher education in fashion may give students the degree, but this does not mean that they are all talented,” she explains.

“As far as fashion-based education is concerned, colleges have a mix of students. Some of them are good, some are average, and many others are just not employable. Is it fair to unleash such people in the industry merely because they have a degree? The sooner people get done with studying and start working, the closer they are to carving a niche for themselves,” says Rehane firmly.

Means of empowerment

“When one pursues engineering or architecture, one has to be employed in a company.

However, this is not the case when it comes to a career in fashion,” says Prof. Dr Anitha Manohar, Director of NIFT, Chennai.

“Designers can not only bring out their own labels, but also can design for other labels. Such a career clearly ensures independence,” she adds. Sunita Shankar agrees.

“I launched my label Sunita in 1995, and since then, there has been no looking back. Not only has a career in fashion empowered me, but now, I have adopted a village in Kutch and I’m able to help more people empower themselves.”

A designer’s sheer ability to weave reams of magic from seemingly insignificant pieces of cloth, can win them international acclaim.