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Making of the fashion freak

With the fashion designing institutes in the city struggling to survive, the students are an anxious lot.

TILL RECENTLY, fashion designing was considered unappealing in conservative Thiruvananthapuram.

Most of the youngsters, who have enrolled on various diploma courses at the city's fashion institutes, have had a hard time convincing their parents that fashion designing is not all about designing haute couture as seen on the fashion channels.

Says Meher Naziruddin, a student of the Kuttukaran's School of Fashion, "When I first told my parents that I wished to pursue a career in fashion designing, they thought I had gone bonkers. It took me a lot of time to convince them that fashion was not about designing scandalous outfits but that it involved styling, pattern-making and designing."

Says Asha Jayakrishnan, an alumnus of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the Pearl Academy of Fashion: "Parents tend to think fashion designing is merely `tailoring'. Probably, it is because they are not aware of the course content. They do not have much of an idea about the lucrative career options available. Behind the glitz and glamour, there is a lot of hard work involved. Only those students who have it in them can carve a niche for themselves in the world of fashion." Asha teaches at the Kuttukaran School of Fashion Technology.

Of the fashion institutes in the city (Royal School of Fashion, Kuttukaran School of Fashion Technology, Vogue and Shrishti Institutes of Fashion), Vogue, closed down a few months ago; the reason cited: there were not enough students for the course.

The Royal School of Fashion, the first entrant into this field, has only two students in the fourth batch (2003) of its one-year diploma course in fashion designing. Run by Greeta Sydney, the institute is a franchisee of the Bangalore-based Royal School of Fashion. "This year, since the students are few in number, we have started a crafts course and a three-month long pattern-making course," says Nisha Reji, a staff member.

Nisha, a former student of this institute, is teaching fashion designing at the Government Women's College, Vazhuthacaud. This year, a one-year diploma has been started at the Continuing Education sub centre, Government Women's College. "The fee charged here is about Rs. 30,500. About 12 students have enrolled on the course," says one of the staff at the sub centre.

"People who teach at National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) are paid Rs. 25,000 on an average. How many such institutes in Kerala employ well-qualified staff and, more so, pay them well?" says Asha.

She points to the mood boards, swatches of fabrics and bundles of illustration assignments her students have done over the past few months. "The staff and students need to have a professional approach," she says. For the first time ever, the students here would be given a three-week training at Tirupur. "Hands-on experience at export centres is a must; it is only at such centres that students can pick up the techniques of working on a tight schedule," says Asha.

A. R. Lakshmishree, who has done a three-year diploma course in dressmaking and costume designing from the Kamala Nehru Polytechnic, Hyderabad, feels that things are beginning to look up. The institute, Srishti, run by Lakshmishree, offers a six-month diploma in fashion designing. The course fee is Rs. 10,000 and the subjects taught include illustration, photo analysis, fashion illustration and pattern making. "In the past one year, I've trained around 20 students. Some of them have set up their own boutiques," says Lakshmishree.

The fashion designing institutes in the city reportedly face a lot of problems: dingy classrooms, inadequate furniture, the absence of CAD software to learn computer-aided designing and the unavailability of well-qualified teachers. Restructuring the course content and providing adequate infrastructure to the students might well be the only way to save these institutes from becoming irrelevant, experts say


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