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Tied to trends

education Updated: May 29, 2009 13:04 IST
Pranab Ghosh

Alpana,29 & Neeraj,29
Job: Fashion designing

Alpana and Neeraj. The up-and-coming designer duo, a husband-and-wife combine. They earned Rs 12,000 each as their first month’s salary. Alpana joined JJ Valaya and Neeraj an export house, Span India, after passing out from NIFT in the year 2000. Today, they have their own label, Azara, which was launched at their debut show in 2008.

Alpana has been interested in design ever since she was a kid. “I would love to dress up my Barbies and design clothes for them. I would spend my free time sketching and painting dresses and shoes,” Alpana fondly remembers. As for Neeraj, fashion happened to him “at the spur of the moment; after finishing my school I just felt that I was meant to be there.” Both of them are first-generation designers, with Alpana coming from a business family and Neeraj from a bureaucrat’s.

The Indian fashion industry today is at its promising best, feel the two. “We think that the Indian fashion industry is at a very exciting point where the domestic markets are open to experimentation and new ideas as never before and the world is looking up to Indian designers as creators rather than just fabricators of Western design.”

The designers, who have dressed up the likes of Elizabeth Hurley, early in their career, find their customers in “A wide variety of people, mostly the younger lot in the age group of 18 to 35, in India and abroad. A young college girl or a global celebrity,” they say.
They are upbeat about the scope of fashion designing in the country. “Fashion has moved on from being a frivolous profession for a select few to a serious revenue-generating source for the country…Today, Indians are more aware of fitness, beauty and fashion, and with the buying power shifting to younger hands as well as innumerable festivals and weddings in India, the scope of this industry is quite huge.”

Who should take up fashion as a subject to study? Those with “love for design and a desire to create,” they say, and go on to add, “These instincts will make an aspiring designer’s journey so much more fulfilling and satisfying. An institute can only provide technical know how but it is one’s own individual sense of design that will set a designer apart from the others.”

The duo feels that to become a success in the field, formal training is a must. “In order to achieve true success it is important to have a strong technical base and hands down practical training, which only an institute can provide. Also, to get good jobs you need a degree/diploma from a reputed institute.”

However glamorous the fashion industry might look it is not free of problems and offers its very own challenges. “There are infrastructural problems, financial hurdles, poor business ethics, plagiarism, overcrowding of designers, competition from countries like China and Thailand that cater to the same market as ours but have better infrastructure and offer better prices. Moreover, there is lack of government interest and funds are a major reason why many designers suffer setbacks,” point out Alpana and Neeraj, our young achievers.

Career Ladder

You begin as a trainee where you get your first glimpse of the fashion world. At this stage one generally learns under a designer in a company

Pay: Pocket money
One can then go on to become a designer/merchandiser in an export house or an assistant with a designer or even a junior stylist, patternmaker depending on one’s interest
Pay: Around Rs 20000 per month
Thereafter depending on your performance you may become a creative director of a leading brand. You may also freelance
Pay: Rs 1,00,000 plus per month

Pluses and Minuses:
Fashion is a dynamic and creative profession, in which you get to interact and work with glamorous personalities.
It is a highly lucrative profession. You live the high life, travel abroad for ramp shows or work with international fashion houses and have a good time
Your time is not your own when you're styling for big stars and films, so there is no concept of a social life or a 'Sunday'
It's a high-stress job because of unforseen demands and deadlines. Working with tailors and embroiderers is challenging. You have to be able to communicate your idea