I think I’ve established that I moved to Bombay in 2005 to pursue a degree in design. Now, the first thing that pops in anyone’s mind when one uses the word ‘designer’ is fashion. I studied at one of the most prestigious design colleges in the country and though it is called National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), I am *sadly* not a qualified ‘fashion designer’. I studied Communication Design and I can’t begin to tell you what an epic disappointment that was for most of my friends and relatives.
One of the biggest challenges I faced in my 4 years at NIFT was explaining to people what I was studying. As soon as NIFT was mentioned, it was naturally assumed that I go to college with guys who love pink too much and Manish Malhotra is THE person to look up to. After this notion was well set in their mind the next thing they’d throw at me was, “Pleeeease design my trousseau yaar! It’ll be so awesome. You know I want a saree like the one Katrina wore in that song where she dances about..” Usually, I would switch off by the time ‘trousseau’ was uttered. But after over a year of struggling to tell folks what Communication Design was all about, I gave up. So I’d (defeatedly) be like “Yes, yes. I’m studying fashion design and shaadi ke kapde toh I’ll only make”.
Four years is a LONG time. And of the 100 people who asked, only 15 knew what I REALLY was pursuing. In the fifth semester of the degree, we had to take up a summer internship in the field that interests us. It lasted about 2 months and I was interning with a magazine working as a stylist and writer. Since the weather was quite hot and humid, I’d aimed to dress in smart casuals. Snug jeans with a cheery blouse and kitten heels was my pick and I blew my hair dry enough to feel like I’m part of a fashion magazine. By the time I reached work after switching two trains and a very long auto-rickshaw ride, I looked harrowed.
I quickly fixed myself in the rather shaky auto and reached work to find everyone staring at me. The editor, she smirked a bit while she introduced me to the team. This was my ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ moment. Except, in reverse. Everyone was dressed super casually. You must understand three things here. First, this was my first job ever. Second, I was going to work as a stylist and fashion writer. And third, I’m a north Indian. We dress up to go to bed and fix our hair before brushing our teeth. Needless to say, I adapted the Bombay way of dressing to work soon enough.
I was assisting 2 stylists during this internship and for each shoot, we’d go to about 30 odd stores to ‘borrow’ clothes or accessories from some really fancy stores. A lot of these stores are in lush hotels since they are extremely expensive, high-end brands or designer wear. It was mucky all around and we did traverse across the city, so the best we could really dress up in were frayed, folded up jeans with a tee and the quintessential rubber slippers like every other person in Bombay rather than someone who’s stepped off the ramp.
Now I’d like you to picture this; 3 young adults would enter the Taj in their less than modest clothes. The security guards gave us dirts and not a single soul would acknowledge us. We’d hurry up and get the required things from the likes of Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Moschino etc. By the time we’d leave the hotel, the same hotel staff who treated us like grime suddenly held doors for us, flashed their pearly whites for no reason and helped us load all our shopping bags in the car. The staff assumed that we were spoilt brats who just spent lakhs buying expensive things that we won’t even appreciate. Gah! Such is the bane of being rich.
The last semester also involved a fully blown industry affiliated internship. This was more serious than the summer bit and again, I was working with a lifestyle magazine but was solely doing fashion styling. So it was the same routine as the summer internship multiplied by 10. (luckily this was through January to June so yay! no rain!) Anyway, twice every week, I’d come home with about 30 *sourced* shopping bags in hand. The entire lift would be occupied with bags and there would hardly be space for me to stand inside, let alone anyone else. Each time I’d get home and tread to the lift, I’d always bump into this cheeky neighbour aunty who would mutter things like “Phir aagayi shopping karke” or “Paise ki value nahi hai”. At the end of a long day, I didn’t have it in me to tell her otherwise. So I’d play along and be the ruthless shopaholic.
In India, fashion and films go hand-in-hand so Bombay is THE place to be if you want an education and career in design. In fact, most of the people who studied with me came from all over India. There are several design colleges which offer *legit* degrees and many more which offer quick diplomas. The ones that pop in my head are NIFT, Raffles, Sophias, BD Somani, Raheja, Wigan & Leigh and JD Institute. The forms for these colleges usually start coming out from November onward and entrance exams start as early as January. All national newspapers post announcements so read the daily print.
Prep for the entrance exams is quite simple. The exam consists of a creative exam and one which is written. The written exam consists of basic maths and science questions. You’ll probably have to polish up the algebra but from there on it’s easy-peasy. Results come out within 3 months and there’s no limit to how many times you can attempt to get into these colleges so don’t lose heart if you don’t get in the first time. Also, apply at several colleges so you’re bound to get into one or another.
I can’t keep track of the number of parents and their children who have called me and taken guidance for college. I could actually start a consultancy and make some easy bucks off it but the truth is, not many will know what ‘aaj kal ke youngsters’ really do. We are a very misunderstood generation. So fear not! Study the unconventional, work for the weirdo and retire having tried your best. And yes, wedding ke kapde toh I will only design.
Have fashion or design courses related questions? Go on, shoot them at Mehak, trust us she doesn’t scream!
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