Fashion designing courses offered in Kashmir are making fashion a trend, while the Valley is seeing a confluence of talent and creativity shaping up.
The courses like these offered by the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) Srinagar are bringing aspiring fashion designers from all over the country together in the Valley.
The composite culture inside the classrooms not only helps these fashion designers know more about each other, it also helps them evolve as fashionistas.
What better place could there be for someone from Kerala to learn about the intricate designs on a Kani Shawl than Kashmir Valley, which has historically been a hub of artists and craftsmen. And who better person can someone in Kashmir have access to for knowing about Chikan Craft than a fellow aspiring fashion designer from Lucknow.
NIFT is not only an institute that produces future Sabyasachi Mukherjees, Rohit Bals, and Manish Malhotras, it is also a social harmony laboratory where the aspiring fashion designers learn pro-social behaviour, negotiation, social judgment and ways to avoid social conflict.
Manoj Sinha, a parent from Ahmedabad whose daughter was selected in the Masters programme in Fashion Management at NIFT says that studying in a cross-culture setting is good for the overall development of students.
“The students meet a diverse set of people here which is not the case while studying in a regional institute. The students here are better exposed to diverse cultures. They learn how to collaborate in a diverse setting, which is a learning in itself for life time,” Sinha told Greater Kashmir.
Most of those who spoke to Greater Kashmir said NIFT Srinagar was a choice rather than an option for their wards to pursue the course in fashion at the institute.
“We had many choices but we opted for NIFT Kashmir because we believe Kashmir is a safe place and people here are kind and loving,” Sinha said. “This is India in a small campus. You have the future of India here. Children will learn about the other places and their cultures by the time they finish their course here.”
For Austin, a parent from Kerala, whatever impression is given by media houses outside J&K about Kashmir is not true.
“I do not watch the news anymore. When my daughter was allotted NIFT Srinagar, I called my colleagues in Kashmir. I didn’t say no to NIFT Kashmir. This is the best campus in India,” said Austin, who has also worked as a journalist with one of the leading newspapers in the country. “We really feel proud that our children will pass out from NIFT Kashmir.”
NIFT has students from almost every state and union territory of the country, which has added the flavour of diversity to the campus.
This year NIFT Srinagar enrolled 130 new students for Bachelors and Masters courses of Fashion Management as the institute introduced two more courses from the current year.
In addition to the already existing Bachelors courses —Fashion Designing and Fashion Communication, the institute has introduced Bachelors in Lifestyle Accessories and Masters in Fashion Management from the current session.
There has been a good response from the students as the admission has increased almost three times compared to the previous years.
Recently, the management of NIFT Srinagar held a two-day orientation programme for the fresher’s to acclimatise them with the campus, courses, and to introduce students to each other.
“I thank you and your parents for reposing faith in us. During your course, you should not keep your stay confined to the NIFT premises but explore the rich arts and crafts of Kashmir,” Director NIFT Srinagar, Dr Javid Wani told students.
Besides parents, the students also shared their views on choosing NIFT Srinagar and the composite culture the campus offers.
“Being at NIFT Srinagar, we will not only pursue our course but it will be a golden opportunity to know and understand the diverse cultures in India. It is like having a family of diverse culture under one roof,” said Anukriti Singh, a student from Uttar Pradesh (UP) who is pursuing Bachelors in Lifestyle Accessories Designing.
Another student from Kerala while sharing her experience at NIFT Srinagar said she was surprised to see kindness and generosity of people here.
“I had heard that Kashmir is a heaven, but after coming here I saw it myself that it is heaven and people here are so helpful. I am more excited that I will mingle with the students from diverse cultures, which is a blessing,” she said.
The students said being at NIFT was a unique experience wherein they besides exploring Kashmir’s rich arts and crafts would understand and experience different characters and their culture.
“It is going to be a good experience and will hopefully prove helpful in every sense,” she said.
This year NIFT has students from UP, Kerala, Mumbai, Muzaffarabad and several other places across the country.
“The present group of students is the largest group and is very rich and unique from the diversity viewpoint. It is a matter of honour for us to have students from all states here,” Deputy Commissioner Budgam Shahbaz Mirza said during his interaction with the students.
The main attraction of the two-day orientation programme was the interaction between the NIFT management and the parents who had accompanied their wards to the institute.”Opting for NIFT Srinagar was really a tough decision given the impression created by the national media. But after coming here personally, I believe that my kid has made the right decision,” a parent said.
To instill confidence among the parents, the Director NIFT Srinagar during his interaction with them said the management values the decision of the parents of choosing NIFT Srinagar to pursue the course.“I assure you that we will do our best to make you feel that your decision to opt for NIFT Srinagar was right,” he said.
The interaction ended on a positive note after a parent stood up and spoke on behalf of the NIFT management.”Being a parent I want to speak on behalf of the NIFT. You people (parents) have taken the right decision for choosing NIFT Srinagar. The management will not disappoint you at any point of time,” the parent said.
His encouraging remarks about NIFT Srinagar hinted at the trust, hope, and expectations of the parents.
While the aspiring fashion designers will learn the skills of the trade at the institute, Kashmir will provide them an opportunity to understand the intricacies of rich artisanship and craftsmanship on display in a Kashmiri carpet, a Kashmiri Pashmina shawl, walnut wood works, paper mache crafts, Crewel embroidery, Tilla works, Kashmiri copperware and silverware. And they can do this along with enjoying the many delicacies of a Kashmiri Wazwan on their plate.