The National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) has been spreading its wings the last few years, touching ordinary lives in unexpected ways. It’s about fashion with a human face, says director Anitha Manohar. “An attempt to break away from the myth that NIFT is only about fashionable clothes and runways.” A result of this outreach is the huge demand for its expertise in all spheres of society. Here are a few of the interesting things on at NIFT
Talent and textures
In a first, Nippon Paint collaborated with NIFT to create inventive wall textures for its ‘Decorative wall’ segment. In a three-phase contest, 75 participants from across design departments drew patterns on a 5’x5’ canvas using Nippon’s products and readily available tools. Chosen students visited the Sriperumbudur factory to recreate those patterns on a 10×10-foot wall in 90 minutes. The winning entries were launched as decorative wall textures under the label Momento. Says Manohar: “The success of our students symbolises what NIFT stands for — design and innovation can be displayed in all forms; be it clothes or walls.”
For some time now, NIFT students have been designing functional clothes for people with disabilities. A recent outreach programme took teachers M Vasantha, Kaustav SenGupta, B Karthikeyan and Sridhar Amanchy, alumnus Vijayalakshmi and students to Vidya Sagar. A series of visits helped the team understand the requirements, and structure the workshop to accommodate the participants’ inability to perceive/visualise objects beyond outlines and imagine colours. The students were shown pictures of life in Chennai and asked to draw versions in black-and-white. Later, textile design students turned the artwork into motifs and embellishments for home furnishings, umbrellas, laptop cases and sling bags. NIFT students also design clothes and accessories for the LGBTQ community. That has since extended to gender-neutral movie styling, costume designing and unisex clothes. Inclusiveness has also meant absorbing students with autism, dyslexia and also slow-learners.
Art on the wall
Impressed with the wall painting done by a faculty member at Higginbothams at Chennai Central station, Southern Railways approached NIFT to paint murals on a 48-ft-long wall along platform 12 and the adjoining reservation building, to give the historic station a more inviting look. A team of first-year students took up the task, guided by faculty members VR Karthikeyarayan and Thomas Samuel. The city and the State’s popular visual associations came alive in colourful murals that featured trains, musical instruments, peacocks, filter coffee, coconut water, Bharatanatyam dancers, autorickshaws, the Valluvar Kottam, Napier Bridge and the Kanjeevaram sari. “Through the structure, colours, and detailing, our students have transformed the wall from mere concrete to a piece of art, a visual treat to passers-by,” says Sridhar Amanchy, assistant professor. “We’ll soon do something similar at the Indira Nagar and Kasturba Nagar stations.”
Sustainable fashion took a leap when ace photographer Santhosh Raj planned a calendar shoot with models dressed in costumes made from recycled material, and approached NIFT Chennai. The calendar features outfits hand-crafted by the knitwear design batch of 2011-15. The stole Prime Minister Narendra Modi wore in Chennai on National Handloom Day was designed by NIFT students, says Amanchy. “This was made of non-cotton natural fibre. We also converted lungis into jump-suits, jackets, trousers and trenchcoats. The Styling Calendar conceptualised as part of Daan Utsav saw the Ministry of Textiles placing orders for the calendars to be distributed in Parliament.” “Fashion incorporates a spectrum of products,” says SenGupta, associate professor, department of accessory design. “Your hairstyle, speech, accessories, desk in the office — all add to the element of fashion.” So, NIFT students work on product design — think soft toys, home decor, personal accessories, automobile interior (colour and texture) and designing for companies such as Hyundai. They also work with the Government and train craftsmen.
“Why not give disadvantaged kids a chance to tour a fashion school and open their mind to the possibility of a career in fashion?” This was the thought behind bringing a bus-load of kids from the slums at Kannagi Nagar to the NIFT campus for a day of fun. Twenty-one kids aged between nine and 15 and two women toured the campus for a day of surprises put together by the ESSE-Club-SDAC-NIFT and InkLink Charitable Trust. The students taught them stencilmaking,card-making, thumb impressions, diya-painting, art and crafts, and creating 3D models, and took them to the labs for a glimpse of how the institute worked. “They amazed us with questions about products and materials,” say the students.