Fashion and culture are intertwined, says Rajesh Shah, chairman, NIFT

Rajesh Shah, chairman, Board of Governors, NIFT speaks about the upcoming international conference titled ‘Rediscovering Culture: Transforming Fashion’, re-establishing fashion to its roots, and his vision for NIFT.

Fashion comes and goes. When something new comes down the ramp, it is often greeted with glee. When actors wear trend-setting attire, it becomes a fashion phenomenon. But one key feature (of fashion) that Rajesh Shah, chairman, Board of Governors (BOG), National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) observes is: “Fashion and culture are intrinsically intertwined.”

An international conference, Rediscovering Culture: Transforming Fashion, being organised by National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), from January 31 to February 2 at India Habitat Centre, is set to explore this analogy and initiate a conversation on fashion, culture, textiles, crafts and sustainability.

Leading global voices who will be heard include Dr Kate Fletcher (research professor, Centre For Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion), Sunil Sethi (president, Fashion Design Council of India), David Abraham (fashion designer), Radha Chadha (writer and luxury brand expert), among others. A curtain-raiser to the conference was held recently and was attended by Jaya Jaitly (social activist), Sharmila Dua (professor), Philine Kriependorf (researcher), among others.

“As the world of fashion is going through rapid changes, it’s imperative that [through this event] we demonstrate this heritage and strength,” says Shah. He adds, “The rootedness of Indian fashion is not lost as textiles are being rediscovered and forgotten weaves are finding their way back into the mainstream. And this rootedness is where real fashion begins. The fashion and apparel industry is the second largest employer after agriculture.”

As a prelude to the conference, NIFT hosted a curtain-raiser at CMYK bookstore in Delhi on January 17, 2018, that saw Director General — NIFT Sarada Muraleedharan with Jaya Jaitly, in conversation on subjects such as sustainability, co-creation, tech-novation and craft identities.

Shah feels wonderful that the conscious shift in fashion choices of people who are now increasingly becoming inclined towards supporting sustainable fashion. “But the challenge is to make it widespread, and affordable,” he notes. The event will be flagged off at Crafts Museum, Pragati Maidan on January 31 with a fashion show by alumni of NIFT such as Rajesh Pratap Singh, Manish Arora, Suket Dhir, Tanira Sethi among others. Besides the conference, Shah also plans to organise craft tours, craft demonstrations, and cultural performances to create an “international experience” for global participants.

This event is also another step in making the 30-year-old institute [NIFT] the largest repository of knowledge for fashion and textiles in India. “I assure that with the [help of] Minister of Textiles Smriti Z Irani, the BOG, director general and dean of NIFT, and the faculty, [we] NIFT [can remarkably] contribute to the progress of the fashion and apparel industry,” says Shah, who is a Harvard University alumnus. After assuming the chairman’s office, he has been focussing on introducing cutting-edge researchers and student exchange [programs]. “PM Modi has been the biggest motivator. He believes in the promotion of Indian arts and crafts, the need to learn in a modern environment, and the importance of a technically sound background,” says Shah.