Design is a form of creative thinking; thinking about problems and how to best solve them, thinking about opportunities and how to shape them and thinking about style and idiom, and how to afford a people a meaningful form of expression.
While the definition makes clear the office of design and what its functional aspects are, it gives fashion designers only a vague sense of ‘what may be considered a problem’, ‘what may be considered an opportunity’ and ‘what may be considered meaningful’. And it is this vague sense of the most essential concepts that poses as a challenge for fashion design education which has traditionally been restricted to creating beautifully styled apparel.
The Fashion Design program at ISDI works collaboratively with one of the world’s highest ranked design schools- The New School at Parsons. This collaboration has exposed us to the global arena of fashion design and the emerging industries allied to it. Because of this, we now find ourselves confronted by many existential questions. These are: What are we supposed to do to respond to the new, expanded scope of fashion design? How do we gain a clear understanding of the asymmetries in culture when the currents of globalization are rushing to equalize all differentiators? What exactly is meant by a shared culture and what are the similarities and differences it engenders? Are the expectations, hopes and aspirations of a people in a shared culture the same? Also, does the same approach work for all? Who will define the problems of Fashion Design in a globalized, highly interconnected world? How do we ensure that we are leveraging opportunities to create fashion that is truly meaningful to the individual and has the power to impact the world in and through positive social advancement?
It’s clearly perceptible to us that although we’re backed by clear and noble intentions, what we face are complex and confusing undercurrents of history, politics, sociology and power- all seeping through boundaries and running through the veins of a globalized world. It’s unclear who we are. It’s unclear who we wish to be. It’s unclear what we want. The past, present and future have all collapsed into the NOW. This reminds me of a couplet from a Jagjit Singh ghazal that looks back to a simpler time: “Woh bhi kya din the, jab har wahem haqeeqat hota tha, ab haqeeqat nazar aaye toh use kya samjhoon?”
With technology, the frontiers of what constitutes reality have been pushed. We now have three forms of reality- tangible, virtual and augmented. Social media with its exponential power, is an unprecedented sociological phenomenon that’s changing the way we perceive, think and feel. The desire for commodities has been replaced by the desire for new experiences. Value-consciousness, is slowly, but surely replacing price-consciousness. In such a changed world, a design education can no longer be about fostering the stereotypical notions of newness. It’s impertinent for a present-day designer to simply go about making ‘different’ things- it does little apart from amuse a world that is already inundated with amusements. The designer of today needs the gumption to ask tough questions and have the rigour to pursue the quest for more meaningful and appropriate responses.
One thing is clear that the systems of industrialization that are designed to produce in excess, to profit from economies of scale, are no longer suitable to meet the demands for more customization and less waste. In a strange paradox, globalization, while showing us the big picture, is at the same time, making us acutely conscious of ourselves and the communities we work with and the people we impact. We’re becoming increasingly aware of the power of micro changes that begin in the smallest measure, at the grassroots level.
The objectives of design have changed. We no longer want new things, we want ‘better’ things. We no longer just want new styles, we want better clothes and accessories. The desire for ‘smartness’ or ‘apt-ness’ has replaced the desire for ‘newness’. In this new world, we’re trying our best to put in place an order, an intelligence by which we’re able to identify the challenges facing us. At the same time, our students must simultaneously develop the skills to effectively meet those challenges. We understand that the new world requires adroitness, alertness and the forbearance to work with uncertainty and ambiguity. And this is looking at only half of what is needed!
‘Facing the world’ and ‘building the world’ are the two fundamental abilities the designers of today need. The genius of fashion designers has always been in their ability to perceive the spirit of the times they have lived in and to then be the alembic through which the zeitgeist can be made perceptible to all. The Fashion Design program is designed to make students observant, perceptive, creative, technically sound and reflective in their work. The pursuit of AUTHENTICITY is our vision and mission. In a world that is spinning out of control, we need designers who must be more than just spin doctors; they must be astute agents of change. They must meet the world with a thinking heart and a feeling mind.