Not just aesthetics, fashion more meaningful now

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS
Tuesday, June 1, 2010

NEW DELHI - Design and fashion are being reinvented as potent tools of communication to intervene in social sectors. They are coming closer to the roots, unlike a few years ago when they went over the top to stand out as works of phenomenal aesthetics.

“Fashion, design and imaging should capture those glimpses of life that are full of authenticity. Designs must reflect the natural rhythm because nature has everything that we can manage. Whenever we try to recreate nature perforce in artificial environs, we create a disharmony of colours as our ideas clash,” ace photographer Raghu Rai told IANS here.

Rai recently released a volume titled, “The Plot Thickens: 29 Cases Under Trial” - an anthology of case studies of NIFT’s new fashion communication and avant garde design projects for the year 2009-10.

NIFT topper Poornima Sardana said the new philosophy of design is directly proportional to living. She has worked on her fashion communication design project to “find intervention and solution to sexual abuse among children through diverse forms of narratives”.

She hopes it will create awareness about the problem.

Narrative, a form that has flourished with the march of civilisation in multiple styles, is becoming a mainstay of fashion designing. “Be it the author, narrator, artist, designer and the audience, one can always find one’s role in the narrative,” Sardana said.

“The whole concept of fashion and design has changed even for the layman. People are now more inquisitive about what a design has to offer more than just mere aesthetics - in terms of sustainability, statement and global outlook,” Sardana told IANS.

“I have created narrative story-telling formats, including scripts for street theatre, graphic novels and three campaigns with visuals to highlight the plight of children who have been sexually abused, and recommend solutions,” she said.

The use of design in political campaigns reflects the trend.

For instance, Awaaz India Media provides election technology and tailor-made designer campaigns to political parties. It conceptualises and creates posters, banners, memorabilia and stationery to “make the desired impact”.

Designer Suneet Verma, known for his creative and inspirational designs, observed that “fashion and design per se should always reflect the times we live in.”

“A design, a concept or even fashion must take into account day-to-day life - its emotional, physical and comfort quotient, all that we find necessary to communicate,” Verma told IANS.

“Every student of fashion communication must have design as background. Clothes and design should probe the mood of society, social release, sexual revolution and all the factors that have a bearing on society.”

Fashion communication student Tania Jain’s project, “Emotion and Design: Understanding the Connect”, hinges on the philosophy that “communication needs to be effective”.

The advancement in technology has reduced attachment between the consumer and the product. With the increase in emotional insecurity among today’s consumer and availability of similar generic products, aesthetics remains the lone distinguishing trait, she said.

“In this context, the feelings of connect with the design is most important,” Jain said.

Donald A. Norman, author of books, “Design of Everyday Things” and “Emotional Designs-Why We Love or Hate Everyday Things”, says designs affect human beings in three ways.

“Users are influenced by visceral design that caters to the appearance of things, behavioural design, which pertains to the performance of a product in use and reflective design that relates to the emotional meaning that a certain product holds for the user.”

Designer Sumant Jaikishan describes designs “as a sense of perfection”.

“I feel that contemporary design symbolises the local context we live in. The fact that the quality of life is better out here than abroad is gradually creeping into our designs,” Jaikishan told IANS.

Culture-activist Jaya Jaitley, president of the Dastkari Haat Samiti, who links fashion and design to indigenous crafts, said “many areas of social commitments can be addressed through fashion and design”.

“Fashion and design are ways of communicating identity and cultural backgrounds. And designs must be linked to the wonderful skills we have at the grassroots,” she told IANS.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

Filed under: Fashion, Lifestyle

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