July 13, 2024

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Crafting Fashion Trends

The Scope of Indian Fashion Education: Exploring an Alternative Model

10 min read

India’s textile and fashion sector is currently valued at over $100 billion. A recent report suggests that the Indian apparel market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.24 per cent from 2024 to 2027, potentially generating revenue of approximately $73 per person in 2024 (Statista, 2023). Significant growth is expected in the womenswear segment and the non-luxury fashion goods sectors in the coming years. Fashion education in India, led primarily by the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), which boasts over 38,000 alumni, along with the National Institute of Design (NID) and a considerable number of private institutions, has significantly contributed to this upward trend.

Looking ahead, the fashion industry holds substantial potential to play a pivotal role in developing a $5 trillion Indian economy. More importantly, it can help make the economy socially inclusive and environment friendly. Under the guidance of NIFT, which operates 18 campuses, in conjunction with NID and other public and private entities, fashion education in India has a vast scope to support both the fashion industry and the nation at large.

The Scope of Fashion Educational Institutions

Currently, NIFT boasts 18 campuses across India, with over 600 faculty members and approximately 13,000 students. Alongside NIFT, there are several National Institutes of Design (NIDs), various government institutes, and numerous private entities. These institutions play a crucial role in addressing challenges within the Indian fashion industry, including circularity, transparency, efficiency, adaptation to new technologies, environmental sustainability, business strategy, and inclusive growth. Their research, consulting, and project work aim to provide practical, implementable solutions that help the industry achieve global competitiveness while remaining sensitive to local contexts.

Delivering Sustainable Growth and Global Competitiveness

To offer thought leadership within the industry, these institutions must attract and retain academic and research talent by providing proper research infrastructure, sufficient academic freedom, and promising career prospects. In pursuit of this ambitious vision, attracting high-quality faculty and students is paramount. Offering substantial scholarships can enable talented students, who might otherwise be unable to afford higher tuition fees, to access education in these fields. The relatively lower fee structures of government institutions could also encourage students from middle and lower-middle-class backgrounds to pursue research-oriented, industry-focused education in fashion and design under expert faculty guidance. In India, institutions like the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) and the National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER) have successfully integrated students into their research projects, thereby enhancing the institutions’ intellectual capital. Similar approaches in fashion education can foster an environment of innovation and inclusivity, contributing to the sustainable growth and global competitiveness of the Indian fashion industry.

Creating Value for the Informal Sector of the Fashion Value Chain

India has experienced consistent economic growth over the last two decades, yet 90 per cent of its workforce remains informally employed, contributing to 50 per cent of the country’s GDP. This widespread informality is a major factor behind income inequality. The craft sector, encompassing handloom and handicraft, is a crucial component of India’s informal economy. Significant efforts are required to enhance the income of these workers, integrate them into the global fashion value chain, and formalise their employment to ensure social security. In an era that emphasises fair trade, making strides to reduce income inequality within the fashion supply chain is essential for fostering a socially inclusive industry.

Fashion and design institutes often play a role in uplifting the craft sector, whereas technology and management schools typically find little scope for such involvement. Fashion and design schools have a unique opportunity and competitive advantage in securing government or corporate social responsibility (CSR) grants. NIFT, with campuses spread across 17 states, has been actively involved in craft cluster projects in most of the Indian states for over 25 years. Through long-term, sustained efforts, NIFT aims to elevate these clusters onto the global fashion stage with support from state and central governments, large corporations, entrepreneurs, Self-Help Groups (SHGs), cooperatives, and artisan communities, leveraging the strengths of these stakeholders. Other fashion and design schools are encouraged to pursue similar initiatives, tailored to their respective scales.

The Apparel Training & Design Centre (ATDC), an agency under the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India, also plays a vital role in this ecosystem. Since its inception in 2010, ATDC has launched approximately 85 centres nationwide, training over 313,500 candidates through its vocational training programmes under the Integrated Skill Development Scheme (ISDS). Offering a range of diploma and certificate programmes, ATDC strives to produce industry-ready professionals at affordable costs, further supporting the growth and formalisation of India’s informal fashion sector.

Uniqueness of the Current Fashion Education Model

The current model of fashion education, emphasising research and project-based growth, aims to address two critical needs within the Indian fashion industry: sustainable, environment-friendly growth with global competitiveness, and economic equality through the formalisation and value enhancement in the informal segments of the fashion value chain. The past decades saw exponential growth in business and engineering schools focusing primarily on teaching, but this model often failed to significantly benefit the industry, resulting in many unemployable management and engineering graduates. Learning from these shortcomings, it is crucial to evolve fashion education from a teaching-focused model to one that integrates teaching, research, and project-based learning.

Fashion education occupies a niche in the education sector, driving the retail and e-commerce segments of the fashion industry. Acknowledging that change is the only constant in fashion, courses at prestigious institutions like NIFT, NID, and others in India are designed to address this dynamic nature.

NIFT, for example, offers management programmes alongside design courses, providing comprehensive education that tackles various aspects of the fashion business. This approach opens up more opportunities for growth. With India’s retail industry rapidly expanding and new entrepreneurs entering the market daily, these courses cater to the demand for managerial expertise in fashion development. Topics covered include fashion designing, merchandising, store and stock management, visual merchandising, category management, understanding fashion trends, developing optimal buy-plans, supply chain management, strategic brand management, e-commerce, customer experience management, production, exports, fashion entrepreneurship, and global fashion business.

Furthermore, fashion technology courses at NIFT encourage practical learning through state-of-the-art facilities, allowing students to develop products using the latest machinery and software. This hands-on experience, coupled with courses in UI/UX, Big Data Analysis, Artificial Intelligence, Customer Experience Management (CXM), Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, omnichannel fashion business, and luxury production and management, positions students to meet the evolving demands of the industry. Initiatives like the INDIAsize project and VisioNxt – Trend Insights and Forecasting Lab highlight NIFT’s commitment to innovation and research, enhancing its reputation and the success of its graduates.

NID also offers a diverse range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in areas such as Communication Design, Industrial Design, Textile, Apparel, Lifestyle, and Accessory Design. Beyond product design, NID focuses on niche areas like Film and Video Communication, Animation Films, Automobiles, New Media, Interaction Design, and Digital Game Design. The introduction of doctoral study programmes encourages research in design, further advancing the educational landscape.

This evolved approach to fashion education, blending traditional knowledge with cutting-edge research and practical application, sets a new standard for preparing industry-ready professionals, thereby shaping the future of the Indian fashion industry.

Sources of Funding for the Proposed Fashion Education Model

The proposed model of fashion education, which emphasises long-term value creation for both the industry and the nation, requires substantial financial support. Historical trends in institution building demonstrate that successful educational institutions have flourished globally with significant backing from corporations. Additionally, governments in industrialised nations such as China, Germany, and South Korea allocate a considerable portion of their GDP to higher education, thereby strengthening their workforce.

India, as the world’s fifth-largest economy, bolstered by a stable government and large corporations, is in a strong position to adopt this progressive model of fashion education. This model aims to harness the strengths of the Indian fashion industry, its talented youth, and artisan communities. However, to deliver superior value to all stakeholders, it is crucial to align this educational model with existing government schemes related to the textile sector, its overarching vision, and address the sector’s growth challenges.

Let us explore the strengths of the Indian textile sector and the current government schemes in the textile sector. This alignment not only ensures a synergistic approach to developing the fashion education model but also opens avenues for funding by demonstrating its potential to contribute to the sector’s strategic objectives. By integrating the proposed model with the government’s vision and addressing the industry’s bottlenecks, we can create a robust framework for sustainable growth and innovation in the Indian fashion education sector.

Current Government Schemes for the Textile Sector and Opportunities for Fashion Education

India, being the third-largest exporter of textiles and apparel globally and the second-largest producer of man-made fibres after China, holds a pivotal position in the textile industry. In 2021-22, textiles, apparel, including handicrafts, accounted for 10.5 per cent of India’s total exports, covering about 4.6 per cent of the global market value. This sector is vital for employment generation, providing direct and indirect jobs to millions of rural youth, women, and transgender individuals. It aligns well with the government’s initiatives like Make in India, Skill India, Women Empowerment, and Rural Youth Empowerment. The Ministry of Textiles reports promising growth in exports across various categories, including apparel (accounting for approximately 36 per cent of the total textile-apparel exports), yarns (18 per cent), made-ups (15 per cent), fabrics (13 per cent), fibre (9 per cent), handicrafts (5 per cent), and carpets (4 per cent).

To boost exports, the government has implemented significant measures:

  • The Rebate of State and Central Taxes and Levies (RoSCTL) scheme, effective from March 2019 for apparel/ garments and made-ups exports, extended until March 31, 2026.

  • The Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) scheme by the Department of Commerce supports the competitive advantage of exported textile products in international markets, enhancing employment opportunities in export-oriented manufacturing industries.

  • The Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for Textiles aims to boost exports and capabilities in the MMF segment and technical textiles, with a financial outlay of ₹10,683 crore over five years to achieve competitive scale.

India hosts eleven Export Promotion Councils (EPCs) representing various textile and apparel value chain segments. These councils work closely with the Ministry of Textiles and other ministries to promote export growth through participation in national and international fairs and exhibitions.

India leads in global cotton acreage, making it one of the largest producers, consumers, and exporters of cotton. The cotton industry supports the livelihood of millions of farmers and people engaged in processing and trade. To aid the cotton industry, the Government of India has announced a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for cotton.

The jute industry, particularly strong in West Bengal, provides employment to millions. The Jute-IACRE programme aims to increase jute farmers’ income through certified seeds and better practices. India, also the second-largest silk producer and the largest consumer, supports a significant number of people through sericulture. With a focus on man-made textiles alongside cotton, the government aims to increase the global MMF share.

Several government schemes support training, research, and development to sustain these labour-intensive industries. The SAMARTH scheme, for capacity building in the textile sector, offers demand-driven and placement-oriented skilling programmes. Infrastructure development schemes like PM-MITRA and Textile Cluster Development Scheme (TCDS) aim to strengthen textile industries and clusters through modern technologies and sustainable practices.

Fashion and textile institutes across India can play a crucial role in assessing the efficiency of these schemes scientifically, should the proposed education model be implemented. This integration would not only enhance the sector’s growth but also create a symbiotic relationship between educational institutions and the industry, fostering innovation and sustainability.

The Present Ambitions of the Textile Ministry for Export Growth

The Ministry of Textiles has ambitiously set a target to reach $100 billion in textile exports by 2030, aiming to increase the current export figures by approximately 2.5 to 3 times. Minister of Textiles Piyush Goyal has highlighted the government’s vision for partnerships and international collaborations to globalise India’s textiles industry. Insights from expert interviews have identified both challenges and opportunities to achieve this significant target.

Opportunities and Bottlenecks in Export Growth of Indian Textiles

A senior fashion industry consultant pointed out that India trails in producing and exporting synthetic and man-made fibre fabrics, a sector where China leads significantly. To compete with the production speeds and rates of countries like China and Vietnam, India’s textile and apparel industry must scale up its operations. Although spinning and weaving occur on a substantial scale, the processing stage remains largely unorganised and fragmented, affecting logistics and the potential for excellence in fabric finishes.

Timely delivery is a critical performance indicator for the Indian apparel industry’s status as a leading exporter, requiring improvements in service delivery. Additionally, while the government has introduced various policies and schemes over the past 15 years, effective monitoring and systematic implementation are needed to enhance production and export capabilities.

Sumita Ghosh, founder of Ranga Sutra, a ₹50-crore Indian craft business, emphasised the importance of product development for exports, including size, dimensions, and finishing. Upgrading looms for handloom exports and creating state-of-the-art production centres in artisan villages are crucial. Government initiatives like the SFURTI scheme aim to support craft exports, but scaling up is necessary.

Experienced designer Krithika Acharia highlighted the need to understand brand requirements for export growth, such as product durability for handloom home decor items. This underscores the importance of scaling up buyer-seller meetings with government support.

A senior government official from the textile department noted the uneven growth across states and emphasised the need for mechanisation, focus on degenerative fibres, and technical textiles. Increased budget allocation is crucial for achieving these goals.

Dr. Binaya Bhusan Jena, chairman of Fashion Management Studies at NIFT, stressed the importance of not only setting targets but also creating a roadmap and adopting a bold stance towards sustainability. Leveraging India’s rich traditional knowledge and artisan community in weaving, spinning, dyeing, and natural fibre and dye farming can position India as a leader in ethical and sustainable fashion.

Conclusion

The proposed fashion education model can offer valuable thought leadership and support for the growth of India’s textile sector. Embracing Victor Hugo’s timeless quote, “No force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come”, this model aims to propel India towards achieving its ambitious export goals, leveraging its strengths in traditional crafts and sustainability.


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