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My journey into Design – Rubali Shirke (AIR 1 NIFT)

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Hi, I’m Rubali Shirke, a fashion design student studying at NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) Delhi, currently occurring for my 3rd year for the bachelor’s program.

Now I know when you read or hear ‘fashion design’ you think it is considered to be kind of underrated by people. Yet here I am to take you into a little journey, I myself still am traveling through this field towards my career and all the different phases of it I’ve been through. So come on up!

So, what is design in the first place?

What is design? Is it as similar as art or any different? Design has always been seen as the expansion or the creation of culture and putting it out there in the world. An activity to shape the environment as how we want it to be seen. It is more of concepts than objects! Art on the other hand has more than one meaning. Design is focused on achieving solutions with measurable results, whereas art is more concerned with expressing ideas.

Various fields that include the creative part of the design are product design, UX design, fashion design, web design, automobile design, textile design, interior design, etc.
I for one am studying at NIFT which is the best and most renowned government college for design in fashion with 17 campuses all over India. There are other such colleges that provide degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s level and a diploma as well, at both government and private platforms. Few of the government-funded colleges to study design are NID(National Institute for Design), IIT(Indian Institute of Technology), IIAD(Indian Institute of Art and Design), and FDDI(Footwear Design and Development Institute) among the very few all over the nation and entrances like CEED, UCEED and NIFT or even CET to be qualified to get into these.

Where & how it began for me…

When I was in school it was all rainbows and unicorns just like it is for every one of us. I never knew if I’ll get into fashion / I always knew I’ll get into fashion. I just went along with whatever came across. Although my mom did always inspire me with all her beautiful masterpieces hanging around on the walls in our house. That is when it occurred to me, this ‘design’ is what I might be good at it / It just never occurred to me this is what I’ll be doing as a career ever. My mother does stand as an inspiration here. In college, I went for the science stream thinking it might as well come in handy / knowing it will somewhere help me up with the technical knowledge part. Getting into design, you might appear from any stream at a higher secondary level but the science stream did help me cope up with a lot of patience and the little technical stuff too. Like generally if I asked you to picture clothes drying on the strings in your garden you would just draw them taught and rightly perpendicular to the ground but this is where the ‘design mindset’ comes in and a sincere science student being a physics fan of the chapter ‘tension’ I drew it with a curve in between with the clothes on it falling a little bit towards the center. You see?

Now the typical Indian exam prep thingy

I was preparing for the entrance exam into NIFT from the college itself. So my attention was divided between this and the boards which is one hell of a ride but, I got through it, it is just each individual’s way of handling it. For Coaching my prime focus was to practice and practice and practice only! Trust me, going over and over all the concepts and practicing them in all ways possible is a must.

The syllabus for the exam is basically divided into 3 with unequally divided weightage. First comes CAT which stands for Creativity Ability Test which is 50% of it all. Then there is GAT (General Ability Test) which is 30% and comprises quantitative ability, communication Ability, English comprehension, analytical ability, and general knowledge and current affairs. The rest of the 20% can be scored through the situation test which happens only when you clear cat and gat first. I obviously had to join a coaching class to be surrounded by my competitors and for the Test series they conduct regularly which is a good way for practice but, what helped me throughout was newspapers (if English is well and good, if not, at least it helps in increasing your GK). Also, I kept referring to various guides meant for design entrances such as Arihant publications guide to design exams, Manorama pocket GK guide, and many others consistently! Also, articles on the internet, the right use of social media, and a healthy competitive environment with creative minds were my important motivators. But what I believe is that all the portion in quantitative ability is just class 1 to 10 basic mathematics and in Communication Ability and English comprehension is all the starter English you should know to have an understandable conversation and put your ideas ahead which nowadays isn’t a big deal I think.
“No matter how easy or difficult anything is, the only thing you should be thinking about is giving your best.”

Entrances for me were not easy. I took it casually. I hardly ever prepared. When I was sitting there in my examination center I wondered should I have prepared more? Should I help some other student who felt helpless just like me? Should I seek help from another competitor who might lose his/her golden chance just because I decided to steal an answer? And all of these questions ended with a big NO. Preparations are never enough until you decide they are. The more the better. You might feel at some point that what you did wasn’t enough and that you might need help but be egoistic just this once. Because the happiness the latter part of all this brings is priceless when you knew you weren’t ready or maybe you didn’t but still you came out with shining colors! I knew I had prepared enough and solved lots and lots of mock tests but that temporary feeling of being less did I arrive. I got nervous. I flipped! But no matter what I got through those 3 hours all by myself and at the other end was a new me! So focus only on yourself. Do not indulge in any activity even for a sec if it doesn’t involve you and your paper. This is what I’ve learned from experience.

“Observation is the only constant practice a design student needs to have, that is how the cycle of creativity keeps moving”

Everything we see, hear and process is what reflects in design. It also helps us all in life too. It’s only how much of the good you kept retained in that fleshy mass inside of your skull and how much of it you put to work! Designing isn’t just drawing inspiration from a situation and putting it in front it is always our subconscious that plays a vital role.

“A design student cannot have an ideal mind nor a devils workshop”

As and how I prepared I grew from within. I was grateful for such a positive environment around me with my brother guiding me through all the exam strategies and my mother being this angel she always has been. And what I did more was have healthy fulfilling conversations with my friends and not let anything pull me down in any way. I gave myself space to grow, time to let it flow, and practice to let it all show.

After the test

Once I cleared my written test I started preparing for my situation test which is a material handling ability test conducted to see how we deal with real stuff in a certain amount of time with ideas of our own. In short, it is a model-making exam with a question given on the spot like preparing a product display at a mall or preparing a handbag with optimum use of all materials provided by the institution. Similarly, NID conducts a studio test and asks us to submit a portfolio with all our creative bests, post UCEED entrance having no such round.

I remember how I never took NIFT so seriously until I was there in the examination hall knowing now I have to do it and as and how I saw myself getting involved in this beautiful world I knew this is what I had to do and I did it and I, now am here today writing this article for you.

What you should remember all the time is there are thousands of competitors along with you having no idea how great they are or not. The competitor to vacancy ratio is almost 1:10. So what you should only know and keep an eye on is your own progress to perfection.
It is just this different thinking that students aspiring to design should have. Good drawing is never a necessity. That can always be worked upon but having concepts clear is an acquired trait.

All in all, I never procrastinated. I’ve always had a thing for observing my environment and thinking productively about it. Having my foundation clear. And time and a lot of practice.

“Fashion is like a psychology study where you have to read someone else’s mind and bring it out how they wanted keeping your ideas intact”

Most people are unfamiliar about this course that there are colleges who provide specializations in the fashion department through so many courses and might consider it strange as in how come just to learn how to stitch you have to go through a four-year bachelor program or maybe think of it as an easy college to get in. It isn’t! NIFT is not everybody’s cup of tea. Here we get to study the design process in a way literally how all designers have been struggling to study it to date. We have to make concept boards, we have to think about color schemes, we have to think about the consumer’s mind and opinionate it through our work. There is this really big process which we get to and have to learn to make that big impact in fashion which might have just brought you here reading about today that you have been thinking all this time. The background from which I come, the struggles I faced, the tantrums I took from people thinking that this is just some ‘silai’ course we get to study in Delhi. But now the endless amount of experiences I’ve had coming here to graduate in this field and the opportunities I received as a NIFT student are countless. I experience this feeling of dignity when I look back to the day I made a decision to prepare for a career in fashion, and getting passed through all that criticism will always be my biggest motivation and feel a powerfulness like never before.

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