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Hi-fashion or hi-tech? Tough to tell

- Fashion designing students of CET get placements in software firms

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 23: When Rajiblochan Das (name changed) took admission to the fashion and apparel technology department of the Bhubaneswar-based College of Engineering and Technology, he dreamt of becoming an ace fashion designer.

Today, this 2012 graduate is unsure if his four years of education at the College of Engineering and Technology (CET) will help turn his dream into reality.

After all these years at CET, Das is now pursuing a one-year course at a major fashion institute to grasp the basics of fashion designing.

He is not the only one. Others too complain about the syllabus and the inexperienced staff at the fashion and apparel technology department of the government-run college. Many of his classmates and juniors are confused about the course — is it an engineering degree or a fashion course?

“We are taught chemistry, physics and mathematics and even electrical engineering, thermodynamics and mechanics in the first year. Some of my friends who study at the central government run fashion institute NIFT are taught a foundation programme that includes an introduction to the world of art and culture, fashion orientation, creative thinking skills, understanding body pattern and shapes through draping and so on. I do not understand if I am going to be an engineer or a fashion designer!” said a first-year student.

The fashion designing department at CET began in 2007 after it was moved from the Institute of Textile Technology in Choudwar. Most of the students join the course to emerge as fashion designers but end up getting placements in software companies.

“I wanted to join the fashion course here since the fee is affordable. As it is a government institute, the fees are lower than private fashion institutes in the state where the faculty is inexperienced and yet students are charged exorbitant fees,” said Das.

“But I was surprised that aspirants for the fashion course took the same exam as engineering aspirants whereas CET’s architecture entrance is a separate one with questions relevant to subject. We should also have been given questions that would test our fashion orientation and creativity or understanding of body shapes. At the end of the course, we sit for software company placements just like other engineering departments,” he said.

A third-year student complained: “After the first year we forget we are studying fashion. It feels like we are engineers. Even though some portions of the syllabus in the rest of the years revolve around textile and garment manufacturing and processing, we have very few fashion illustration classes. In fact, most of our teachers are graduates of our college with no experience of the professional fashion world. When they themselves face problems like us in understanding the course, how can they teach us well?”

Though CET has a separate textile engineering department, the fashion and apparel technology course gets you a BTech degree. The fashion students do not get exposure or chances of interaction with professional designers or even to create garments, although the website of the college defines the course in quite a different way.

“Looking at the enormous potential of garment and fashion designing in the present century, CET has well planned in this race by adding a new dimension by introducing BTech course in Fashion Technology…”

The CET website goes on to claim that the institute has the vision to exploit and expose the creativity of young talented fashion technocrats in the globe.

It also says that the department of fashion technology is one of the leading department of CET.

Though students hold a different opinion about the curriculum, CET website says that the “course structure aims at producing highly trained professionals, who will have the right expertise to guide the garment industry….”

Though CET’s fashion graduates end up getting jobs in the software industry, the website states that constant interaction with the garment industry instils in the students, “the confidence in their own ability to keep up with the competitive industrial world”.

Students complain that the lack of professionalism is evident as there are only four members in the faculty. A faculty member of the textile engineering department, Madhabananda Patnaik, is the head of the fashion department.

“Our college follows the BPUT syllabus, being affiliated with the university. Moreover, the department and the course are designed to be on a par with other engineering departments so that the students are qualified as engineers,” said Patnaik.

“We create talented professionals who are not only eligible for software companies but can also pursue MTech and PhD or GATE unlike other fashion degrees from other institutes. It may be true that we are not able to upgrade students to fit the field of fashion but we lay more emphasis on technology and creation of comfortable wearable designs that may not hit the ramps but will have functional value. We offer latest the software for fashion designing and garment construction,” he said.

Another senior college official said the first year of the course was similar to other engineering disciplines so that if students perform well, they may switch to other engineering departments.

Professional designers feel fashion education should cover various aspects of the field that will help a student build a bright career in the world of fashion.

“Science and technology do have some role to play in apparel technology, but fashion designing needs a creative orientation. While creativity is the crux of fashion, it is more to do with commerce and business since fashion is also an industry. Academies should have proper training programmes on the technical know-how with industry insiders regularly visiting the campus,” said Pritam Panda, fashion designer.