The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Good old khadi gets a touch trendier

They’ve roped in the likes of Rohit Bal and Malini Ramani. Now, they are relying on students of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). The Khadi Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has tied up with NIFT, Calcutta, to popularise Bapuji’s fabric amongst the city youth.

The two projects with NIFT that have been sanctioned so far — the first such local initiative by KVIC — are for “design and prototype development for ready-made garments” and “visual merchandising” of part of the Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan at 24, Chittaranjan Avenue.

“We have quite a loyal following, but our major customers should be the youth. This is the segment, however, that is no longer attracted to our products,” explains S.S. Kumar, deputy director, KVIC. The gap, feel Khadi officials, has been in the marketing machinery. “To revamp our image, design intervention is required,” adds Kumar.

So, NIFT has been asked to conduct a design project, in two phases, with “flexible budgets”. To start out, they will work with the existing inventory, creating around 100 designs for women’s, men’s and children’s garments and household products, with the cotton, silk and blended fabrics that have not been moving out of warehouses.

In Phase II, NIFT will design fabrics, creating a new line of around 200 additional designs. The fashion technology school in Salt Lake has also been commissioned to “revamp the designer section” in the central Calcutta showroom to give it a younger, trendier look.

“The projects will be handled in-house, with support from current fashion and textile design students, as well as alumni,” says Bharati Moitra, faculty of the fashion design department, NIFT, and coordinator for the projects.

Students, who have quite a bit of industry exposure, will get an added opportunity to hone their skills. “We realise that we cannot live in isolation as an academic institution. We cannot survive cut off from the industry,” adds Moitra.

This is part of a larger move within Khadi’s local wing to turn things around. To catch the eye of college students and the youth, fashion shows have been lined up before March, 2003.

From January 15 to 24, a Khadi mela will be unveiled at the Academy of Fine Arts, to feature demonstrations, cultural shows and theme pavilions. Talks are also on with “big Calcutta boutiques” to stock Khadi garments.

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