A project with Cotton Rack co-founders
1st year Transcultural Design MDes students at the India Studio worked with Cotton Rack, the Jaipur based premium & ethical Indo-Western brand on a conceptual project to educate consumers about ideas of fair-trade and sustainability. Vinayak Sharma and Rameshwari Kaul, Cotton Rack co-founders, present their fashion brand and the project the students worked on.
Can you introduce yourself?
We are a duo trying to change the face of fashion by creating long lasting fashion in a sustainable way.
Vinayak: ‘Question the basics’ has always been a part of my design philosophy. While the Indian subcontinent is synonymous with colours, textures and embroideries, I always wanted to create a modern design language which was uncluttered and clean. My experience as a premium menswear designer gave me insights required for the task and combined with our love for khadi, we knew what we had to do.
Rameshwari: I have always been enamored with the ecosystem of handicraft artisans. Unlike the fast paced, urban dwellers, these people are content with their life, have a strong emotional connect with their community and know how to take, create and give back to the nature. What they lack is fair remuneration for their work. And this worked as a foundation stone for our brand. To create an ethical lifestyle brand with homespun/handspun fabric at its roots.
Cotton Rack was started in 2014 with deep desire to connect to the roots in a space which is crammed with fast fashion, unsustainable business practices and unfair wages. Our aim is to build a brand which works closely with rural artisans in creating authentic handcrafted lifestyle products. Our womenswear and menswear apparel are made from homespun, handwoven fabrics by tailors who are paid higher than the industry average and packed in bags made from left over fabrics. We believe in not only adding value to fabric but also to the lives of the wearer, the weaver and the environment.
You recently were in charge of a conceptual project with the students from the India Studio. What was is about?
The objective of the project was to understand sustainability in context with fashion and how to make the end consumer aware of the same. It is important to understand that fair wages and sustainability are consumer driven movements and not much can be achieved if the consumer is not aware why these two are needed.
Do you do a lot of lectures within design schools?
Vinayak: I have been called back to my alma-mater to deliver lectures on entrepreneurship development to the graduating batch. This is an interactive session where we clear the air over difficulties that design students face while starting their own label. I have taken a session with veteran artisans involved in various handicraft skills to help them modernize their craft to cater to booming domestic and international market. Also, I am part of the jury for the graduating batch of fashion design at IICD.
Rameshwari: I have previously worked as a visiting faculty for a year with INIFD in subjects of design documentation and merchandize management in 2008-2009 with graduate and post graduate students. However, more recently have taken EDP (Entrepreneur Development Program) classes in NIFT, New Delhi for the graduating batch along with Vinayak.
What is your feedback on the work done by the French students?
Looking at the core competency in subject when compared the Indian design students we usually come across, we realised that the French students were more professional and practical in providing the solutions to a given problem. They were fast to understand the brief given to them and asked the right questions when there was a need for the same. Another differentiating factor was the way they worked as a team on the project, they worked in a unified manner and that speaks volume about the character these students have built up during course of learning. Looking at the work done by them, we were truly amazed by the end-product quality and the level of attention given to the different aspects of the project. They really provided solutions which can be readily employed in our brand without any further modifications.
What are the teaching differences between French and Indian students?
There are certainly many differences to count in the way the Indian and French students are taught. While the focus in Indian teaching methodology mostly seems on completion of the set course material in a limited period and to do so several projects/subjects overlap each other due to which the students are not able to devote themselves to a one subject at a time and this hampers with overall growth of an individualistic design sense and understanding. In case of the students we worked with, the course material seemed to go project by project where they can entirely focus on each aspect and deliver the best they can. Their style of presentation and work too spoke volumes about the focus that goes in professional grooming of these students. The Indian students certainly lack the first hand industrial experience which in turn becomes a roadblock for them in later careers. This didn’t seem like an issue for the French students since the kind of projects they get to do with different brands and organisations teach them the nitty-gritties of working in a professional environment as well as the entire process of inception to induction of a product and practicalities that goes into it.
Do you intend to do other lectures / workshops at the India Studio and for which reasons?
We loved the overall experience that we had while interacting with the students as well as the faculty. We’d like to do more workshops and lectures with the students at the India Studio on regular basis for a very simple reason that such sessions are not only educative for the students but for design professionals like us too. Being around young creative minds from varied cultural backgrounds opens new doors to endless possibilities and learning about each other and much greater appreciation towards each other’s work and ethics.