After championing Indian bandhgalas for years, ace designer Raghavendra Rathore is all set to take another revolutionary step in the fashion industry with the launch of Gurukul School of Design. He tells Karan Bhardwaj it’s high time fashion education is reformed in the country
His eyes, though covered with glasses and shades of humility, occasionally beams when he discusses the much-needed reform in the fashion education in India. After all, it’s a silent wish of ace designer Raghavendra Rathore of 10 years that is now shaping into a reality. Rathore is launching Gurukul School of Design, one of a kind institute in Jaipur that re-introduces guru-shishya culture in a modern avatar. “Every culture has a different methodology of education, be it Orient or European. Unfortunately, we adopted British system decades ago. But when you look back and trace your roots, you realise your original source to education is the gurukul way. There was a preacher, a teacher, and the disseminator of information, from whom the students would learn and spread the knowledge. It was not a blackboard culture,” says Rathore, sitting comfortably in the lounge at The Lodhi hotel.
His Gurukul does not take pride in having a classroom system. In fact, it will look more like a lounge. “It will be a proper seating where stakeholders find comfort to sit down and have discussions. It’s about the first-hand information and experience. For me, it’s the method of teaching where the essence of gurukul lies. When you come into the knowledge room and sit next to a person to have a dialogue, you learn empathetically. For instance, when you sit with a weaver working on a carpet, the exchange of knowledge is gurukul,” he says.
The designer, who has championed bandhgalas and even patented them, says the Gurukul is his effort to give back to the society. “Everybody in our company is happy about this initiative. We know it’s going to slow down our growth. I could have easily opened ten more stores but I decided to do what’s needed for the larger good. I am game to scout for talent here and retain them,” he says.
Gurukul School of Design will also focus on imparting entrepreneurial skills besides offering them ‘immediate access to handicrafts, endless textiles and rare techniques’ to the students. Rathore has personally consulted international visionaries and local experts to chalk out a curriculum. First year is about ‘cleaning up of the soul’. “This means students will be encouraged to take responsibility of their personal habits and grooming issues. We will make sure a level of self-awareness is there and not like somebody somebody has put it on them through education. Students will engage with masterji (tailor), know about their life and sanskaar and why all of this important to us and the world,” he says.
The second year will be about semantics of design and aesthetics followed by the experience of luxury. Finally, students will be placed internationally to comprehend global design and architecture. “We are doing some partnerships in Florence, Italy. We are also in talks with museums to expose our students towards culture,” he says.
During the conversation, Rathore points out how important it is for young designers today to package their creativity. “Students must sense rapid changes in the market and devise strategies to surmount challenges. It is equally important to learn about marketing, merchandising, public relations simultaneously,” he believes.
It’s too early to talk but the designer doesn’t rule out expansion plans. “It doesn’t have to be necessarily in India. We can go to Thailand, Nepal or to any other country. That will encourage cross pollination of education in a global perspective,” he says.
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