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With outrage pouring in from India’s fashion fraternity over the appointment of Mr Chetan Chauhan, former cricketer, a two-time BJP MP, a loyalist of former Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), who wouldn’t know a slim fit from a boot cut, or an A line from a full skirt, but by his admission calls himself `well-dressed,’ is now appointed as new Chairperson of India’s premier fashion body, the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). The furore has tipped the table. What are his credentials to hold the post? Why has the Modi government ignored decorated fashion seniors for the appointment and favoured political chamchagiri?  Is this how political establishments plan to take India’s fashion and textile heritage forward? Bring us on par with global fashion? Add innovation to learning? Is babugiri the only answer to thrive and make a successful career in India?

INDIA - FEBRUARY 06: Delhi cricket Team coach Chetan Chauhan during a practice session for upcoming the North Zone One Day Championship 2007 at Ferozshah Kotla ground, New Delhi (Photo by Qamar Sibtain/The India Today Group/Getty Images)

While some designers shied away saying the controversy `was too political,’ some of India’s leading fashion personalities spoke out assertively. `It is the end for Indian fashion!!’

Jaya Jaitley, former politician, passionate forerunner for Indian textiles, front woman of The Dastkari Haat Samiti and author of `Crafts Atlas of India,’ — a mammoth documentation of India’s forgotten arts, crafts and traditions evoking their revival. She minced no words when spoken to. “The Congress appointed an auto industry person, industrialist Venu Srinivasan of TVS (as chairperson of NIFT), now BJP, a cricketer. No change of thinking for the better?” Her Twitter also generated much heat.

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Leading from the front in taking Indian fashion, global is designer Rahul Mishra (former student of NID), who also made a vocal stand against the appointment in sections of the media. “Preserve the past, shape the present and predict the future. It’s vital in shaping any structure be it creative, economic or cultural. India clearly needs this in every sector, by idea, approach and practice. The Indian fashion market is growing everyday in many directions. The craft, textile traditions and the fashion business that India has to offer is remarkable. The foundations of it –the fashion schools — offer the platform to learn and explore the realm of craft and design. It needs equal support and attention from the government with changing times and needs of the society and economy. The latest development on that front is beyond my understanding.. Former cricketer and two-time BJP MP appointed as Chairperson of  NIFT? “

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Meantime, giving a breakdown of his work schedule, Mr Chauhan told media persons: “I will spend 60 per cent of the time in DDCA, 20 per cent at NIFT and 20 per cent in my business.” Evoking even more fury from fashion  stalwarts.  “Does something as important as the fashion industry deserve only part-time attention? A structure and a business of top priority will get 20 per cent of its chairperson’s attention and cricket thrice the attention? Fashion and its related craft industry is the second largest employment sector in this country after agriculture. It has made India proud globally,” asserts Rahul Mishra. “Fashion is not simply a form of entertainment. It is a serious profession. If we compare ourselves to the fashion schools across the globe, we are way behind. We need full time dedication towards it if we need to stand out. The remarkable quality of NIFT since 1990s has only deteriorated. We haven’t been able to maintain that quality. We haven’t learned from our mistakes. Just because a wrong choice has never been challenged, it doesn’t mean that it is right!!” the designer states.

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Well known luxury consultant for international and Indian brands, Nisha JamVwal goes straight for the jugular. She voices out, “It’s a decision without thought to repercussions for NIFT.  The government is shrouding all the good work it’s doing to ‘clean up’ India with bad choices in key posts and positions. Let’s not go with the populist choices, instead let’s go with what is good for the spine of this country. Narendra Modi had promised to do away with disrupting offices based on loyalty or sycophancy, and replace it with a merit based competence being instrumental for the selection of personnel in top posts.”

Is it sycophancy over credibility? Nisha makes her point,“In my opinion Chetan Chauhan cannot guide a fashion Institute chain that needs in-depth knowledge about a complex and growing fashion industry, that could in fact not only attract foreign students but also become a huge money spinner for our country. This industry – while in its nascent stages – has seen pulsating fashion weeks proliferate and needs nurture and hand holding by a mature veteran head honcho with a keen knowledge in the technology and matrices of the fashion industry. “

Is NIFT’s foreseeable future now clouded? “I am afraid for this huge assemblage of institutes that have huge potential to bring out stars like Rohit Bal and Sabyasachi Mukherji. I am even more emotional as I was engaged in taking students through lectures in marketing, luxury, fashion and accessory design at NIFT, Mumbai. With the right guidance and care the institutes could be an asset to India and a money spinner attracting foreign students and also producing business minded creative professionals in the world of Indian contemporary fashion design.  Being ‘well-dressed’ in Chetan Chauhan’s own mind is hardly a qualification to lead the largest fashion institute – I wish he’d set up a Cricket institute instead!!” Jamvwal concludes hitting a nail on the head.

While Mr Chauhan says wait and watch, we are wondering what’s to watch while he gives NIFT 20 percent of his time and attention!! God save Indian fashion and the fate of her students.


(Rahul Mishra inputs courtesy, Daily O, Srishti Jha)

Images courtesy Google for Jaya Jaitley, Rahul Mishra

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