Our 15 students have returned from India and had time to reflect on the whole experience. They were awarded the Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia and spent 6 weeks away from home, learning about textile and apparel production and the Indian culture.
Suzi, Rachel, Sian, Samantha and Ace tell us about aspects of their experience with blog #3
I was lucky enough to be one of the 15 students chosen by New Zealand Fashion Tech to go on an exchange to India for 6 weeks, not only were we lucky to be chosen we were also awarded the Prime Ministers Scholarship for Asia. The campus we were staying at was Bannari Amman Institute of Technology, this was located 2 hours outside Coimbatore on a 100 acre campus. This not only housed us but it also housed almost all of the 6000 students that attend the school. The school taught every subject under the sun they even had a lab full of snakes which we were lucky enough to see.
Being able to be taught textiles in India and then being able to see the cotton start on the bush to finishing off as a fabric was something I will never forget. The knowledge I have around textiles now is something I don’t think I would have been able to learn in New Zealand, as we just don’t have the resources. Before going to India I knew the basics of textiles such as where they come from, how it’s made and the finished product, whereas in India you can learn a whole degree around textiles so we went so far into detail to how to thread a machine and were even given the chance to try weaving and the processes of getting the fabrics ready for dyeing and printing, these are things we don’t have the resources for in New Zealand.
When we weren’t in class or out on industry visits we got to see different parts of India such as the famous Brihadeeswarar Temple, which we crossed over to another state to Thanjavur to see. Also known as ‘big temple’, the temple was built 1000 years ago it was also carved from one bit of stone. We also visited Ooty, this town was located on a mountain side. Ooty was a 4 hour trip from campus, this was our first big day trip that wasn’t an industry visit, and, as you can imagine, we were all super excited. As we passed the signs that say “no buses past this point” and not stopping when we were on a bus was kind of worrying but then seeing more buses eased us a bit… until we got to our first hair pin turn which had us coming one way and a truck the other but we made it around the corner and every other one on the way up to the top to find ourselves at a tea factory to be able to try every tea they made on site and then to be showed around the tea factory and see how everything was made was amazing. Before we headed back down the mountain we stopped at a man-made lake to go for a small boat ride to see all the amazing work they had put in around the lake. It was the best way to end an amazing day trip
“I learnt a lot of positive things while being in India, for example; how lovely some of the people are and how friendly they are. No judgement at all, just so interested in you and what you’re doing in their country. You will always get a smile from the women in India. The women in India are beautiful and amazing. They wear the most beautiful, colourful saris and are so warm and friendly.
A negative experience would have been the poverty in India. How the people suffer and struggle is unreal. But even though that is the case, they are so positive about their lives and feel blessed even when they struggle to feed their children and families.”
I learnt a lot about the different cultural aspects of the country as well as its thriving textile and apparel industry. It was an amazing opportunity to see many large scale industries and how they respond to the environmental repercussions of their creations of different fibres and fabrics. It was amazing to see firsthand this large country, and state, that’s known for its textiles. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
With Coimbatore being home to 17% of India’s textile/fabric mills, this trip has been beneficial for my studies of fashion as seeing what went into all of the textiles we use regularly back home in New Zealand. To first hand see fabrics being woven and how a ball of cotton gets converted into yarns and then woven into fabric using industrial machinery was valuable knowledge.
Tamil Nadu, India was an exceptional learning curve for me, because New Zealand doesn’t have existing cotton and silk manufacturing facilities therefore being able to see and experience that first hand was an educational experience alone and something I would have never imagined but thanks to Bannari Amman Institute, NZFT and The Prime minister Scholarship for Asia it was possible. I learned a lot on campus, for the reason that they provided most machines that are used in the industry; one of my favourite looms on and off campus was the Jacquard as I’ve always been curious of how fabrics were created with the pattern already weaved into it. Jacquard looms have boards that have a pattern coded into them (like a Morse code) which then the thread will only use the holes provided to create a fabric with a pattern. Such companies as Bee Vee Labels also create name labels for off shore designer companies with Jacquard Looms.
One highlight of my trip to Tamil Nadu was the Annual Fashion Show at the end of the 6 weeks where all 15 NZ students re-created their Resene Garments in 4 days and presented them to all 700 audience that attended the event (such a thrill). The set up for this Fashion Show was beyond expectations and was a show full of colour and festive antics.
I was quite innocent in terms of my perception of India and its culture before going over, but being there and being immersed in the culture just blew me away. The people were so welcoming and hospitable. The colours, the food and their spirituality really stuck with me. I was so grateful that this year we got to interact with the students of Bannari Amman Institute. I learnt not only so much from the esteemed professors there but I have also taken away so much from the students and other faculty members.
The bonds I’ve made with these incredible people are truly humbling. I will never forget the hot and long bus rides that was endured with music, naps, laughter and dancing. From the breath-taking temples to the unprecedented industries visited, the trips and intriguing classes arranged for us made every day absolutely worth being there.
As a designer I think it’s very important to know where your fabrics are coming from, I only knew to a small extent about the textile and apparel production. Better knowledge of textiles will not only benefit yourself and the quality of your creations but the knowledge of its origin just lets the consumer and the designer be a part of a bigger production that reaches far beyond just the sewing machine and the end product.
Not many really acknowledge or know of the bigger picture. Being aware of who has touched, weaved and worked on the fabric before you and the journey and the lives it has affected, to me, should be something to think about. We live in a world where those who have everything on demand don’t really know how lucky we truly are and so, at least being able to learn about what we are consuming could help how fast fashion affects the people involved and the environment for the better. This experience solidified my beliefs of the importance of this knowledge.