Shifting Paradigms of design and the new normal: An interactive session with design aspirants

On the occasion of handloom day, Ms. Archana Surana recalls the colorful beauty of the national handloom and its charming ethnicity. From the craft of making a handloom product to its essentiality to support rural economic development, handloom has been a significant part of Indian culture. After agriculture, handloom contributes to the largest economic activity which involves over 5 million people. It is also a great link between folk culture and modern fashion. The intricate design of handlooms can take almost anyone by fascination.

Besides its aesthetic beauty & economic importance, handloom culture is a beautifully passed on knowledge from one generation to another for a very long time. It has, therefore, a sense of invaluable history too. By just looking a little deeper into this beautiful world of handloom design, we’ll realize that it has its own fractals and within those fractals, are unique cultural stories from way back in time.

The following Q & A session was yet another interaction with students from the world of design. These enthusiastic participants come up with their doubts and queries related to career and profession. Ms. Archana Surana has been guiding students with her wisdom since 1994. The introduction of new media channels gives her immense joy as she is now capable of reaching out to more people who need guidance and advice.

Q. What do you think are the permanent changes in campus education in the post coronavirus era?

A. The government has already been giving us so many guidelines about how things will be carried out when the campus opens. One thing that I really find peculiar is that masks are going to be the new fashion. And it is also a kind of creative expression to make and put on an artsy or fashionable mask. So be really sure to do that, ensure social distancing, and adopt hygiene habits very strictly. As it’s evident, hygiene and distancing are equally important and campuses are now planning to execute the same measures. The campus will be sanitized and fumigated regularly. The staff and students will be trained to follow the necessary precautions. The use of lab equipment is also going to be evolved in that manner. At a time, only enough students will be in the lab to ensure social distancing.

Besides these precautions, I feel that the online classes will keep up as a method of teaching theory. It has proven to be really effective. We’re getting positive feedback from the students and the faculty. Although, everyone does reminisce about the older days and wants to get back on the campus for the true community learning spirit. We will just have to be a little careful with that. It may not be as casual as it used to be, you know, like the way we used to share our food and hang out in groups. Some changes are going to be inevitable and necessary.

Q. When is a good time in our Design education journey to look up to professional guidance?

A. Design is a field that requires keen professionalism and practical knowledge. So I’d say that the first day since you join a design school, it comes upon you to take inspiration, look for professional guidance, find a mentor, etc. Design is a field that requires discipline and commitment. You have to maintain your portfolio from the very beginning, keeping logs is also important. Similarly, as you get more familiar with the designer’s routine, you’ll find out that a designer’s professional journey starts from Day 1 of college. The plan, do, check attitude that people have to follow in the design business, I think you’ll have to follow it from the very first day.

Q. What are the changes that we might see in the functioning of the fashion industry in the post COVID era?

A. We can already see how London Fashion Week was hosted virtually and similar to that, there have been quite a few virtual shows that have been conducted. Now, it would be too early to tell about how long the virtual trend will follow, but we are seeing many industry hotshots picking it up. I am honestly impressed by how the fashion industry has reacted to the calamity and adjusted with the changes so beautifully. Besides, everyone is getting used to these virtual shows and life as the new norm. Whenever a problem arises, there’s always going to be a solution and it is encouraging that we look forward to it.

One thing that I’ve also noticed is that we’ve shifted our focus back to local fashion since the lockdown. Every nationality has kind of a whole new appreciation for their own culture & fashion. I would say that the lockdown was a good enough push to help us contemplate more about our surroundings. People really appreciate what is indigenous and authentic. It gives us a taste of our own sense of beauty and aesthetics. If we talk about India, you’ll see that there is a global acceptance lately for Indian textiles. Local indigenous artists are being appreciated on a much larger scale. This gives the young design aspirants an inspiration and opportunity to work with the community and pass forward the art across yet another generation.

Q. How would online teaching satisfy the learning needs of practical classes like jewelry design?

A. See we do agree as faculties that practicals are very important and the way it was done before had definitely more upsides to it. But for the time being, it is crucial that we take out the best that we can. It’s a life-giving us lemons situation. We are the ones who will have to make the lemonade. On the faculty’s end, every teacher is trying their best to teach through video lectures. And it is quite a commendable effort. They are really pushing their limits, shooting from different camera angles to present as clearly as possible. So in the end, it also comes to you. You are the one who will have to eventually assume the responsibility of practicing again & again until you become perfect.

Just as we talk, you can see this upside to online practical classes too. You are going to have a beautifully rendered video lecture with you at all times. So if you’re really committed to learning, you can practice every now and then. This will, in fact, impact your learning in a more positive way. I hope you will work hard and connect with community jewelers and take inspiration from them. That way when you come back to the campus, you’re going to have an amazing depth of knowledge. Inspiration is all around you, be open to them, and look at things from a learner’s point of view.

Q. Given the rising rates of gold, what do you think is a better alternative?

A. If you look at the global jewelry trends, you’ll find out that India has a fashion of using pure gold that’s above 18 carats. The reason behind it is that, well, India has been the golden bird of the world. But in a more practical sense, the people of India are more inclined towards gold as an investment. And this is where the change could be introduced. You are all creative designers and what values today is the design that you come up with and the precision that follows. Additionally, there are quality alloys that you can use which go very well with gold. In the end, it just comes down to your problem-solving ability. So be creative, increase the value of design so people buy it as jewelry, not as an investment. Also, the very fact that you asked this question is indicative that you have the ability to bring that change.


The enlightening interacting session by Ms. Archana Surana ends at a very positive note like it usually does. A wholesome talk about the shifting paradigms of design, the importance of handloom, and career guidance to design students was the highlight of this week’s interaction. Arch College wishes every design aspirant a well planned and a bright future. Check out the unique design courses offered by Arch College here.