India has one of the world’s most vibrant textile industries, employing over 35 million people, many of whom make colourful and intricate cloths and garments mostly by hand. When aspiring fashion designer, Paige Philogene, was offered a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant to study for six months in India’s capital, New Delhi, she jumped at the opportunity to experience this unique industry first-hand.
“I would like to focus on a slow fashion model and bring back the importance of locally-made and ethically made,” she says. She hopes to one-day create clothes that people will cherish and, “that aren't going to be thrown out because the trend is over.”
Currently enrolled in a Bachelors of Fashion Design at the QUT (Queensland University of Technology), Paige moved to India in early 2016 to take up a place at the National Institute of Fashion Technology.
“Coming to Delhi was a bit of a shock… it was overwhelming and hard to adapt,” she recalls. “The best thing you can do is just go for it because you're never going to get that experience again of being part of… the college culture and meeting young people your age,” she says.
“We're learning in a different way to what we do at home,” she says. “A lot of it is skill-based… so a lot of pattern-making from scratch… we're learning skills that are going to carry us through to wherever we go to work.”
For Paige, part of her New Colombo Plan Mobility Grants also involves hands-on opportunities to work in the fashion industry, such as assisting backstage at the country’s premier style event, the Amazon India Fashion Week.
Run by the Fashion Design Council of India, this five-day event features fashions shows, trade fairs and an opportunity to meet and work with leading Indian designers whose creations are revealed and snapped-up by International buyers at this event.
“It’s awesome… You’re part of this big system that’s working together to put on a show,” she says. “Seeing this kind of production on a much bigger scale than I ever have before… I can come away from this having learnt from it.”
Paige says the experience in India has not only shaped the way she now thinks about fashion and her approach to design, but has enabled her to make friends for life. “It's cool to know a group of people here who may spread far and wide into different areas of fashion and I think it would be really awesome to know them in the future and potentially work together.”