Please tell us about yourself
Born and raised in India, Palak Dhanuka went to Singapore to become a fashion designer. After studying at Lasalle College of Arts and specializing in creative pattern cutting, she recently presented her final Graduate Collection. In this interview, we talked about Palak’s college experience, her first fashion show and the designer’s future in the industry.
Your undergraduate degree is in Fashion Design and Textiles. When did you know you wanted to work in fashion? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
Yes, I graduated from the Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore with a bachelors in Fashion Design and Textiles. I have always had an inclination towards styling. Since my school days, I was the friend who people always came for advice about dressing up and styling, that’s when I knew I wanted to do something in Fashion. Still undecided as to which stream of Fashion I wanted to explore, I opted for the one-year Foundation Certificate course in Lasalle. I explored different realms of art and design during that period of study and specifically the different streams in fashion. Talking to industry professionals and my lecturers, it made me realize that I am a good fit for fashion design, and I decided to go with it.
What was your biggest challenge during college? And an important lesson you learned at the time?
One of the biggest challenges during college was to discover myself as a designer, and I think overcoming that was the most important lesson that I learned. The first two years of our course were mostly learning the basic techniques like sewing, drafting, printmaking etc. and working in teams under specific guidelines. In the third year, however, we were left independent. It was all about exploring what kind of a designer you wanted to be, and what market sector you want to focus on. The first few months were a little overwhelming because I had never taken so many independent decisions in my life ever. There was too much chaos, so many ideas, so much exploration to do for which I felt I did not have enough time. There was a lot of pressure too since in fashion design through the graduate collection you come out to the world as a designer, it is your first impression and I did not want it to go wrong. Struggling through all of this was the biggest challenge, and overcoming each obstacle taught me something.
You then majored in creative pattern cutting. What made you go that way?
So, our college offers 4 specialisms that we get to choose from in our second year of the course; womenswear, menswear tailoring, creative pattern cutting, and textiles. I always knew my future goal was to open my own studio in my home country, India, hence whatever decisions I took were in tune with this plan. I realized during my internships that the Indian market has developed a lot in textiles and the competition is really high, however, the silhouette explorations are not as such. That’s when I decided I wanted to master this segment, which is why I chose creative pattern cutting as my specialism.
Tell us a little more about your final collection. What was the inspiration behind it, and was it challenging to do this big project on your own?
My final collection is inspired by a tribe in Tibet, called the Lhasa Tribe. The collection takes the tribe as a key visual reference in the attempt to break the norm of visual codes in a dress. I like the vibe of their culture, so vibrant, colorful yet simple and elegant. I wanted to replicate the same in my collection. At first, it was very challenging deciding the fabrics, finalizing the silhouettes, confirming the print, but everything started falling into place with time. I even collaborated with Swarovski on the project.
“The portfolio needs to be really strong, it should reflect what kind of a designer you are and want to be.”
You interned for a few brands, both in India and in Singapore. How was the process of finding and getting those internships?
I feel internships during college breaks are really important, you can start to apply what you learn during college in real life. It gives you a reality check of what world you are about to step into and its functions. Finding the right internship is very important. I started by listing the companies who work with the same design aesthetic as mine. Alongside researching, I was working on developing my CV and portfolio. The portfolio needs to be really strong, it should reflect what kind of a designer you are and want to be. After completing this, I reached out to the companies via emails and waited for them to respond. Most companies asked for a one on one interview, so they can judge you on your work ethics and design aesthetics and introduce you to their work culture.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to study fashion design?
If you are passionate about it go ahead, choose your school wisely, and good luck because you will need that.
Do you have any plans for the near future? Where would you like to see yourself in a few years?
As of now, I’m working on making a social media presence, so people know what I’m doing. Spreading awareness about my works and alongside working and sampling to extend the collection. I will work on these few things for a while, and then maybe apply for masters in fashion business and marketing. The future goal is to start my own studio in India, hope everything works out, I am excited to how things will turn out!