Pursuing an offbeat career is a bold decision, because there are no fall back options and the direction is always upstream, against the tide.
Our next pathbreaker, Shriya, talks about her initial struggles in choosing Fashion Design as a career and creatively navigating the ocean of challenges in her career path, finally honing onto her niche by exploring her interests through well planned internships. A very informative interview for Fashion Design students.
Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal speaks to Shriya Seshadri about her career in Fashion design.
Shriya, can you tell us about your background?
I grew up in Bangalore, India and took up Visual Arts as my Higher Level subject in Grade 11 and 12 at The International School, Bangalore. During this period, I spent most of my time experimenting with different painting styles, media and learning about textiles.
Following my graduation, I pursued a BFA degree in Fashion Design at Pratt Institute, New York. I was lucky enough to have a parental support system that understood my interest in the field and my desire to create a creative space for myself. Despite coming from a non-design background, they were willing to give my choice a chance.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?
My key influencers for this career choice were David Bowie and Diane von Furstenberg. I always admired Bowie’s confidence and unmatched personal style and DVF’s empowering nature and creativity with prints. They were my first step into noticing the Fashion industry.
Eventually, I got interested in the animal cruelty-free side of fashion and the growing vegan side of the industry through PETA, which made me want to learn more about textile development and using it in the least harmful way.
Tell us about your career path
My approach to entering the design field was to start experiencing this field early. I completed a certification course while in high school in illustration and textiles from NAFA, Singapore and began interning during most summers. My internships helped me filter out the fields I liked and disliked about the industry.
My first internship was at a textile factory in Chennai. Subsequently, I worked with Manoviraj Khosla in Bangalore and designed for his menswear line. I tried my hand at Fashion marketing by joining the team at Wooplr – A Fashion discovery app – that deals with young influencers.
Eventually I moved on to womenswear by working under designer Michelle Salins wherein I experienced collection designing and client-specific designing. My experience in couture comes from interning with the production team at Marchesa in New York. Once I had a clearer idea of my interests, I began focusing on finding opportunities that best catered to them.
I worked as a technical design intern in New York for Tabula Rasa – a knitwear lifestyle brand. I fell in love with the amount of freedom and creativity knitwear had to offer and eventually found a great balance between working with knitwear textiles, designing collections and recognizing customer aesthetics in Ming Wang as their Assistant Designer.
What were some of the challenges? How did u address them?
In beginning of my career, I had no idea where to start or what to consult when it came to carving a path for myself. The initial push is always the hardest – the first research, the first public design, the first interview, the first workday. I realized that the easiest way to overcome this fear to get it over with as soon as possible because procrastination only makes the fear grow.
My biggest challenge during my job hunt in America was visa restrictions! Most of my interviewers rejected my application based on my Indian citizenship and the restrictions that come with it. Eventually after months of trying and applying to multiple places I found the perfect opportunity. However due to visa issues again, I had to move back to India and start all over again. The most important thing I learnt from all of this is to be patient and keep swimming because opportunity lies everywhere.
Where do you work now?
After my move back to India, I began to work for myself as a Freelance Fashion Designer. I continue to design for Ming Wang and another brand, Misook, which is also New York based. My designs are specific to their customer base and I provide the silhouette, textile development and technical production details for each design. Occasionally, I help provide detailed technical instructions for designs created by other members of their team. Most of my work starts off on a sketchbook and is brought to life using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
Everyday I enjoy understanding a brand’s identity and creating textiles and silhouettes digitally and from across the globe. It almost makes the world seem very accessible!
How does your work benefit the society? Tell us an example of a specific work you did that is very close to you!
I believe that being in any design field gives you the ability to speak your language to the audience of your choice. It opens up space for small-scale and large-scale collaborations. My favorite project is a collaborative one. The team included four photographers, three models, a make-up artist and me – the apparel and accessories designer. The whole process of it, including the disagreements and creative misalignments was great to be a part of and once our work was out there for people to see – it was spoken about and it sparked interest and curiosity. Design starts conversations and these conversations will benefit society.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
The most important thing you can do for yourself in this field is to believe in your work and your potential. Truth is you will see multiple designer portfolios but every designer has a different perspective to offer, including you.
Put in the hard work and the hours, believe in yourself and strive to create things that bring you the most happiness.
I would like to continue freelancing and try to build a bigger client base. I want to venture into sustainable textile and fashion in the immediate future and eventually even try out other aspects of design and not only restrict myself to fashion design.