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Curiosity. It is a term through which a lot can be found, researched and eventually achieved. But, right now, as we talk in the design space, curiosity has led to the innovation of new styles and techniques by young designers, be it locally or globally. Owing to this, Italy’s Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) is set to strengthen its ties with India. This partnership will encourage its students and university representatives to take part in events and networking activities across multiple verticals.
IED is an international education network that offers undergraduate and master’s courses in the fields of design, fashion, visual arts, communication and management. We, at Vogue India, sat down and had a conversation with Riccardo Balbo, the Chief Academic Officer and Dean of Istituto Europeo Design Group to dig a little deeper and know more about their plans to strengthen ties with the Indian industry.
India has a very strong and deep traditional fashion culture and this is something that makes India very close to Italian culture. The craftmanship, together with a system made of small companies that put themselves in the creative process, have been created the concept of Made in Italy in a similar way you have Made in India.
So, what we are aiming for on one hand is to export ‘Made in Italy’: that is not a style or a language, but an attitude that unites aesthetic values and capacity of production. We would like to be one of the contributors to this system. On the other hand, we expect to internationally expand our market and our education fields. We aim to open people’s minds, to enrich Indian students with what our students – in our international schools – are considering embracing. So, looking outside the box – outside the boundaries – is very important to be a creative human being.
There is a large scale of engagements and possibilities. The main goal is to make Indian students aware not just about IED, but about the existence of a method to learn design in Italy. This way includes practical learning, strong interactions with companies, objects and service production, and relations. Relations among students and professors, among students of different courses and programs, and professors from different associations.
The other goal includes exposing students to the results of these interactions, which means organizing events for them. For instance, we are offering a set of different interactions with Pearl Academy, which isa network of design schools. They aresending their professors to our institutions for courses and lectures while we receive students from Pearl academy to some of our schools.
We are normally taught to separate professors from students but in reality they are linked together. So, if you want to bring change among students, you have to bring it to the professors and then it will eventually get transferred to the students. If you make your students curious, it will also make your professors curious. So, the set of actions we build is from a very preliminary interaction of just being aware of something, to participating in our programs or enrolling in our school. This is something we do with Pearl Academy and other institutions.
It’s clear the Design is only possible when the designer is curious. Being a designer means always being eager to grasp, to sniff in and look outside the boundaries. Hence we encourage our students to work with students of other disciplines.
So, I was surprised by Luca De Prà’s collection. It looks outside the boundaries since it takes inspiration from the most classical tailoring and then it takes it further. The result is reaching to “blow up” the archetypes of classic men’s clothing and create new shapes, to offer a new figure of the male body.
It’s surprising India’s richness in traditions. I was aware about it but I wasn’t expecting that much in terms of fabric, visuals, and the ability to work from khadi to jute or the level of embroidery. When we talk about saree, there is Varanasi saree, Odissi saree, Bangla saree, you cannot understand the richness of these differences from afar. When you say silk, there are 50 different types of Indian silk and this is something missing here because you can’t have all these samples in Italy.
I travelled to India in 1992 and spent 2 months in Calcutta. I was shocked because they were giving a different name to a fabric every time. So, silk has different names according to the way they work or they originate from. So, this would be a very special gift for our students and a strong entry point in order to strengthen this curiosity towards India.
Our students are always happy and interested in discovering new things that are not just fabrics. They work a lot on various kinds of material that include embroidery and stitching. So, such a competition organized by you is something that would deepen their curiosity. Diving deeper into subjects is something that we want to achieve, and participating or organizing such a competition makes this exciting.
On the other hand, Indian students and professors can analyze IED students creations and get a larger view on their own country: “look at how Italian students were imagining us from outside” they can say. There is a very famous German movie director, Wim Wenders, who stated that the best place to look at your place is looking through the camera. When you are showing Indian students how Italian students are interpreting Indian traditions, it is astonishing, and this is also something that can be organized and the other way round.
Global is good if you design locally. Designing locally means being curious. There is no curiosity if design is global, and if it’s global it is already at your door. So, the first suggestion is again to be curious and listen to everyone which will get you one step ahead of the others. The second suggestion is to find the right balance in everything. If you are particularly excited by innovation, then you have to look at tradition and if you are particularly excited by tradition then you have to look at innovation. If you are particularly excited by globalization, think locally.
The matter is always finding a balance, and the way to rebalance is through curiosity. This is true not just for fashion designers but for designers at large. It’s necessary to remember that changing is good, but you always may miss something. It is necessary to be aware in order to understand what you really need, and this is always driven by curiosity.

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