Satyaki Chanda shares wisdom on making the right kind of career choices
I remember how funny it would get, when I would be excited about fashion as a fifth grader. Because boys my age were naming Pokemon or collecting them, and being obsessed with them in general — and I would cite Donatella Versace as my inspiration. I would talk about her collections and her work. To be honest, I was very clear from an early age about what I really aspired to be. I also realised early on what our country has to offer in terms of innovation and artistic expertise. I realised how extensive and unexplored the area of ethnic wear was — what it could really do for Indian fashion.
It was always a risky move for me, I guess, opting to study fashion and designing because I could find very little support for what I wanted to do. And I really had no guidelines or clue as to how to cope with the challenges in my field. People would ask me if I really wanted to become a darzi (tailor) after what my parents had spent on me. But I imagine every Indian kid with an unconventional career choice has to go through this phase.
My parents weren't supportive of my choice either. In hindsight, I feel what my dad needed was a little education on what I wanted to do. For him, fashion designing as a career was something alien, and I knew he would need time to accept my choice. However, I want to take this as an opportunity to thank my mother who always believed in me.
I ensured that I did well in my boards because it is a really important factor in a middle-class family. I didn't allow myself to get carried away by my dreams. Rather, I found out substantial points and also people to back my decision.
Now, he is a proud father, who believes that passion can also be a profession. Kids, too, should understand their parents and be patient with them even when they don't see eye-to-eye on an issue. We need to understand that all they want is for us to have a happy and secured life.
I know that many of my peers choose traditional careers, in spite of having potential in creative fields, mostly out of fear of failure. It takes major guts to follow your dreams because it requires loads of hard work, dedication and also the fortitude to overcome failure. You need to have patience to go through difficulties.
Sadly, Indian youngsters are often the victims of society. They not only succumb to parental pressure, but at times their true talent and dreams get butchered by society and its expectations. We need to inculcate a more liberal thought process — schools and colleges need to give importance to extra-curricular activities and don't just focus on merit. Most importantly, parents and children should be able to communicate freely without the fear of acceptance.
I have seen kids my age choose a career just to make their parents feel proud. I, too, felt like reconsidering my decision, at times, but I feel like I have been luckier than most because I could figure out pretty early on, where I really belong.
I got a BSc in FAD (Fashion and Apparel Design) from Vogue Institute of Fashion technology, Bangalore. While I was still in college, I designed the national costume for Jantee Hazarika (of India's Next Top Model fame), while she was a participant for Miss India 2014. Her ensemble got a lot of appreciation and was among the top 5 best costumes that year. The next year, I designed for Rewati Chetri for the same pageant, and that too earned accolades.
I was fresh out of college when I came across Craftsvilla Femina Ethnic Designer Award in 2015, and I knew I had to try for it. And I did end up winning. I still remember how Shilpa Shetty told me during the show that she visualised herself wearing one of my creations and sitting in the French Rivera — that meant a lot to me.
I started working for Craftsvilla soon, as part of their ethnic fashion intelligence branch (that's my fancy word for it). Besides designing, I'm also working towards something that would directly connect the customer to the weaver, leaving middle men aside, which would help the weavers immensely.
I have always loved the saree and people need to see it as more than just 6 yards of ensemble because it makes for a fierce statement. I use the saree a lot in my work. I have a blog titled Dustroute, which is my personal creative space and an indie style destination where I try to give out helpful inputs.
As a designer you grow every day, new things inspires you, and you keep learning new stuff. It was challenging for me to find my niche as a designer, to determine where I really belonged and what it was that I wanted to portray through my creations.
It's a good time to confess that I am an insecure person. Throughout my college life and early career days, I used to degrade my own work until I realised that if you don't believe in your work, you cannot do much with it.
Yes, I had been bullied in school for choosing a career that's not something most people see as an Indian guy opting for. But I could tell, even back then, that people like Prabal Gurung or Sabyasachi Mukherjee did not become who they are, just by doing what they were told to do.
But I can see things changing — I see some of my younger cousins opting for things they love to do. And I think that is pretty important. Because success really is temporary, you should always do something that you truly enjoy. There will be days when you feel what you are doing is wrong, but believe me you will get there. You just need to have that drive and take that necessary leap. I believe you cannot get to new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.