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LINGERIE TRAINING: The Impending  Gap Between  Industry and Institutes

Apparel Training & Design Centre, (ATDC) India's largest vocational training network for the apparel sector organized a Seminar on 'Market and Manufacturing Opportunities for Lingerie wear in India' at ATDC - JUKI Technology and Entrepreneurship Hub, Bangalore a couple of years back. The participants invited for the seminar were students and faculty of educational and vocational institutes in Bangalore, members of the garment industry and representatives from buying houses. The seminar was organised as a curtain raiser to introduce the ATDC- Juki Technology and Entrepreneurship Hub and its activities.



Keeping in mind the need to bridge the skill and knowledge gaps in the lingerie industry, ATDC also took up various courses. ATDC Bangalore initially began by conducting workshops for the industry and faculty. These were aimed at short programs on pattern making, design and style analysis, introduction to operations etc. A detailed training course of 300 hours was also undertaken for the industry. This program included basic designing, body measurements, pattern making, and introduction to materials used in lingerie wear in addition to practical sewing.

Lingerie segment over the years have created a niche for itself in the apparel manufacturing segment in India. But the industry is still at a nascent stage. With the aim of tapping the enormous growth potential of this area, National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) Gandhinagar, on popular demand from its students, had introduced a lingerie design course back in 2011. 

Lingerie design had been introduced as an elective course for the students of Fashion and Apparel Design (FAD) too, almost during the same time. Salil Bhatia, a seventh semester FAD student, played a key role in gathering votes from over 20 students interested in attending the course, a pre-requisite for electives. Bhatia, who aspires to become a lingerie designer mentioned how most elective courses are usually based on crafts or kids wear. He understood how there existed a big vacuum in the Indian designer intimate-wear market. It was till a few years back that backed my student aspirations and demands that lingerie training began to be included in the curriculum of the design colleges.


The challenges pertaining to lingerie and its make are many and even after ATDC's intervention and skill development becoming a key factor for the textile ministry as per the Government in rule, still we are to cut the gap that exists between the industry and the education system. There is a difference almost at every juncture when it comes to training for lingerie, getting trained professionals for lingerie and making them work with the industry.

As per our investigation we understood that trained lingerie professionals are a scarce in the industry, also there is a major discrepancy in sizing of lingerie that in many ways extends towards the bigger dais of the apparel industry too. The lingerie market in India is estimated to be growing at 17 per cent a year. But the gap for trained professionals is still a big reality that can only diminish with the industry getting closer to the institutes. At present as part of the lingerie training course, students are made to understand the female anatomy at different stages incorporating varied categories of sizes, shapes and lifestyle requirement. They are taught about elements of comfort, fit, cut of lingerie through application of draping, pattern making and garment construction.


But fit and functionality still suffers an imbalance and can be overcome with more training and indepth research.  Most Indian innerwear brands make their products as per the UK and US body types and measurements, due to an absence of trained hands and minds to introduce India oriented change to the lingerie designs. Also, due to limited products and lack of enough specialised and organised retail atmosphere, the Indian consumer is not aware about the fashion and quality of intimate apparel. And tend to wear the same design that she has been comfortable in for years altogether or rely on international brands. Its truly a vicious cycle that has almost to way of allowing for an exit and can only be altered with more effort from both sides.


The leading Fashion institutes in India do feel there is a necessity to diminish the gap and educate the fashion students on the aspect of lingerie. "At NIFT, we are offering lingerie as an elective in Fashion Design Department in the Seventh Semester. In Knitwear Design Department it is offered as a Subject for one semester again in seventh semester. Yes. Lingerie is a specialised field, it requires extra training and effort. One does require special training to be able to design for lingerie. Indian Lingerie industry earlier was concentrating on supplying basics. It is only now that the industry has got up to design needs of the consumers. Students have interest in lingerie designing but reframed from taking this as a career. They do not find lingerie designing as lucrative option as womenswear or menswear. As pay packages offered are lesser compared to other categories. They have much better chances of switching jobs in other categories as jobs in lingerie design is limited. It would require more effort from students side to understand this product and design in lingerie field," informed Professor Monika Gupta, NIFT, Delhi.


Lingerie education has been a blank slate in India for long, trained designers specifically designing lingerie collections are a rare sight. "Lingerie market is still at a very nascent stage but with social media craziness, global exposure and frequent international travel, the modern Indian consumer are open about their intimate wear choices and are demanding the latest and fanciest in the inner wear segment this day. I think definitely its a rare sight but the focused youth wants to explore this untapped potential of the niche designer inner wear fashion," reaffirmed Raju Bhatia, HOD Fashion Technology, BD Somani Institute of Art and Fashion Tech.

She further added, "Lingerie is the core foundation of any apparel. A right and well fitted set of inner wear can make or break any look. Its like the skeleton of a building and thus, understanding the construction of such basic yet such crucial clothing segment is not only mandatory but extremely crucial. More than being a necessity , I think Lingerie education should be compulsory and we at our institute break the ice with the fresher's with lingerie lectures in the very first week. For me a designer is like a Doctor of clothes and understanding the basic foundation  in details is like knowing how to take blood pressure or checking pulse. Lingerie lectures at our institute are like the ultimate ice breakers with the fresher's, we teach them to study the subject with utmost no inhibition. Understanding human anatomy and body type helps them to identify the problem zones and like plastic surgeons, we teach them how one can achieve the ideal body figure but by just  complementing the ideal and right basic foundation. In our country where lingerie is still seen as a subject of social taboo and discussing it at length with practicality with teenagers mostly gives us a lot of giggles but we have a very straightforward and clear cut approach of training our kids with defined focus of professional ability to craft not only aesthetically balanced but functionally excellent designed products catering to ever changing fickle trends of fashion."



Lingerie sizing has a big disparity in our country. Each brand follow their own sizing pattern and the same surely is a problem. Outerwear too in our country stands on a confused size scale. "Ideally, like SizeUS, SizeUk, SizeMexico, India should also carry out SizeIndia. In SizeIndia, population should be measured and size charts should be developed for outer and innerwear alike. This initiative requires intervention from the government, institutes and apparel industry on whole. Collaboration from all can lead to this gigantic task, as India is a very diverse country in terms of shape and size of the population.

Till such project is taken up, the industry can try and compile the measurements. Some measurements are carried out at retail outlets. Even if not, efforts could be made to collect specific measurements as per the requirement. Special pamphlets and instructions could be given to all how to take the measurement and same nomenclature should be used. These measurements could be compiled at one centre. The data could be analysised and efforts could be made to come up with regional size charts. Apparel and lingerie industry both could contribute in this," explains Professor Monika Gupta.


Mrs. Leela Taparia, HOD, Fashion Design, Garodia School of Professional Studies too identifies with the idea of wearing the correct size. She explains that during her stint with JRVGTI, as the head of the fashion design department while she was teaching pattern making, she realised that no matter how well the clothes were drafted and constructed. Fitting always became a problem, and this was truly because of the lack of proper lingerie. Ill fitting lingerie in every way meant giving rise to apparel that was a mis fit. Raju Bhatia  further adds, "I think we Indians are highly diverse and our mixed race lineage has completely transformed the way our body frames have evolved and to have a standard body size format is almost difficult. What one should be more focused on is to understand how to measure oneself and how to purchase the perfect fit. Its not about a defined size chart battle any more, its about celebrating your unique body type, identifying with its flaws and celebrating what one has rather worked on to achieve the unrealistic air brushed goals. In the age of being FLAW-SOME ( flaunting your flaws awesomely) , I think one should embrace ones shape and try and figure to accentuate rather conceal it for social acceptance."




The professors in question also explains that To offer training to the students and creating modules for lingerie alone will not help the industry and institutes. The industry needs to guide the institutes in formulating these courses according to their requirements. A major requirement of such courses should be hands-on training, which only the industry can provide by means of internship, projects, competition, etc.

Lingerie industry and institutes both will need to invest in creating specialized modules. Definitely, there would be takers for these courses. And definitely creating this atmosphere for training and imparting thorough knowledge about the industry and working with lingerie will help in garnering the right talent and create a better connect between the industry and the education system.

"I think the industry should provide our home grown talent the right platform to explore and create opportunities to experiment with the lingerie market. Industries should open their doors to new talent to practical R&D modules, industrial visits and interactive sessions and seminar in various colleges. Not only the main manufacturers but also the key raw material producers and brands to people who make specialized trims to inner wear fabrics, should be welcoming colleges to have a professional and industrial interaction with the young talented mind of our country. Competitions, internship and grants from big design houses can only help the new generation  to be more acquainted with the closed hidden universe of intimate market. How much ever we as educational organisation teach, the market , on field equation and the real time functioning is what will make the kids understand, realize and experiment within lingerie designing and design development," comments Raju Bhatia.

The Lingerie industry for long was not ready to employ design students, as most of the known lingerie companies are family owned business. They did not feel the need for employing designers. As there was no demand there was no supply. Infact, students who have shown keen interest in Lingerie were left unemployed as industry could not sustain them.  One of the reason for females for not taking lingerie as a career was that this is a male dominated industry. And social setting and cultural hindrances also play a role in choosing this as a career. Here in India speaking of lingerie in public place is considered as a taboo, Explains Monika Gupta.

There certainly is a wide gap between the industry and what is taught at the design institutes and these few women HOD's and few others have over the years tried to revolutionise lingerie education. They are striving hard to keep the balance working between the industry and the fashion design institutes. But they are constantly being pushed across hurdles and are forced to swim through and make their best creative minds stand up for the lesser traversed lingerie industry.

Raju Bhatia further explains, "I think in India, we are very prude when it comes to anything intimate, surprisingly we are one of the most largely populated country in the world. This attitude to see inner wear as a taboo topic of discussion is slowly changing and people are getting more vocal about their intimate choices of inner wear, Its the booming time, where our global choices are dictating the changing future of modern India. And, definitely we will carve our niche soon in terms of designing of the intimate  apparel. I think having a vocational approach towards this whole inner wear designing module is more than just specialization. I think its need of the hour, we as educationist should train them with various niche segment as the market in basic men and women's wear is getting highly saturated and focussing on such niche and defined segments will be the rage in coming decades.


We definitely insist in our college to introduce  and have a specialized assignment or at least a defined module, where the students are acquainted with the Lingerie market, the current style and definitely the basic style constructions. We also under take  industrial visits, where they are taught with real time technology, construction details, industrial technology etc. I think definitely other colleges should be able to inculcate and introduce such design specific modules for more versatile portfolio for their students"



Lingerie is fast catching up with outerwear and the dearth of good minds and skills to turn lingerie into an interesting piece of intimate apparel is still missing from the entire fashion paradigm, "It is surely important for institutes and individuals connected to both the business side and the education side of the lingerie industry to understand and realise the necessity at hand. They should urgently relate to the blank slate that is still a reality to a great extent even today. Superficial knowledge towards lingerie and relating to lingerie with the fashion design knowledge will only bring in more trouble and will cause more difficulty. And this a designer only understands when they become a part of the industry and try doing her/his own garments for real human," explains Mrs. Leela Taparia, HOD, Fashion Design, Garodia School of Professional Studies.

She has closely observed both sides of the table and by doing so have seen how the framework of education is restrictive when it comes to personal measurements and only fulfils the duty of measurements in a very generalised way. The problems pertaining to the lingerie industry and designing for the same begins at the sizing factor and extends to many other things. She also mentioned how many designers just before getting on with their design labels have to travel abroad to get correct training to hone their skills further and be able to design better for the 'real human'  and not text book figures.

She too, much like the others believe and want to take up the duty of teaching better measurements, imparting correct methodology specific to the lingerie industry so as to revive the age old practices of lingerie making in India. And she firmly believes that this can only be achieved with assistance and close involvement of the industry and better consciousness among students. The students today are unable to become one with the idea of lingerie and accept the same wholeheartedly, one because of lesser career prospects and two because of the 'shame' factor in the society, further explains Leela Taparia.


We can only hope that there will be some change in the lingerie education system and the brands will encourage more designers to step into the practical arena. Also there will be more want for getting into lingerie designing among fashion students in the time to come. Maybe once put together a time will come in India when the industry will have many lingerie designers, who will have better consciousness about lingerie and intimate apparel.

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