As a leader of fashion education in India, NIFT realizes the importance of its social responsibilities and continues its endeavour to create grounded designers who are able to appreciate and promote the various crafts of India. Several academic activities help to sensitize the students towards the realities of the craft sector and provide insight into regional sensibilities. As a regular activity, the students of NIFT are sensitized to the clusters of handloom and handicrafts at the end of their second year as a part of the curriculum. Craft Research and Documentation is a mandatory subject for all the under graduate Design and post graduate Design and Management students. The students visit various clusters for field work for a period of 10 days and undertake craft documentation and product development.
In 2015, on the occasion of the first National Handloom Day, the honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi stressed on the need for linking handloom with fashion in order to boost the sector and promote the rich handlooms of India on a global platform. Taking forward the vision of the honourable Prime Minister, NIFT has recently signed a MoU with DC (Handlooms) and DC (Handicrafts) to implement a new Craft Cluster Initiative, which will provide the students with continuous exposure to core strength of Indian culture, handloom and handicraft clusters, thus providing opportunity for creative innovation and experimentation. The endeavour aims to sensitize the future designers towards the different craft sectors of India. It is envisaged that the craft exposure will help the students to become 'Young Change Agents' and utilize the skills of the handloom and handicraft sectors for developing niche contemporary products. The experienced NIFT faculty will contribute by monitoring the student activities, offering customized training programmes and sharing design inputs, thereby enhancing the commercial value of products being manufactured by the artisans. Such exposure and interactions will provide a stronger rural connect and a greater understanding and appreciation of Indian culture and aesthetics to the young design professionals.
NIFT has an advantage of connecting with the handloom and handicraft clusters and forge new partnerships, due to its presence in 15 states across the country. Under this initiative, various campuses of NIFT will adopt local clusters and will be carrying out activities involving product development, design intervention, knowledge sharing and capacity building for the next five years.
The students at NIFT specialize in the areas of design, technology, management and communication. According to the specialization, students will be contributing in varied areas in the clusters. The Design students will contribute in the areas of design intelligence, design innovation and product development. The Management students will contribute in the areas of supply chain management, brand management, retail entrepreneurships, organizational development and systems design and development. The students will also contribute in the areas of process innovation, production planning, and research based improvisation and quality management. The students will assist artisans to develop distinct identity of the handloom and handicraft cluster through logo, promotional materials like posters, brochures and catalogues.
NIFT envisions more involvement in the craft sector through various projects, accomplished through a systematic and sustained effort by integrating it with the academic curriculum, and deploying the competencies and expertise of NIFT faculty and students in the process of promoting handlooms and handicrafts. To give a few examples, NIFT Bengaluru has undertaken a craft project funded by Karnataka State Khadi Village Industries Board. The intention of the project is to restore the pride and brand positioning of 'Khadi'. NIFT has also collaborated with the Ministry of Minority Affairs under the USTTAD Scheme, as knowledge partner with the objective of training and upgrading skills of craft persons belonging to the minority communities thereby preserving traditional ancestral crafts being practiced by them. The project will encompass 25 Handlooms and Handicrafts, being practiced by minority communities of India. NIFT Patna has also initiated a mega cluster project at Bhagalpur district with the objective to integrate and holistically develop the Bhagalpur Handloom Cluster and to improve its competency which will ensure its sustainable growth and increase in its total trade. On similar lines, NIFT campuses have adopted clusters in the North-East region in an endeavour to promote the handicrafts and handlooms of NER.