I.                    THE DESIGN BRIEF

As a textile design student, I have known that textiles are a strong medium of expression in terms of color, tactility, feel, texture. It is also a strong medium of catharsis.
My idea aims at working with marginalized or underprivileged children enabling them to use textiles as a medium to design and create their own clothes which will be the voices of their dreams and aspirations.

My brief is two-fold.
One, I aim to create tools using textile design processes that will enable the children to extract a knowledge and understanding of themselves in their contexts at many levels –through their needs, emotions, feelings, dreams, aspirations, thinking processes, and modes and techniques of creating.
Two, the above process will help the children to come up with their stories of their lives that are many-layered and these stories would be interpreted through textiles and recycling of clothes. The next tasks would be to empower the children with:

  • Set of practical textile based skills
  • Initiate them into design thinking and process and production
  • Conceptualizing their own clothes using recycled fabric/waste fabric with their own expression of identity/aspiration
  • Stitch their own clothes that have an avant garde futuristic look
  • Each child can collate a portfolio of skills, concepts, products etc.
II.                  BACKGROUND

In preparing for writing my diploma project proposal, I had the opportunity to be part of observing some teaching and facilitation in the sixth and seventh standards at the Aditi International School, a school for privileged children.  I saw how the facilitation took place; the facilitators used a process of questioning that led to a chain of discussions and thinking on the part of the children with the answers coming from the children’s innocence.

I observed how the tools of participatory design, several features of appreciative enquiry, and the methodology of world café conference learning allowed insights and understanding to emerge for and from the children who were asking questions, listening, questioning, reflecting, thinking, and responding.  The aim of these tools and processes was to get them to talking, to make them find the answers to questions and issues from themselves.

I remembered my own schooldays when I used to go underground when it came to discussing or speaking in public. In standard six, I saw how the kids were gently drawn into an uncomfortable zone so that they become comfortable with the uncomfortable. In standard seven, the children had become comfortable of uncomfortable zone. It was about using methods and processes of facilitating something so strongly so that the children got something long-lived, some enduring understanding.

I wonder what I retained from my schooldays. Education seemed ephemeral. What would be the role of a designer in a space like this?
Moving between the spaces of Drishya, a school for underprivileged urban children and Aditi, several questions came to mind. By and large, we live in a world where most products are short-lived; processes and things are designed to fulfill wants and desires but not needs.  However, the “Design for Need” movement was a short-lived phenomenon of the late 1960s to early 1970s that raised some awkward questions about the role of design in addressing well-being.  Victor Papanek identified five areas of human need - economic, psychological, spiritual, technical and intellectual – noting that designers found these needs difficult and less profitable to satisfy than the carefully engineered and manipulated wants inculcated by fad and fashion.
The concept of product durability, products designed and built to last a life time, has been shifted to products that are short lived with built in obsolescence. Producers keep producing and consumers keep consuming and designers feed this process to shape the identity of a person in terms of how much one possesses or owns. Fastness has become the motto of life.
But what is the identity of people living in fast-growing slums where even their needs are not fulfilled. Where there is the space to fulfill wants/desires? And what about the children of the slums, children who have no access to schools like Aditi? Their souls are carved by the circumstances they live in. They are deprived of the right to play, study, acquire skills, earn a livelihood, be creative and produce useful artifacts, make their own decisions.

I wondered how as a textile designer I could address the needs of such children and what I could design for them in terms of meeting their real and pressing needs.

A conversation at Drishya triggered my imagination and motivated me. Facilitators Shubha and Shailja were speaking of the children in Drishya.
They said:Drishya has given uniforms to children so now they come to school neatly dressed. But if you see them otherwise, their clothes are patched. So if you could work with them so that they can make their own clothes, it would be good. I like your idea of knowing their needs; no one has worked on that before. If you can combine this with your idea of the children telling their stories and needs it would be good. These children are very good at telling stories”.

 Every teenage girl wishes to own the prettiest dress with prettiest accessories, it gives her a sense of happiness and confidence. Every teenage boy wishes to own the most amazing toys, shoes that light up. It gives a sense and meaning to their childhood, it gives life to their childhood, and it gives them smiles and laughter.


What are their needs? What are their wants/desires? Do my needs seem to them as wants?

What is the relationship between need and dependency? Are their dependencies like my own dependencies? Is their dependency based on their actual needs?

What do they think of identity?How would they identify themselves as? Do they contrast their identities with identities of other kinds?

What would they want to interpret/express as/on clothes (i) their acceptance of their existing identity (ii) their dreams and aspirations of future identity?

What does it mean to give employment to someone?

What were the needs and aspirations of Drishya children before joining the school? How have they changed now? How do they see themselves now?

IV.                APPROACH/PROCESS

  • TOOLS: design tools by participative methods to help them associate characteristics of fabric/yarn with emotions, feelings, dreams.
  • Design various exercises to get them to know/talk about their dreams, wishes, aspirations, identity, needs and creating motifs, patterns visually (layers).
  • Putting the needs/dreams etc. into fabrics in terms of patterns, motifs, colors, form, shape etc. by using different textile techniques.
  • Getting them write stories from the extracted layers.
  • Familiarizing with and using a set of textile based skills: Shibori, embroidery, printing, stitching which enables basic vocational empowerment
  • What kind of clothes they wish to wear/have? Talk about avant-garde clothes. Translating the layers onto the fabric. OR guiding them to create their own clothes as they wish to have and then translate the motifs onto the clothes.

V.                  MATERIALS/RESOURCES
BOOKS – NUNO books
              -Ethnic embroidery of India
              -the techniques of Indian Embroidery
              -Sustainable fashion and textile
              - (researching about artists who have worked with recycled textiles)
              - (researching artists who have worked with avant garde textiles)

VI.                AIMS

-  Let children become free with their imagination, dream, express.
-  let children bring their voices in their clothes, which tell their story of their being.
give children textile skills that can be used in later life for livelihood.
-  fulfill children’s wish to look nice which brings a smile to their faces.
-  find low cost ways to help them make fabric
-  find ways of recycling fabric so they can create their own clothes
-  keep durability in mind


  • engage as a facilitator and designing tools
  • planning and facilitation methodologies
  • understanding participatory and slow design
  • finding/learning ways to recycle fabric
  • looking for and making sustainable attire
  • learning simple yet avant garde patterns for stitching and production of stylized clothes

VII.              DELIVERABLES

    • .

  • A set of tools to elicit needs, dreams, aspirations and stories from children.

    A collection of fabrics, clothes created using dyes which are environment friendly and using various textile techniques.

    Set of accessories on the basis of context to go with the clothes.
    Portfolio of their skill sets, concepts, products.