With campuses in Chennai and Bangalore, FIDA the Design School has stepped into its 10th year of design training. Under the charismatic leadership of its Director, S. Fareeda Khan, the institute has scaled up to being one of the very best design academies in the county. Khan, who is a recipient of many awards and accolades in the field of Design and Education - both nationally and internationally - works with a vision to educate and empower women to find financial freedom and become successful entrepreneurs through creative pursuits.
Chennai based Namrata Shah, a mother of two, had enough free time after dropping her kids at school. In fact, it is a quintessential homemaker scenario for many Indian women. Among them, some would chose to sit idle, while others would look for ways to channelize that time to do something productive. It was around 2011; Namrata, who belonged to the latter, decided to brush up her creative skills. One day, after dropping off her kids, Namrata casually goes to enquire about the courses available in FIDA, then a new design school, but a convenient choice, as it was in the same region where Namrata had to wait for hours before picking up her kids back from school.
S. Fareeda Khan, Director of FIDA, still remembers her first interaction with Namrata. "It was one of those early years of our operation. Namrata wanted to do something creative and I suggested her to go for Interior Designing," recounts Khan. Taking Khan's advice, Namrata started learning Interior Designing at FIDA and soon she caught up with a challenging task; Namrata was asked to convert a classroom into a restaurant as a part of a competition, which she did without knowing that the competition would change her life forever. "That day, one of the judges was very much impressed with Namrata's work and offered her an opportunity to work in his firm. From there, she has never looked back. She is a very busy Interior Designer in the city now," Khan concludes the story with a smile of satisfaction on her face.
"With centres housed in the prime locations of Chennai and Bangalore, FIDA now offers numerous design programmes catering to the needs to different types of learners"
As FIDA the Design School steps into its 10th year of design training, Khan has many such stories to tell, especially about the numerous women who gained financial freedom under Khan's mentorship. In fact, that is what Khan has envisioned while setting up a design school: to educate and empower women to find financial freedom and become successful entrepreneurs through creative pursuits. "At FIDA, we are on a mission is to handhold and develop successful entrepreneurs, 200 numbers by 2020," states Khan. FIDA is not a dedicated college for women education, but has over 90 percent women students and 95 percentage of its workforce are women. "That just happened over the course of time. We do have boys as students, but very less in numbers. I am slightly inclined towards empowering women in the county, because, I really understand the challenges our women face to come out of the society's age-old traditions," explains Khan.
Born in a conservative Muslim family, Khan was married at an age of 20 to a second-generation entrepreneur who had taken over the family business. There, the idea of women working to support the family financially was not entertained. However, Khan was fortunate to have a husband who valued her views. "Almost seven years into our marriage, we started building our own house and I was very fascinated to give inputs to the interior designing to make it a home that we loved. That is how, I got into the field of Interior Designing," shares Khan, who then continued study Interior Designing in-depth to make a career out of it.
After spending nine years in the design sector, as a teacher and a designer, Khan was quick to realize the gap that persisted in the education sector. "My education has primarily been in the field of Interior design. After years of working in the field, I found a vast difference between the industry expectation and classroom training. A design school is what can bridge that gap. We at FIDA the Design School, believe that education is beyond instruction, skill and the four walls of our institute. We encourage thinking, questioning and experimenting to reinforce the potential of our students," opines Khan.
FIDA: Where Creativity Thrives
FIDA, acronym of Fashion and Interior Design Academy, is now not only known for its strong education background, but also for the quality of exposure given to the students, which makes it one of its kinds. The institute has been associated with Inter National Institute of Fashion Design, Annamalai University, London School of Trends, Lakme Fashion Week, Femina Miss India, New York Fashion Week, Indian Institute of Interior Designers and many more. "Interior design is all about the execution. You may be a great artist and you can come up with a great design that looks good on paper. However, the major challenge comes in the execution part and you need a lot practical exposure to be successful there," says Khan.
The academy's association with Inter National Institute of Fashion Design (INIFD) brings many international elements to the teaching and learning. "We collaborated with INIFD, considering their international associations. This helps us getting the mentorship of people like Twinkle Khanna, who is the chief mentor of INIFD. She gives advice to our students online whenever it requires," states Khan. Apart from the visiting practitioners, FIDA has a combination of both part time and full time faculties. Khan adds, "All faculties come with a strong industrial experience. Each class has not more than 20 students, so individual attention can be given to each one. Our training does not involve full day lectures, there is more of practical learning up to about 70 percent and the theory is only 30 percent."
At FIDA, the practical learning involves local site visits, archaeological visits to world-renowned sites like Hampi, international Design tour to Dubai, internships, participation in events, and finally the in-house Annual Interior Design Exhibition called KRITYA. "We conduct various workshops by professionals in design, arts, personality development, Vastu and Feng Shuietc. This keeps them involved and connects them to the industry while studying itself," claims Khan. Recently, the students of FIDA were given an opportunity in bringing out a designer look for the Yamaha Fascino scooters. "At the end, we also hand hold them through the process of getting placed, may it be brands like Duravit, Asian paints, Philips, Godrej, or with top Interior designers and architects, drawing a package of Rs. 3 lakhs per annum as they step out itself," proudly says Khan.
With centres housed in the prime locations of Chennai and Bangalore, FIDA now offers numerous design programmes catering to the needs to different types of learners. The institute runs seven days a week and classes even start as early as 7 AM every day. "We get a great mix of learners here. It ranges from homemakers to teenagers and working professionals. We treat them equally and give ample practical exposure they need to get into the industry of their dream," says Khan. At FIDA, before the Fashion design students start their own line of clothing, they get the opportunity to work with brands like Zara, H&M, Tommy Hilfiger and many more to understand the market closely and designers like Sidney Sladen, SonalDaga, Nazia Sayed many more to get hands on designing experience.
"We have marked a growth in the design field since 2009. As we step into our 10th year of design training, we intend to give each and every student a larger international learning experience through an updated curriculum, overseas design tours, world class workshops with faculties and trainers from different parts of the world and so on," shares Khan. The institute has already taken a big step by moving into a larger campus in 2017, with infrastructure that would gives students an unmatched learning experience.
Khan is now in her mid 40s and she has many plans that are more ambitious and goes beyond the realm of education. As a step forward, Khan has now ventured into a high-end multi designer store, Aquaab - by SFK Curated Fashion in Kilpauk, Chennai. Spread across 2,600 sq ft, Aquaab is located inside her fashion institute. However, she does not want to deviate too much from her mission. "It may not a very easy process. You may be threatened by the same society that appreciated you for being a strong and independent woman. But, you have to believe in yourself and move forward," concludes Khan.
KRITYA - An Event to Explore
KRITYA is an annual exhibition of FIDA, which celebrates original designs and rewards students who are able to demonstrate innovative, functional design solutions that have a positive environmental and human impact, while allowing emerging interior designers the opportunity to showcase their work and fresh design ideas to professionals working in the field. Though this, FIDA's aim is to make students understand the elements and principles of design as the building blocks of creative design that would develop the originality, expression, skill and creative thinking. The invitees include prominent Interior Designers, Architects, Faculty members from Educational institutions and all the parents of the participating students.