India has one of the world’s most vibrant textile industries, employing over 35 million people, many of whom make colourful and intricate cloths and garments, mostly by hand. When aspiring fashion designer Paige Philogene was offered a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant to study for six months in India’s capital, New Delhi, she jumped at the opportunity to experience this unique industry and fashion design education first-hand.
Paige took time out from her fashion design studies at Queensland University of Technology in 2016 to take up this opportunity.
‘Coming to Delhi was a bit of a shock…it was overwhelming and hard to adapt’, she says. ‘The best thing you can do is just go for it because you're never going to get that experience again, of being part of… the college culture and meeting young people your age.’
They gave me an amazing opportunity as part of Australian foreign policy and it was a really unique, individual experience for me and I’m lucky to be part of it.
A maker of things, a creator, a lover of fashion and style, Paige was taken by the ‘abundance of colour in India’ and her arts practice has gone in new directions following her time there. After learning to make corsets in the Indian sari style, Paige incorporated these skills into her work, coming up with bold, hybrid designs that integrate into western fashion. ‘I just really like the beautiful femininity and the vintage sort of feel and translating that into something really wearable’, she says.
Paige’s overseas experience has expanded her creative and professional horizons, opening her to new possibilities and fresh ways of looking at her craft. ‘I definitely got inspired by embellishments and drapery and things I just wouldn’t have used before because I didn’t have an eye for it, it wasn’t something that attracted me’, she says.
By 2018 the New Colombo Plan will have supported over 30,000 Australian students to study in Asia or the Pacific. This transformative program helps develop Australia’s ties with the region, both at an individual level and through expanding university, business and other links.
Paige says her experience in India has not only shaped the way she thinks about fashion and her approach to design, but given her a new appreciation for craftsmanship and traditional techniques while also gaining friends for life. She says of the New Colombo Plan: ‘They gave me an amazing opportunity as part of Australian foreign policy and it was a really unique, individual experience for me and I’m lucky to be part of it’.