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Vivek Karunakaran: A Loyolite in Fashion

Vivek Karunakaran: A Loyolite in Fashion

At the Lakme India Fashion Week in Mumbai last month, Vivek Karunakaran (1998) was among the nine designers selected for the GenNext round, a group show where young designers debut before international buyers and the media.

A Vivek design; pic courtesy: New Indian ExpressI had never seen “fashion” in the Loyola lexicon, and here was somebody who was defining it. So, despite the publicity by now, within minutes of Jiby’s tip off, I got in touch with Vivek, who runs viia in Chennai.

Excerpts from an e-mail interview:

Fashion is not the typical Loyolite’s post-Loyola route. Who or what carried you to the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Chennai?

I guess the creative streak in my gene pool comes from mom. I have always been interested in art, craft, design, music, dance, etc.. I always looked forward to the Youth Festival; loved the interhouse competition and all the fun that came with it. Yes, I was made to write all the possible engineering entrance exams. But I had clearly decided at that point what I wanted. I was fortunate to meet a few people who were design students at NIFT and NID [National Institute of Design]. Meeting them further strengthened my interest towards the career I wanted to pursue.

In Trivandrum, at that point of time, the only form of exposure to Fashion, was in the form of fashion shows organised at intercollegiate festivals, and big events organised by the corporates or the government. So whenever I had a chance to pitch in, I would make the most of it. I got so involved that I decided to organise a show around where I used to live — bringing in sponsors and celebrities together, and raising some money for charity. It was quite an experience. A good learning and overall fun.

When you recall Loyola now, who do you think was the best-dressed teacher?

In those years, I was quite fascinated by Mrs Merl Murray’s sense of style in her sleeveless blouse and printed chiffon sarees. Fr Varkey, Fr Philip Thayyil, late Fr Pulickal, Fr Edassery — all had a sense of style within the crisp robes they used to wear. I think most of the male teachers were still working on their style at that point 🙂

Vivek KarunakaranGiven a choice to re-design the Loyola school uniform, what would be your suggestion(s)?

Black and white, still my all-time favourite. Could possibly look at stylising the same — a bit. Tweaking it to add interesting details. More than everything, a sense of style needs to be inculcated within each student to help them understand “dressing well” and “dressing right.”

Bye, Mr Baker

Bye, Mr Baker

Laurie Baker left us two Sundays ago. We left him a decade ago.

Architect and builder Laurie Baker designed and built the junior classrooms that Loyolites grew up in, and the canteen complex where we sipped our first chocolate milk, asked uncle for football, collected NCC gear, mauled music on weekdays, and rounded off Saturday afternoons with porotta and curry. In the mid-1990s, the music room was demolished; later, the junior school and canteen buildings went through a makeover.

Loyola Chapel; Pic courtesy: Frontline (’s most famous creation at Loyola — the chapel-auditorium complex — is still there. The Sutters of Toledo (Ohio, US) had donated Rs 175,000 and Baker built it in 1970-71, managing to keep the cost within the original gift sum.

In Laurie Baker: Life, Works and Writings, Gautam Bhatia quotes the brickmaster:

The official clients are Jesuit priests. Although they agreed to my proposals and plans, obviously they did not appreciate the high vast stretches of unplastered brickwork. They had every intention of tarting the whole thing up later on with nice bright paints and plasters, but have not been able to bring themselves to do this simply because there is a small but steady and persistent stream of foreign visitors, both architects and priests, who come just to see and take photographs.

Maybe. But the Jesuits had the last laugh when they chose to steal its soul: the people who use it. After all, what is an auditorium without children, their speeches, quizzes, drama or music? In the late 1990s, the school decided to build another auditorium: an auditorium-cum-indoor stadium.

  • Bigger.
  • Rs 40 million thus far, six months to go.
  • Acoustics worth Rs 6 million.
  • Synthetic flooring.

Grand. But not low-cost. Not eco-friendly. Not Baker.

The school had reasons to leave Baker behind. In the case of the junior school building, the school wanted more and safer classrooms. And for the auditorium, it was hungry for seating capacity and hi-tech facilities.

Changing times, changing needs, and dare I say, changing philosophies. I will not be surprised if Baker’s football ground pavilion is reworked to accommodate more people and provide facilities. I will not be surprised if youth festivals and La Fests move from Sutter Hall to the new stadium. Children will continue to admiringly watch their heroes and clap for them, and on stage, perform with pride, excitement and fear. No longer in the hall that Baker built. Laurie Baker’s passing away in 2007 coincides with Loyola’s final farewell to him.

Last month, on Orkut’s Loyola community, a twelfth-standard student posted: “Someone tell me who the crap is Laurie Baker?”. Let’s just say that he was the parent of an old boy. Tilak Baker belonged to the 1977 batch.