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.”


  • Wow! Though from the late 1970 batches we’ve had some really creative people, I think it is the Loyolites of the late 1990s who really started breaking with the grand BTech-MBBS tradition that Loyola had. Vivek seems to be one of the most high profile examples. This is indeed good news for the current crop of Loyolites as they now have shining examples of excellence in non-typical “post-Loyola route” fields to look up to. Thanks for highlighting Vivek’s case.

  • The reason I really appreciate Vivek is that there were many multi-faceted Loyolites with many talents in them but when it came down to making a decision on their future most of them decided to play safe and took to either engineering or medicine. He followed his heart and his passion and when the news of his big break reached us it really inspired many of us to renew our own personal resolves on excellence in the fields we chose to make a career.

    Ashok, i have heard you have a mailing list of loyola moderators of various batches. There might be many loyolites who are doing great work, that we of other batches dont know of. I am sure these moderators can feed you with more success stories like Vivek’s.

    Good Work!

  • Deepak, when I have more facts, I will post on your observation regarding late-1990s. Such hypotheses on social history of Loyola spurred me to start this blog.

    Jiby, armed with your comment on loyolamod (the group of moderators), I will exhort the e-group. Thanks!

  • hello Ashok chetta, its great 2 hear abt so many Loyolites succesful in defferent fields. Please try 2 get more such success stories. i’m sure it’ll make an interesting reading especially cos its written in such an elegant manner. a classmate of mine, Siddarth A, is presently at NIFT, Delhi. so i guess Vivek chettan has his followers in Loyola. Its a bit sad that none of the present generation of Loyolites know about such pioneers and stalwarts. Might i suggest that you contact somebody at school and try to get your blogs put up on the notice board. DP would have been the best person but then sadly thats not possible anymore. I don’t know if you remember me but i’ve talked to you many times. I am Prasanth’s friend. ok then, thanks for the great reading

  • P.S. do ask Vivek chettan to seriously consider tweaking the Loyola uniform. since its by someone in the family i am sure he will have the support of the school and Fr. Prinicpal. After all smart looking students are best representatives of the school.

  • Anand, yes, I remember you. Thank you for the info on Siddarth. If there’s any Loyola student who can put the blogposts on the notice-board, I can help him.

  • Hey Ashok Chetta….See, I think that idea about putting up your blog so all present Loyolites can have a look-see is a great idea… Maybe the guys don’t know their options… They should see that real success lies not in being a part of the crowd…..I remember there were so many scoffers when Vivek chose his career…I presume his success will at least seal any such lips this time round….

  • Renjith, no Loyola student has contacted me yet on this notice-board idea, even after one of the blogposts appeared in this year’s school magazine. And yes, one lesson from Vivek is that the important thing is to do well in whatever area interests us.

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