Émile Zola said,
“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”
In our #WisdomWednesday post focusing on the #WonderWomen segment, we bring to you a woman who believes in living like Emile, out loud and finding beauty in everything. Meet, Sejal Agarwal, who is a Fashion designer, and an Illustrator and Artist. What’s her story and how did she find her calling as an artist? Let’s find out in her own words.
“I fell in love with the colorful crayons and those pencils as a kid when I could use it anywhere in the house, be it drawing in a book, on a wall or even on the floor. I was fascinated by how every stroke turned into an art piece for me. Since my childhood, I always doodled on every empty spot on whatever paper I could get my hands on, and I used to cherish every moment of my art class in school. Art and fashion have been, and continue to be, the main outlet for me to pour out my feelings. I think there is beauty in everything. What ‘normal’ people would perceive as ugly; I can usually see something of beauty in it. When I draw, I sometimes add an element of wit and satire, which I believe makes the drawing more interesting to analyse. As I grew older, I became fascinated with the clothes I used to wear. I would love all the little details that added a touch to my overall appearance and personality, right from dressing up to wearing matching footwear with my dress. So fascinated was I with it, that I wish I could play dress up for life.
Ever since I was a little girl, I loved fashion. I started doodling dresses along with their matching accessories on paper. I would do a lot of paper craft, make handmade cards and all kind of art and craft things that would be more cherished. Fashion for me was love, magic, fantasy and adventure. It was pure bliss for my young heart and an escape from the ordinary. Then one day this playful hobby became an ambition, and I aimed to become a fashion designer, an artist, who would see things around and convert dreams into reality. Fashion design requires a great amount of business strategy. So, I had taken up commerce in my class 11 & 12, to have better understanding of these business strategies. In fashion design there are many levels of opportunities and that means you can create a unique career path. The skills we develop through observation and creation can be used in many industries so we should have the ability to transfer into other areas of design very easily. To be honest, I have not faced such a big struggle that I would want to put into words. This is because my father has always been there with me at every hurdle of my life. But still I would like to share a small part about my story which can be said to have been challenging. When I was in class 11, I started taking classes to appear for entrance exams of fashion colleges. I wanted to go out of Kolkata to pursue fashion designing and become an independent and successful woman. I wanted to do something on my own in my life and recognition for my work. So yes, I cracked few of these entrance examinations and got into UID Ahmedabad and Pearl Academy Mumbai and even NIFT. But I wasn’t sure of which city NIFT because my rank was not that great. I was little disheartened because couldn’t get into NIFT which was my actual first preference. But then seeing other options, I chose Mumbai because that was my dream city and would be the perfect place to get a fashion exposure.
So, July 2015, I took off from the safe haven of my hometown to a new city, a new place to stay, new surroundings and with unknown people; everything was just new to me. Staying in an expensive city was a bit of little struggle for me as I had to take care of where I spent each penny. The daily hustle in Mumbai was a learning phase, right from buying stuff for college purpose and sourcing materials, to handling household chores like cooking food and preparing my day schedule properly to handle everything on time, it all came on me who had never been exposed to such daily struggles. Luckily, I found some great friends, who became a fantastic support system to me during all the four years that I spent there. Before moving to Mumbai, I never thought money had so much value in everyone’s life. My experiences in that city, made me respect my father in a new light who has been working from years for the prestigious livelihood that we had been brought up in. Mumbai was proving to be expensive, what with my course fees and the other day-to-day expenses like rent, travelling, etc. So to save a little and to help my father in whatever little way I could, I tried taking small projects of graphic designing as a means of side income where I could spend money to buy things for myself.
This taught me to compromise, rather just to stay basic in a lot of stuff, right from food habits to travelling preferences, I made the simplest choices in order to save money and avoid unnecessary expenditure. Those four years in Mumbai made me an independent lady, who could do whatever she wanted to and travel anywhere in the new city, and even handle a lot of random people. But most importantly I survived, and I lived.
The journey of reaching to high rank from junior level made me acquire the finer details, relevant knowledge, and skills to enhance an improvement in my overall performance and confidence. Fortunately, the fashion industry has ample room for progression in terms of profile and money. So those 4 years passed by quickly, making me learn and grow. It was a wonderful journey which taught me a lot and made me who I should be as a woman; lessons that people couldn’t teach, a city made me learn and realize.
My biggest motivation has always been my family. I believe that it is the environment in which a person in nurtured and grows up which defines their qualities and characteristics. Therefore I think that my parents are huge contributors to my environment, and they have played a huge large role in raising me to be the person I am today.
I would like to give special credits to my brother who has always pushed me to face new challenges in life and encouraged me to do things even though they are tough.
My family has always given me the freedom to become what I wanted to and never forced me to study or do things their way, like most other parents. They are positive role models for me and they encourage me to think to think responsibly and in a way that would make me a better person. They taught me that I could achieve anything with a good education, a solid goal, and an unfaltering determination. My aim is to make sure I do good work and always keep challenging myself. The ultimate goal is to make my parents proud of how their daughter had grown up to be.
I am grateful to God and my parents for giving me the education, not only the academic one, but even the education of being a person with values, responsibility, and honesty. I am also thankful to my friends Aishwariya and Kaushik for always being there for me, and for encouraging and believing in me I can do it.
The turning point was moving to Mumbai and the four years that followed. I went to the Pearl Academy Mumbai and I was at the right age to explore myself as a designer. But the challenges I faced here made me question myself as an artist: do I even like what I’m making? Fashion has always inspired me, if you don’t love fashion from your core, you will burn out. It’s like an actor who is 80 and still wants to act, not for vanity but for the sake of the art form. The more fun you have with fashion, the better it is. For me, every art form has a story behind it, I create artworks based on something that connects me or someone’s life, a story behind it, which can help you to give some positive vibes. All the mood boards, story boards that I have developed to make clothes also had a story line behind it. So, there are a few things that I’ve learned like photography and marketing which have helped to add some extra skills that might come in handy. And I’ve learned to organize myself a lot better, so it gets easier – just slightly – to juggle it all.
Working in fashion industry allows us to meet people from varied backgrounds having rich experiences and learning. I have learnt a lot from such people, and I treat them like mentors as they may play a key role in growth and development for us.
For my future plans? Firstly I would want to work with an established industry for a few years before launching my own label. I want to try to learn everything about production, right from when you are at work; be it design, cutting, studio management, ordering and procuring fabrics, to meeting with suppliers and marketing the product.
We need to develop a vision, accept the opportunities offered, and learn something from every step we take during the production process.
I want to do and create something that is more affordable in the future. Right now that seems like a simple enough plan, but trust me it is not easy to open your own very label, it needs a lot of investment, a lot of hard work, a lot of management, and most importantly it is all about business aesthetics.
However, with the kind of faith of faith and support system I have around me, and the faith that I have begun to have in my own work and abilities, I am sure I will get there, if not today, then definitely a few years down the line.
To drop in a message to Sejal, check out her amazing artworks and creativity, or to collaborate and hire her services for a commissioned artwork, follow the links below:
Sejal’s artwork has been featured on quite a few online platforms. You can have a look at these through the links below:
Other personal and professional social media handles: