Painting by Bhagvati Khalsa. Photo Courtesy of Bhagvati Khalsa

Alumni Update: The Limitless World of Bhagvati Khalsa

Bhagvati Khalsa. Photo courtesy of Bhagvati Khalsa
Bhagvati Khalsa. Photo courtesy of Bhagvati Khalsa

Bhagvati Khalsa, who was born in Colorado and grew up in a Sikh boarding school in Northern India, has been exposed to two completely different worlds that made her who she is today.

“It is hard to gauge the impact my upbringing has had on my life, but having to straddling duel cultures has given me the ability adapt and improvise easily with the tools and project at hand,” Khalsa told Fashion School Daily.

The 2000 alumna of Academy of Art University BFA Fashion and Knitwear Design with emphasis on Illustration, has accumulated over a decade of industry experience ranging from Banana Republic up to Patagonia. Recently, Fashion School Daily had the opportunity to interview this nature lover who also loves drawing, ceramics, climbing and surfing.

"Nomadic Safari" one of Bhagvati Khalsa's work. Photo courtesy of Bhagvati Khalsa
“Nomadic Safari” one of Bhagvati Khalsa’s work. Photo courtesy of Bhagvati Khalsa

Fashion School Daily: What sparked your interest to study Fashion and Knitwear Design at Academy of Art University?

Bhagvati Khalsa: I have loved drawing and making things since I was a kid, but the major turning point that pushed me towards fashion was studying with a master tailor just out of high school. She really instilled in me the love of the process. I had very little knowledge about the Fashion industry, but thought that if I loved to draw and sew it was a natural choice.

FSD: During your study in Academy of Art University you received full scholarship for international exchange and went to study French in Chambre Syndicate De La Couture Parisienne, how did you get the scholarship? And why French?

BK: I got the scholarship based on my portfolio, and jumped at the chance because who wouldn’t? France was not my first choice but my history and knowledge in tailoring ended up being very beneficial in helping me understand what was going on since my teachers didn’t speak English. I ended up studying French in the evenings and still feel so lucky to have had that opportunity.

FSD: Any fond memory you still remember from your school days? If so what is it? 

BK: I remember when I learned how to find inspiration and utilize it; the world opened up and felt limitless.

FSD:  After you graduated, what was the first thing you did afterward?

BK: I taught Visual research, fashion life drawing and senior portfolio at a university in Ohio. Although I was quite young it felt relevant because the Academy of Art University fashion program gave me a much more European take on design. The students in Ohio had more emphasis on the commercial side of fashion and I could expose them to another way of seeing it.

FSD:  You have accumulated so many experiences in fashion industry; what’s your most memorable one?

BK: To be honest there is not one that is most memorable. It is much more about process and looking forward to new experiences that align my personal ethos with my work world.

Poster by Bhagvati Khalsa. Photo courtesy of Bhagvati Khalsa
Poster by Bhagvati Khalsa. Photo courtesy of Bhagvati Khalsa

FSD: You have worked for a big company like Banana Republic and you have also worked for small companies. What’s the biggest difference you have noticed? And which one do you prefer? 

BK: The Bigger companies tend to have more bureaucracy with systems that track quality and consistency which is great, but also makes for a lot of data entry. The size is usually reflected in the budget so the bigger companies can offer broader access to a variety of opportunities such as travel for research and development (R&D). As for and smaller companies it varies greatly, there are many small companies that exist solely to make private label knock offs which can be quite depressing, but If that is not their intention, smaller companies are willing to take more stylistic risk. This can be very rewarding, because it can give the person opportunities to wear multiple hats and feel like you are making a bigger contribution to the overall product. I do not have a preference, as I have had good and not so good experiences with both, in the end when I feel like I am able to make a good contribution is when I feel the most rewarded.

FSD: When you were still at Academy of Art University, what was your dream job? And are you still working towards it?

BK: My Dream has never revolved around a job, but around the desire to continue to grow, be creative and make things. So my hope is that it is a life long journey and it is never a place that I will reach, but always be working towards.

Photo courtesy of Patagonia
Photo courtesy of Patagonia

FSD: You are currently working for Patagonia, how did it all start? What was the hiring process like? 

BK: I got an interview because I have a friend and Patagonia employee who recommended me for the position. Patagonia is a family owned company and they like to create a family atmosphere so it is encouraged to bring people in the mix that fit culturally with relevant skill sets. I had multiple interviews and after being hired, I moved very quickly from Colorado to Ventura CA.

FSD: What’s an average day like for you in Patagonia?

BK: The Great thing about working at Patagonia is there is not really an average day. There are a lot of interpersonal interactions and telephones are rarely used. People work hard and play hard and if the work gets done there usually is not a problem.

"What time is it going to rain" mural by Bhagvati Khalsa. Photo by Bhagvati Khalsa
“What time is it going to rain” mural by Bhagvati Khalsa. Photo by Bhagvati Khalsa

FSD: Looking at your website, you have an array of beautiful works, which one is your favorite? What can you tell me about it 

BK: My favorite projects have been some of the bigger scale projects that I have worked on.  I have assisted some large-scale installation artist and built sculptures that people could physical experience, moving through them.  Of my favorite personal projects was a mural I made on my house in Brooklyn NY called “what time is it going to rain?”  It measured 13’x26’ and the scale and having to interaction with the public made for a very spontaneous and satisfying process.

FSD: During your study at the Academy of Art University, you had an emphasis on illustration. Can you tell me more about your illustration style?

BK: I did a lot of figure drawing at the Academy of Art University and that has continued to be something I use to evolve my style. I really like to draw with pen, I like that it forces you to look harder before committing your line to the page.

FSD: What inspires you?

BK: Nature, people and being alive!

FSD: What’s next for you?

BK: Currently I am exploring the world of ceramics and am interested to see where it takes me.

FSD: We all know the real world is hard and fashion industry is not an easy industry to work in, what advice can you give to graduating fashion students? 

BK: There is not one path, look for yours and be true to your self.


For more information about Bhagvati Khalsa and her work, visit her website here



Written by, Taufik MarasabessyBFA Merchandising