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"You're in excellent company": Shaila Ankolekar's Graduate Showcase story

A young womanin a dark blue sweater smiles at the camera ,against a pink background
  • Written byRachel Segal Hamilton
  • Published date 09 May 2023
A young womanin a dark blue sweater smiles at the camera ,against a pink background
Portrait of Shaila Ankolekar © Rebecca Lockhart

When Shaila Ankolekar was considering whether to study at UAL, the inspiring student work she saw on Graduate Showcase helped seal the deal. Later, after graduating from MA Graphic Design Communication at Camberwell, a link to her Showcase project landed her a dream job. In this Graduate Showcase story, Shaila explains how the platform bookended her UAL journey...

Shaila Ankolekar was home in Mumbai, India, fresh from an undergraduate degree in Retail Design, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Graphic Design had always been an interest, so she started looking into Master’s courses. “I’d always wanted to live in London,” she says. “Discovering Graduate Showcase motivated me to apply to UAL. When I saw students’ work that I liked, I clicked through to their Instagram or LinkedIn to see what they were doing now.” The quality and the variety of approaches and the personal subjects explored impressed her. London beckoned, with the promise of a new adventure.

Graduate Showcase reflects “a culture, a community,” unique to UAL, says Shaila, who completed her studies in 2021. “You're in excellent company. The greatness of everybody else uplifts your own and you all look good together.” Presenting work on the platform gives it a “stamp of approval” that resonates with prospective employers. Shaila worked at London College of Fashion’s Open Access Studio on graduating before applying for graphic design jobs. In January 2022, she sent her Graduate Showcase link to haircare brand Fable & Mane. She’s been full-time there since March 2022.

A black book with asterisks and the words Find Your Fix in gold lettering
Shaila Ankolekar's Graduate Showcase project, Find Your Fix, a publication combining text and audio

Fable & Mane’s products draw on the traditional practices of the founders’ Indian heritage. The company was a perfect fit for Shaila, whose Showcase Project, Find Your Fix, explored “the new colonisation of wellness” through a publication and a podcast. “When I had the idea for the project, I was really tired of the wellness industry. It occurred to me that something that should make you well was actually draining and exhausting,” she remembers. “It had become quite a minefield, culturally speaking. There is a lot of appropriation. Turmeric, say, is an everyday item where I’m from but it’s been rebranded.”

The publication weaves Shaila’s own research and interview with “wellness warriors” which also feature in the podcast. “It was really important for me to include the voices of people who I was speaking to. It creates a more real picture. When you hear someone's emotion, you tend to connect better to what they're saying.” Having the ability to embed the SoundCloud file was a real benefit. At the in-person show, visitors didn’t necessarily have the time to sit through the whole podcase but online they could listen to it in their own time. The experience has inspired Shaila to start a regular podcast, The Kitty Party Pod – “two brown women discussing all things pop culture and why it’s far from frivolous.”

An advertisement for haircare products surrounded by foliage, with an orange sunset backgdounr
A set Shaila Ankolekar designed for Fable & Mane, 2022

As an international student, Shaila also appreciated how readily she could share her Graduate Showcase project with family outside the UK. “I sent the link to Graduate Showcase to everybody,” she says. “I could communicate what I had done without sending a long thesis. There's a little bit about you, as a designer, there's a little bit about your project. And the best part is it's on a UAL website. So it’s official. There's a sense of validation.” Her grandparents, who’ve just recently got online, were excited to see it and forwarded it to all their friends. “It's hard for them to wrap their heads around. But then seeing photographs, visuals, that's easier for them.”

To current students, Shaila’s advice is to get cracking. “Do it ASAP. You need to! How else will you let your grandparents know what you did?” She laughs. “But on a more serious note, I would say, reflect on how what you're doing now will look on a screen. How can you best communicate everything that you've done? How can you make it more digestible? Be decisive about what is important here and what's not. Think about how you want to show up in the world. Being at college is like being in a chrysalis. And now you're now come out the other side of it.” Graduate Showcase isn’t where Shaila’s UAL journey ended, it’s where it began. And the story is still unfolding.

Read more Graduate Showcase stories from recent UAL alumni: