Tarun Tahiliani is an Indian fashion designer who always lived by the mantra – India Modern. He grew up in Bombay, in a post-colonial, socialist India, where the elite clung to Jesuit schools and piano lessons and the craft of India shriveled up from a lack of design, innovation and proper patronage. Slowly, a new philosophy began to develop out of this bleak environment: one that was awakened to India’s truly great heritage and he understood that contemporary designs could give India’s rich traditions a new voice and thus, a new resonance. Here’s what he has to say about his journey and collections let’s have a look.
What are the key elements that you keep in mind while designing clothes?
I think in fashion one has to always balance one’s own ability to design or what direction to take the design, with the fact that it has to find an audience and also the fact that people have to live their lives in the clothes. While designing our clothes we keep in mind the modern Indian woman who seeks an amalgamation of modernity and tradition while still wanting to be comfortable in what she wears. Continuing the eternal innovations in the draped form, signature to us, we endeavor to present collections that are a distillation of our design sensibility and yet competitively priced to stand on their own anywhere in the world whether it is style or price or fit.
What is your favorite part about being a fashion designer?
My inspiration over the years has come from art, architecture, interiors, history, travel, Maharajas. Sometimes it’s from beautiful inlay work I’ve seen in a fabulous moment, other times my inspiration can be something as simple as a beautiful Kanjeevaram weave. These unexpected enhancements that we come across and that get tailored into our clothing is probably my favourite part of being a fashion designer. Being able to tell the story of India’s rich traditions of craftsmanship with beautifully executed, intricate and fine technique is what inspires me to do the work that I do.
Tell us something about your brand ‘Ensemble’
I started my professional career with a degree in Business Management from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. After returning to India, I saw a vast potential in the fine clothing and couture industry that was evolving in the country, and in 1987, opened India’s first multi designer boutique, Ensemble.
Ensemble kicked off the whole idea of homegrown Indian couture. I started the store with my wife to promote the best of Indian designs because I thought it was odd that after 40 years of independence we were still sending our best products abroad. We knew that the way clothes are made is important – in other words, how they fit, not just how they are embroidered. The store became a sensation heralding a fashion and retail revolution in India.
One celebrity you would like to design for?
My most favourite celebrities at the moment are the beautiful Deepika Padukone, Shilpa Shetty because of the way they wear clothes beautifully, Mehr Rampal and of course Katrina Kaif. These girls really know how to walk their clothes with utter elegance and panache.
What we should expect next from Tarun’s box for this wedding season both for bride and groom?
While each couture collection may be connected to the previous, they also bring with them a refinement that hasn’t been seen before. In contrast to our previous collection, the pieces have a more vibrant colour palette. We have also experimented with silhouettes by adding more jackets and capes that create a mystical harmony of the modern and the traditional. A finer workmanship adorns paneled kurtas that beautifully contour the body of the wearer.
As grooms today are more willing to experiment with what they wear, we have introduced Spring kurtas with the element of draping that has not been seen in our pieces before. The traditional kurta has a drape attached to it that is sewn at the seams, again perfectly balancing modernity with tradition.
How do you see Indian Fashion Industry in terms of choices and demands?
Indians are on the cusp of a new way, which is a wonderful fusion of the two worlds our mind space inhabits. There is no doubt that Indian fashion has progressed by quantum leaps and bounds in the last 15 years, placing India on the global map. We now have fashion weeks, trends, glossy magazines, some multi-brand boutiques of note and a thriving handloom scene. Designers have started their own stores and brands have been established, and the demand for Indian fashion is growing exponentially.
Any fashion tip you would like to give?
Fashion is not about a trend, it’s about individuality! If you truly believe in your emancipation, you should want to look like yourself. That is the true spirit of being modern. Women should wear whatever they are comfortable in and also select pieces that reflect their personal style and not follow trends blindly.