What can you say about Tarun Tahiliani that hasn’t already been said before? In India’s bustling fashion scene, there stands a creative genius who weaves magic through fabrics, drapes and design. The trailblazing designer’s passion transcends boundaries, creating a symphony of beauty. His unique perspective, unwavering commitment to his art, and the ability to evolve continuously are an inspiration for fashion enthusiasts. His journey showcases the power of creativity in shaping the future of fashion in India and beyond.
On His Process
From designing clothes to creating awe-inspiring spaces, directing shows to curating multiple brands — TT (as he’s lovingly known) effortlessly straddles multiple ventures. The question arises: how does he do it all with such perfection? The answer is simple—“I love what I do,” he says, his voice brimming with enthusiasm. “My work fulfils me. I don’t get distracted by things. I’ve had fun cavorting around the world. I started in a house with only a chattai and two tailors working sitting on the floor. We didn’t even have furniture. I am sixty-one, and I’ve come this far, so I want to make the best of it.” Tahiliani’s mission is to revive traditional art and infuse it with contemporary elements. His creative process involves drawing inspiration from various sources such as photographs, mood boards and fabrics. “The team works collectively, sketching and finalising designs that reflect our unique style and point of view.” He adds, “We do frequent fittings on models to ensure the designs work well on a dynamic body. The process involves constant evolution and refinement to maintain a distinct and recognisable design identity.”
On Keeping Indian Artistry Alive
At the heart of Tahiliani’s design philosophy lies a profound commitment to preserving the art of handwork and cherishing the rich craftsmanship of Indian artisans. He says, “I always want to go back to the country’s grassroots and promote talented artisans.” Shedding light on the unemployment issue post-pandemic, he says, “We have a huge population, and mil – lions of people need work. We are creating job opportunities for people to do handwork. Many of these people are uneducated and don’t stand a chance at an office job. Supporting them is not just about preserving our cultural heritage, but also providing them with dignity and a means to earn a livelihood.” Tahiliani’s love for handwork is evident, making his couture stand out and exceptional. “Couture, to me, is a much higher level, and I wish people wouldn’t confuse it with ready-to-wear,” the designer expresses passionately. “The whole essence of couture is about making things by hand, moulding them to the body, and crafting weightless pieces that are a work of art.”
He further explains that couture is not the same as bridalwear, as we see a lot of Indian designers doing. “Couture has a broader scope than bridalwear, it is for anyone who wants beautiful things. It could include jumpsuits, stylised blouses, and lehengas that can be worn as skirts. These meticulously handworked, made-to-order pieces feel almost like jewels, especially when you’re travelling and don’t want to carry jewellery but still want to make a statement.”
On Finessing His Craft
When it comes to drapes—a quintessential element of Indian fashion, no one quite does it like TT. “Drapes are the basis of everything Indian. We were a textile industry. From saris to lehengas, dhotis, turbans and shawls, they are an integral part of our heritage, and sadly I feel they have been quite sidelined in modern times,” he says. He feels that our lifestyle has changed, giving rise to Indian athleisure clothing like tunics and churidar tights. “While India has a lot of colours, embroidery and surface ornamentation, the beauty of draping has been lost,” he adds.
However, Tahiliani is determined and is tirelessly working to revive some of our traditional drapes to create structured forms that evoke timeless elegance. “We are reinventing to perfect the balance between tradition and modernity. It took years of training, but now we have structured drapes that look like you’re wearing a sari or a dhoti, but it comes with a zipper.” “Fashion draws inspiration from multiple things and should answer the need, especially of the present lifestyle,” he says.
On Staying Relevant
The veteran designer recognises the need to adapt to changing preferences while staying true to their brand’s identity. “Gen Zs are bewildered by the vast array of options, and in response, they tend to be more casual.” he explains. “They are lucky as they have access to hundreds of options. They will find their style eventually. It’s a personal thing. You don’t have to be in fashion; you have to be in your style. Once you develop that, it becomes your unique expression.”
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