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The past, present and future of Ensemble

In an interview with Lounge, founder Tina Tahiliani Parikh talks about the journey of the multi-designer store, its new avatar and the future of fashion

The newly renovated Ensemble store in Delhi. 

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The iconic multi-brand Ensemble store inside the DLF Emporio Mall in Delhi has undergone a big makeover since it first opened in 2008.  

It now has more space to house over 50 designers, from Tarun Tahiliani to Anamika Khanna and Sabyasachi, and entire sections dedicated to categories like textiles, accessories, Indian Luxe and bridal couture.

We spoke to Ensemble founder Tina Tahiliani Parikh on the recipe of the store's success over the years and how she's seen the fashion industry evolve over the years. Edited excerpts:

Also read: How to design couture in a garden

Could you tell us about the idea behind the revamp.

We have always promoted local Indian talent and craft in the fashion space, and now we are extending that to the design and architectural space. 

Ensemble continues to remain so popular, despite so much competition. What's the secret?

The only thing that comes to mind is that since inception we have been true to our vision of finding and promoting young design talent. While we promote a lot of legacy names, we also have a fabulous representation of lesser known labels. Discovering new designers has always been a huge kick for me. Another thing is our strict adherence to quality. It doesn’t matter if the business suffers; we pay a lot of attention to quality. We only carry a curation that we strongly believe in. Also, our focus on modern Indian textiles, the contemporary labels that are wearable across the world, experimental bridalwear, and our commitment to educating consumers on how to style between designers to create looks, makes us a destination where there is something for everyone.

How does placing oneself at a multi-designer store help a designer?

First, let's look at the new entrants who need a multi-designer store because we have the experience and we help them, we help them actually tweak and design their collection so that it can be a success in the market. We also introduce new labels and give them a platform to a very discerning clientele. As far as the legacy designer, I think it helps them because one is concerned, it helps in the most practical way. A lot of people just prefer shopping at multi-designer stores because under one roof, you can get everything. So it actually increases their business. Also, in many ways, we are an ad for these designers who have their own store, whoever as clients may want to come and see a designer with us and then go for a larger curation to their own store. So I think either way the multi-designer stores have really withstood the test of time, they have developed a very strong loyal client clientele of their own.

And the beautiful thing about being a multi-designer store is that you can mix and match between designers and create unique looks, which is really very important in this day of sustainability.  

How do you edit a designer's collection from the runway for it to sell at Ensemble?

So again, it really depends on who we are dealing with, a lot of the designers who've been in the game for a long time often take our feedback very seriously because they understand that we really have the pulse of the market. With certain other designers we actually change. So with other designers we actually take their concepts which are often very beautiful, but inappropriate for sales and make a lot of changes, for example in the cut. And of course, you know, look into things like neck depth, which fabric might be better. We look at the viability of the pricing, so I think there's a real value add brought about by an Ensemble

There’s a lot of competition in the multi-designer category. Ogaan (Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad), Atosa (Mumbai), 85 Lansdowne (Kolkata), Evoluzione (Chennai, Delhi, Bengaluru) and Elahe (Hyderabad, Kolkata). How have you dealt with your competitors?

I feel competition is an indication that there is a market out there, and it's growing. There's a lot of opportunity so I actually think that competition keeps you on your toes. When I look at the names that you've mentioned, I believe each of us have, you know, within the Indian fashion hemisphere have forged our own identity and our own path. We're known for different things. We have been very clear about cut, quality, finish and finding new talent. It's been very clear about maintaining very high standards. Textiles have become a big focus for us recently and the whole glamour side is also very, very big with us.

I think there's honestly room for everybody in a growing economy, with so many people coming into higher disposable income brackets.

What’s your take on fashion influencers? I don’t see Ensemble collaborating much with them.

I don't think anyone should run after influencers for the sake of influencers, but if you find somebody who is really telling a story that you like, whose feed somewhere mirrors your values, then I think that it would be a fit. We have done certain collaborations and we will still be doing more collaborations.

Do you plan to be more gender-less inclusive? Do you want to introduce gender neutral sections at the store?

There are several brands that we carry that are very gender neutral, for example, an Arjun Saluja can be easily worn by men and women. I don't know whether I think this will be a strong part of our contemporary curation. I don't see us having separate sections for it as of now but we are alive and open to the changes happening in the world and we will continue to move with the times.

The lines between couture and street are blurring and couture is becoming more casual and daytime. As a retailer, have you been conscious of it or do you think Ensemble buyer is still looking for bridal occasional dressing?

The kind of unusual things that designers are doing would actually in the West cost a bomb. And I am a big fan of not following, you know, the herd, but really creating your own looks through mix and match. It's entirely possible to take a whole lot of chic contemporary daytime items and combine them to create a fabulous look for a nighttime formal event. However, what's important is that in the Indian fashion industry, the wedding plays a huge role in terms of driving sales. And while a wedding guest or a relative can still do what I just mentioned, for the family it's still very much more about Indian traditional bridal looks. I mean, look at the number of designers doing it, and each has their own interpretation and each is a real ode to the fabulous craft and heritage that our country offers. So I would still say, it's much more focused in that direction. However, the world is changing rapidly and we are moving with it.

Tina Tahiliani Parikh
Tina Tahiliani Parikh

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