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What does a global Indian wear? Tarun Tahiliani has an answer

The veteran designer talks to Lounge about his interpretation of ‘India Modern’ and his showcase at FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week

Tahiliani's sketches for the fashion week showcase
Tahiliani's sketches for the fashion week showcase (Tarun Tahiliani)

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Ahead of his AW 22 showcase titled, 'Global Indian' at the upcoming FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week, designer Tarun Tahiliani sounds upbeat about his physical runway outing. One could possibly expect a heightened degree of drama, soulful music and an energy, which can only be matched by the power of his creations' chic. Crafting a singular metier of structured draping and inspiring a whole generation of designers, the doyen of drapes is delighted to see its interpretations across the board. 

“I think the future of draping has become more technical, proficient and the masters and the factory have also become more efficient as they will achieve anything and be comfortable in any draping done,” he says. He points out that we have the luxury of time in India because our craftsmen work for much lower rates. “Therefore, many things are possible here that would not be possible abroad in these price points,” he adds.

Read our coverage of the FDCI X Lakme Fashion Week

His show is in partnership with carmaker Maruti Suzuki Nexa, which has partnered with other designers in the past for the FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week. “We are glad to partner with Tarun Tahiliani at FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week," said Shashank Srivastava, the executive director (marketing and sales), Maruti Suzuki, informing the company is showcasing the New Age Baleno at the forthcoming event. 

We spoke with Tahiliani about his showcase, wedding trends and how his brand has evolved over the years. Edited excerpts

How do you interpret India Modern?

Well, I have only known of the way I have been brought up and the world I engage in. I come from a background where we spoke and were educated in English, were exposed a lot to the West and studied abroad and came back and then rediscovered India. For me, India Modern is to work with what we have, which in my case is craft and to do a modern contemporary take on it, to use everything but to contemporise it. Not that I am against tradition at all, but I think our lifestyle, our context, being urban, all this has changed the way we think, the way we live and the speed at which we function. So, I think rather than leave everything relegated to very traditional styling that may often look like a costume, I think it is much more interesting to take craft, colour, and textiles and make use of it in today’s life. It has so much more vitality. That’s all it is, that is India Modern.

Is a sari gown a symbol of modernity or taking away from the original elegance of virgin yardage?

A sari gown is not a symbol of modernity, it is a gown that uses a sari as the influence which has been done for a long time. Indian designers started doing gowns, Chanel did it and the world has taken inspiration from India. A concept sari, however, is a symbol of modernity because it uses a classical choli, but allows the treatment of the sari and dupatta or drape in a different way that allows a young girl, who is perhaps not used to wearing a sari, to go out without 30 pins; have fun, dance and feel as Indian as the women next to her in a (traditional) sari. I do not think it takes away from the original elegance as I do not think they need to be compared. I think it allows for a whole new market, accessibility and very often when people start wearing something that comfortable, the next step might be that they go back to the original. It is not one at the cost of another. The traditionalists will wear saris, younger NRIs, people who are very active and not that comfortable wearing a sari, will wear a sari gown or the concept sari. I love a dhoti, but I do not think I can wear it because I am not comfortable in one. The one time I did it, it kind of disassembled. So, have a great pre-draped dhoti as it does not take away from the beauty of the garment. You can do it in the most traditional fabrics, but it is better than not being worn at all.

A Tarun Tahiliani showcase always has a degree of heightened drama marked by live musical performances and dance. What can we expect from this physical showcase?

This physical showcase is so exciting – to be outdoors, to have hundreds of people – and we are showing it against a wonderful backdrop of Dhyanchand Stadium, which is a beautiful building. It is going to be lit, we have a little circle in the centre and the models will walk around it. Yes, we have live music, there will be castanets, full scores being composed. It is going to be about high energy and very much an India Modern show. I think the show must move you and it must talk to you on many different levels.

How much has the brand TT changed over the years? What has changed and what has remained the same?

Brand TT has changed over the years as I have grown up, I have become more proficient in some things, I have grown bored of certain things, the market has changed. I have learnt a great deal from watching younger designers and how they function. We showed abroad and we learnt from people there. Everything is falling into order as we have put the pieces where they rightfully belong. In the beginning, I thought that everything revolved around design, but a design company is like any other company. Design is the soul, but if you do not have vitals and everything that is output-facing – from retail, to production, pricing, quality – it does not function after it reaches a certain scale and I think that is what we have understood that change is the way you ought to begin with. It is not good or bad, it is what it is.

Your Instagram recently saw some fun styling updates like traditional pieces styled with PVC boots etc. What’s your take on mixing classics with street touches?

Yes, two years ago we started running a campaign, which we will always go back to, called ‘Love and Relove’. For me, sustainability is not necessarily buying a little piece of handloom with kantha; sustainability is using what you buy to death, using it so that you are not flippant and you buy things of quality at whatever level and you use and reuse them. I am tired of seeing beautiful Indian clothes relegated to weddings. So, we are saying, wear your saris with a pantsuit, wear your choli with a pair of palazzos and we are giving young girls and men ideas on how to use and reuse their beautiful pieces so that it, therefore, becomes sustainable. They buy less and they use it in many different ways and we go back to a world which is not about mass consumption, but less and beautiful consumption.

With summer destination weddings happening thanks to eased-up travel, what are the key destination wedding trends for brides and grooms? What should they pack when they’re heading to a hot summer locale?

I think for destination weddings, everyone’s much more relaxed. When people go to destinations, they are not carrying very big jewels usually, and they want a bit of fun and there is less pressure to be very traditional and certainly people want to be weightless because there is much more movement and it's like being at a party for three days. So, the energy levels and the clothing are different, it is much easier.

When you consult brides, how much do you focus on the wedding ambience and overall styling so that the wedding ensembles fit right in?

When I consult brides, which is now more on Zoom or very briefly because we have much wider offering, I do not ask them about the wedding ambience at all, it is not relevant. I listen to them, I see their personality, see what they want, what they should be wearing. If of course, somebody is getting married in Udaipur, then there is a reason to be a little more traditional, or use certain colours if you are in Jagmandir than if you are in the Alps or on a beach in Goa. So, to that extent, yes but certainly not ambience as I do not think anyone is ever meant to match their décor. 

But one of the strangest and biggest trends is very, very long veils and I keep telling them these long veils were invented for women to walk down straight aisles during church weddings and because the audience sees the bride from the back. If someone is doing the pheras and going around the fire, I just do not understand how they manage to do this with long veils.


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