Of the Kumbh Mela is what Tarun Tahiliani is aiming for in his latest collection.
A blurred silhouette behind a gauzy veil. Soft chiffon that caresses a woman’s body. The gentle shimmer of crystals when she moves. Intricate, ornate yet not ostentatious. Signature Tarun Tahiliani.
“My clothes make a woman feel like a million bucks. They’re sensual, they’re Indian modern, and they last forever,” says the designer who is in the city to showcase his latest collection, Khumback as part of the 9th edition of Seagram’s Blenders Pride Fashion Tour.
The collection which draws inspiration from the Kumbh Mela is a dizzying array of garments that attempt to emulate the ephemeral awakening that the mela evokes,
“The Kumbh is about cleansing, about rejuvenation, about lots of opium. The magic of the Kumbh is obvious in the colours, the draping, the technique, the designs, and the fabric,” says Tarun. He displays a picture of a sadhu with an ash-smeared face, heavy coils of matted hair and flowing saffron draperies and exclaims, “It’s fantastic, isn’t it? There is more fashion at the Kumbh than there is any other place that I’ve visited. It is a spectacle of effortless originality.”
As are the clothes he designs, “I just love the process of design. But it needs to be real. I think that design has to work for our lifestyle; it has to be beautiful and make you dream. My silhouettes are contemporary. Just like Japanese designers have their style, I have my style,” he says adding that the Indian technique of soft draping is an essential aspect of all his designs, “Indian fashion is not like western fashion. It is not structured. It is a textile tradition, embellished and draped on your body. I love drapery—it’s very chic and it’s our tradition. Why have you all given it up? For what?”
The romance and femininity of Tarun Tahiliani draperies is what makes his clothes so coveted in the wedding circuit. He appears a trifle dismissive of his popularity among brides—to—be, “The brides are obsessed with what I do. I love the other stuff as much; I put more time in my other clothes,” he says, before admitting however that wedding attire brings in the most amount of money, “ People dress like slobs most of the time and then want to spend all the money in the world on their wedding clothes.”
Yet he doesn’t particularly approve of the way Indian brides are going in their choice of apparel, “I think Indian brides are going more over the top and out of control. I don’t think they are looking better. Look at the pictures of the earlier generations—they were simpler and more beautiful. Nowadays it is too much makeup, too much jewellery, too much of everything. Like the other day this bride came to me with a necklace so big that I told her not to bother wearing a blouse, just wear the necklace.”
Over the top though she certainly is, Tarun speaks very fondly of Lady Gaga who wore one of his creations on a visit to India, “Working with Lady Gaga was such fun. She took one of our drapes and slashed it and when she appeared for our concert I almost got a heart attack. It was so much shorter and she was wearing fishnet stockings and boots with it. Then she started jumping all over the place and I was extremely worried that it would fall off. It isn’t really made for things like this. But she was very sweet; she stopped her concert and thanked me for the outfit on stage. Who does things like that, anymore?”
This Wharton educated MBA who worked in the family business and then quit, “because I was bored out of my mind,” to study fashion admits,” It has really been a wonderful journey. I’ve just opened a new store, I’m planning to revive watches and I’ve started doing gold as well. I want to design across all price points for a lifestyle that is contemporary Indian. I stopped running around the world because I understand the lifestyle here. Design, after all, has to be for life.”