LAUNCH Drama and detail define Tarun Tahiliani’s work, says T. Krithika Reddy after checking out the collection the celebrity designer has edited specially for Chennai
When Tarun Tahiliani graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the age of 23, he was clear about one thing — that he would listen to his heart and romance his first love — fashion. So he headed to New York to study design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. He returned at a time when India was discovering the word ‘designer.' His business background drove him to open Ensemble, one of India's premier boutiques, while his creative itch pushed him to launch his eponymous label. After three decades, the passion continues to grow without any trace of a mid-life crisis. One of the few names that defined the style scene in the 1980s and 1990s, the New Delhi-based designer continues to reinterpret classics with refined skill and wow curvy cat-walkers and beautiful B-towners with demure khalis that skim the shin and spaghetti-strapped blouses that shimmer with a constellation of beads.
This week marks a fresh chapter in Tarun's journey. And it's not about designing a celebrity's trousseau or creating the look for a pop star's performance. This is about editing a collection especially for Chennai. Tarun Tahiliani Edited, that's being showcased at Collage, Greams Road, today, features a line the designer has put together keeping in mind his burgeoning clientele in the South. “It's classic TT. There's a whole variety — from saris and anarkalis to tunics and tops. And I've worked on some of my favourite craft and textile techniques. So there's chikankari, digital prints, Parsi embroidery, bagru… the works.”
Drama and detail define the collection on show. For those who associate the designer with nouvelle couture, there are decidedly sexy khalis and sheer saris with ethnic references. If glamazons are looking for the lighter, relaxed look, the designer has some tunics and tops in ultra-light fabrics with his signature digital prints and subtle textures. Clean-line crystal mesh halters and tunics with fine detailing demand close scrutiny, while dramatic silhouettes prove the master's flair for cut. From the severely tailored to the languidly fluid and more is less to less is more, this line is quintessentially TT, minus of course, his spaghetti straps and uber sexy is-it-there-or-not blouses.
“There are many things you have to keep in mind while designing — the cost, the occasion and the client. But when we set out to create something, our underlying aesthetic always remains the same. The process of design revolves around finding a functional and aesthetic solution for a particular need,” he says while discussing his work that spans different spheres of design from pret to couture.
As someone who launched himself in the style circuit in the 1980s, Tarun is candid about mindset changes with regard to fashion. “There has been a drastic evolution as far as the fashion consumer is concerned. Today, they have good exposure to the international scene. They are able to travel more and have the means to consume fashionable and expensive things as opposed to 25 years ago.”
Talk about having to retail designer wear at a time when the word design was yet to permeate the public psyche, and Tarun says, “I don't think we really had to convince clients. There was a gap in the market and Ensemble was one of the first to fill that gap, which is also why it is successful. Nevertheless, back then, there weren't too many options. Today, we are spoiled for choice.”
As you flip through the pages of his Bridal Exposition 2011 catalogue, it's apparent why the TT label remains on top of the list of couture designers. Every piece is meticulously crafted. And despite loads of embellishment, they have a light, romantic feel because of his deft use of colour and fabric. “But it's demanding to dress up today's bride. There's competition. Also, I find a lot of people out there doing cheaper work that ignores the nuances of craftsmanship. People are enamoured of bling and they don't care about weave, fabric, workmanship and the construction of the garment. The other big problem is rip-offs. With so much copying happening it is difficult to maintain exclusivity.”
From Bollywood A-listers to famous actors and musicians from the West, the designer has an impressive list of clients. But he says matter-of-factly, “Working with a celebrity is just like working with any other client who walks into my studio. Everybody has an idea of what will suit them and what won't. My job is to come up with something chic and fabulous based on the brief they give me. It should be something they love.”
A designer who also loves to paint, he says creativity is kindled by so many things around him. “It might sound clichéd. But inspiration comes from everywhere. There's so much in the country and the way people here dress. From the Taj Mahal's inlay work to the way a turban is wrapped around the head, everything spurs me. I try to take things that are very Indian and tweak them to suit today's taste.”