It has been almost two decades since Tarun Tahiliani started his own label. Over the years, while he has shown his collection to varied set of audiences across the globe, and borrowed elements of fashion from different natives, one thing that remained constant was his love for drapes. “I was attracted to the draped form right from the beginning. The saree, as is worn on the body, has had an incredible influence on me, because the way it wraps and moulds on different people is incredible,” says the 50-year-old designer.
Called by renowned dancer Anita Ratnam as one of the few designers who understand the Indian women’s body, Tarun’s collection has been updated and modulated with the times. “I think we must live in the present and be fluidly modern. One can be traditional, but I hate the idea of living in the past. Tomorrow must have freshness. Our collections are inspired by the concept of modern India. The textiles and embroideries are traditional. The fit, pattern and construction, and the materials used are modern,” he says. It is probably this combination of old and new that had Anita pick Tarun’s outfits for her widely-presented production A Million Sitas, which she recently performed at Collage.
Tarun talks about what keeps him going back to the Indian roots and bring in modern elements to textiles:
We work with traditional weaves like Kanjeevaram and Benarasee. The former is in vibrant sunset shot with magenta and mehendi, while we are also experimenting with muted tones of gold and shades of beige. I’ve never liked acid colours, but raw mango certainly showed up a new raw sensibility for me. I’m seeing people, including my own wife, going back to wearing handlooms as long as they are soft. Besides handlooms, we have started a separate label called ‘Help Our Heritage’. We are going to use the weaves done by the craftsmen as sarees, dupattas and scarves with a little bit of our detailing. We want to promote their work and make sure they have access to a wider market.
Re-invention of Drapes
The effortless drapes of sadhus and the facile drapes of the fakirs are something that we have always idealised and used as inspiration for numerous collections. The spontaneously billowing dhotis have been wrapped and caressed into sleek silhouettes. We always have our wonderful dhoti inspired drapes — be it dhoti pants, dhoti skirts or dhoti sarees.
Making Dhoti Contemporary
We have taken our structured draping to menswear. This has enabled men to wear silhouettes like never before. The last time I wore a dhoti about 15-18 years ago, it came off. Now, thanks to the draping expertise, one can wear pre-draped pants and dhotis and keep the elegance of another time in a contemporary way. In an attempt to bring world-class fit and tailoring to the edition of ‘Indianesque’ sherwanis, bandhgalas, bundis and other elegant separates, we have teamed up with Whitcomb & Shaftesbury to launch the specially-crafted line of menswear.
Indian Fashion on World Map
It feels fantastic to take Indian fashion global, although I would not say that Indian fashion has gone global at the moment because everyone is so much into the wedding market as it’s a comfort zone. It’s where people spend maximum money and it’s where NRIs spend. There are so many designers who had never sketched bridal slipping into the bridal space.