TARUN TAHILIANI – Fashion Designer of the Month June17

(Technology) is a new world. I am still navigating my way through but I think we will be there soon! ”

This June issue, we bring to you the immensely creative Fashion designer of the month Tarun Tahiliani who caught up with Exhibit to share his two cents on the field of Fashion and how technology is impacting it. Read to find out some more about this boutique designer.

Exhibit: Tarun Tahiliani – the journey.
Tarun Tahiliani:
The journey has been wonderful – from drawing to art school to doing a business degree to starting a store or multi-brand store to promoting design to realising that design is what I wanted to do. I studied business at Wharton and received an associate degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. When I came back to India over two decades ago, my first challenge was to change Indian preconceptions. For instance, I like simple tailoring, but from an Indian point of view, I did too much beige, khaki and toned-down colors – Indians love color and wanted mostly shocking pink, orange and lime green. For me, that was too ‘costume’. So I astutely took the best of both East and West and came up with something unique. I just started marrying this aspect with ready-to-wear techniques of pattern and fit – previously, no one knew how to cut a pattern or a sleeve! In 1987, I opened the multi brand shop Ensemble, which kicked off the whole idea of homegrown Indian couture. I started the store with my wife to promote the best of Indian design. The store became a sensation heralding a fashion and retail revolution in India. Thereafter, I founded Tarun Tahiliani Design studio in 1990.

Exhibit: What makes a woman for Tarun Tahiliani?
Tarun: My ideal woman would be someone whose attire reflects her personal style. I design for women who have their own identity, and personas. They love quality and fit, and know that style is not just what one wears, but ‘how’ one wears it. They live in their heritage and yet are modern. Each person is unique and it’s her individual personality that should be reflected in anything she chooses to wear.

Exhibit: Fashion scene in India: Then, Now and Later.
Tarun: To begin with, there is giant retail network for fashion which goes from the highest level of boutiques, down to the department stores, to these masses of exhibitions that happened and where small housewives or boutique owners can access much larger markets. Not to mention, what is happening on the internet – the Amazon effect. Now, of course, there is a proliferation of fashion magazines, television channels, bloggers and the social media world, and the effect also of stars from across the world. Indians who live here are on the cusp of a new way, which is a wonderful fusion of the two worlds our mind space inhabits.

And this, for me, is the next big thing – where a true confluence in ideas results in a contemporary Indian style that is not “ethnic” or “western” but is a true synthesis and has a global identity and relevance. Even if one wore the simplest white fabric with the right drape, it has a kind of body that very few couture garments can have, if someone knows how to drape themselves. No one can stop the cycle of life and talent.

Exhibit: Tarun Tahiliani and Tech.
Tarun: It’s a new world. I am still navigating my way through but I think we will be there soon!

Exhibit: What is social media to you?
Tarun: Social Media is brilliant! Because one can communicate directly with one’s clients and supporters, and the media. It is a way of communicating one’s idea, ideology and of course, the imagery and campaigns. However, social media is an engagement way past the details of just product. It should be an intellectual engagement of the mind, spirit and how authentically it ties in with product. It’s indeed a new world.

Exhibit: What inspires your craft and creative process?
Tarun: For me, inspiration is a visceral process. I can look at the bottom of the metro as I drive by and look at these slated lines on the columns, and think of pin tucks and ribbon. But mostly it is the way Indians have draped fabrics on their bodies. Unfortunately, as I drive down MG Road, this morning there is not a single Indian in anything except cheap western fashion. It is easier to get around in. However, when I look at Sadhus, Rishis and more traditional women, when I drive through the outskirts of Delhi, and certainly through Rajasthan and Gujarat for instance, or even Tamil Nadu, I see the way people have draped fabric on their bodies, unconsciously. When I take a piece of fabric, and I throw it in a dress form on a fit model, the fabric talks to me, and I see things and folds, and then influence the shape of the fashion. Besides that, I like certain fabrics, colours and I love prints because I think today with new technologies, the kind of layering and printing you can get is superb, and it can be placed to full form effect.

Exhibit: One priceless piece of learning you learnt during the course of your career.
Tarun: I am constantly plagued by the next step. How do I reinvent myself? How do I change the design aesthetic to stay rooted to its culture yet be modern and wearable? Now I’m working on making things less embellished, more stylised; now I think I’m on a less is more trip! I am constantly told by my team – “But, this is not possible”. And the then somehow it is! And that is miraculous.


  • Go-to fashion trend: I think easy to wear separates have become a trend. When you buy a skirt, or a pair of pants, mix it with something, individualise it, so you are not wearing a look from one designer.
  • Most useful tech gadget that’s not your phone or laptop: My laser pointer.
  • Your muse: Fashion is my muse.
  • Best dressed according to you: Deepika Padukone, Shilpa Shetty, Katrina Kaif, Mehr Jessia.
  • Biggest mantra in life: Work Hard.

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