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Tarun Tahiliani on How His Latest Collection Celebrates Indian Art Forms and Monuments

The couturier, who showcased his collection at the ongoing FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week  Autumn/Winter 2021, speaks to Cosmo about the extensive research that went into it, the challenges faced due to the pandemic and how designers can help revive the local craft community 

Following an intriguing preview on October 5th, couturier  Tarun Tahiliani presented his latest collection “The Reunion” at the ongoing FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week  Autumn/Winter 2021 on October 7. The collection comprised 10 mini capsules inspired from numerous Indian arts forms and historical monuments and was a celebration of Indian textiles, crafts and culture. As expected from Tarun, the opulent ensembles in vivid colours and adorned with intricate embroideries came with a contemporary twist. The 10 diverse capsules interestingly named Molten Haveli, Temple Mauli, Pichwai, Chikankari, Pakeezagi, Divine Drapes, Shesh Mahal, Ragrez, Brocade and Bridal married his craft-rich aesthetics with a refined approach. The clothes put the focus on the rich history and the timelessness of Indian crafts, a much needed impetus for the artisans community that was badly affected by the pandemic. 

Cosmo India caught up with Tarun to talk about the inspiration behind “The Reunion”, the extensive research that went into putting together the capsules, the effect of the pandemic on the artisans and craftsperson and how designers can help in reviving the local craft community. Given below are excerpts from the interview.   

Tarun Tahiliani

Cosmo: Tell us about the inspiration behind your latest collection The Reunion?

Tarun Tahiliani: “‘The Reunion’ which constitutes an amalgamation of 10 mini capsule collections, draws inspiration from varied sources. To name a few, ‘Temple Mauli’ draws inspiration from the auspicious and breathtaking views outside the Badrinath temple along with the Rabari craft. The capsule collection which has been created on textiles such as silk, brocade and organza brings to the forefront, the use of a vivid colour palette. To name another one, the ‘Chikankari’ capsule is reminiscent of the tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah in Agra, whose latticed carvings and inlay work formed the basis of the motifs in this particular collection. The ‘Pichwai’ collection takes inspiration from the ancient Indian paintings of Rajasthan. All the capsules have been curated, with the confluence of numerous art forms as well as historical monuments”.

Cosmo: What kind of research went into the collection? 

TT: “A lot of research and hard work has gone into this collection especially due to the hard times in which it is was curated. For instance, in February I visited the tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah, Noor Jahan’s father in Agra. It was the forerunner to the Taj Mahal and in fact it is more finely detailed. As mentioned before, the Chikankari came out of this inspiration. For the Pichwai collection, when the first pandemic wave hit, we started to get painting on embroidered panels done to keep the master craftsmen employed and that is where this collection came from. We are working with a lot of textiles and weavers and that in itself is huge and endless”.

Tarun Tahiliani

Cosmo: Tell us about your favourite pieces in the collection

TT: “It would be quite hard to choose one particular piece. However, there are certain capsule collections that I can claim unabashedly that I am a bit more partial towards. The first would have to be the Temple Mauli collection, inspired by the Badrinath temple. I am a huge fan of tribal references, be it tiny mirrors, lot of colours and the use of various textiles. This collection perfectly blends all these factors together. ‘Pichwai’ is another favourite of mine where we did big panels based on Pichwai which were finally translated though saris, anarkalis and various other attires that people can generally wear for weddings and other functions. Another collection which is an absolute favourite of mine is the ‘Chikankari’ collection as I am quite partial towards beiges, whites and numerous other pastel and earthy colours, especially when there is heavy work on the outfit. The last collection that I absolutely loved is the Rangrez collection, where we had brocade pattis woven in 30-40 colours and brought to life on lehengas, jackets and more. This collection was curated keeping in mind the younger generation so it has vivid colours.” 

Tarun Tahiliani

Cosmo: Tell us about the silhouettes and the fabrics used?

TT: “A lot of textiles such as silk, brocade and organza have been incorporated in this collection, keeping in mind the upcoming wedding season wherein our customers which involves brides as well as their families are on the lookout for heavy pieces to don for numerous events and functions. We have also used brocade, tulle and crushed chanderi to create draped evening lehengas, occasion-wear and bridal looks with a modern twist”.

Tarun Tahiliani

Comso: How has the pandemic changed the fashion industry? Is it for the good?  

TT: “The pandemic has undoubtedly brought a massive change in the way people shop as well as in the design industry. With the lockdown forcing us to stay at home, a great shift was seen towards athleisure clothing, which most of the big fashion houses would have to ultimately incorporate. Fashion is becoming more sustainable and versatile with customers wanting to buy pieces which can be worn in multiple ways. The lockdown forced us to accept our individuality and showcase it for the world to see rather than succumbing to the varied norms and trends that the society tries o force upon us. Therefore, it is extremely refreshing to see people more in tune with their needs and how they wish to present themselves”.

Tarun Tahiliani

Comso: How can Indian designers help revive the local craft/artisan’s community?

TT: “Indian designers can help the local artisans by using their craft and applying them into their fashion and making it relevant. Our next project is to curate a lot of ready-to-wear pieces, which is not confined to bridal wear. Just as great leather workmanship is part of the everyday life of Italians, our craft must be a part of what Indian women and men wear on a day-to-day basis. That is when it would truly become relevant”. 

Como: What changes or developments have you seen in the Indian bridal market due to the pandemic?

TT: “The pandemic which led to the big Indian wedding becoming smaller and more intimate, in turn brought to the forefront numerous changes in the bridal market as well. Rather than following the trend of the season, brides focus more on finesse and getting an outfit which is the epitome of comfort for her. Even the immediate families are following a similar mindset wherein they have achieved a much needed respite from the anxiety of blending in a huge crowd of guests”.

Tarun Tahiliani

Cosmo: What is the road ahead? Future plans and projects?

TT: “The pandemic with all its devastation gave us a lot of time to think, reflect, be still and also know what we value because when you perfectly know what you value, that is what you try to build on. Engaging with the crafts and community is the most important thing to me and marrying the same with technology and construction. I want to carry this language and message to the Indians and to the world. We have a new premium line coming up soon which is quite exciting but, nothing will leave me finished and satisfied”.