Tarun Tahiliani: It was more fun and relaxed 20 years ago

Back with a bigger, refurbished store facing the harbour at Apollo Bunder, designer Tarun Tahiliani gets nostalgic about fashion

It's 5 pm, and the party hasn't begun. But Tarun Tahiliani is already playing the best host urging magazine writers at the do to sip their Chandon, and savour canapes.

The reason to clink glasses is the his revamped store on Apollo Bunder that now has more room to stock his pearl embroidered couture pieces. But it is not just the heavy lehengas that are his pride but his weightless crinkled garments and light net fabrics that come in subtle shades of dusty blue, white and ivory. "We don't want to pretend we are royalty. Everyone thinks I have become old and fuddy-duddy. We are contemporary. Spread the word! We designed it because we want to be relevant and I feel you should have a nice day dress for an event by an Indian designer," he reasons.

Tarun Tahiliani has drifted towards softer colours for occasion wear this season. Pics/Shadab Khan
Tarun Tahiliani has drifted towards softer colours for occasion wear this season. Pics/Shadab Khan

Tahiliani is one of the first Indian designers to be ready with his Spring Summer 2016 collection. Also available at the spiffy new store are stunning jewellery pieces in gold and silver which were a result of two of his recent collaborations. A slinky white sari worn by the toned Katrina Kaif at his presentation last week in Delhi is already draped on a mannequin. Be it Mumbai or Delhi, Tahiliani is known to have individual fashion presentations more than participating in fashion weeks.

"It is easier to show at fashion weeks. But at fashion weeks you get caught up in all the noise, and that's a problem. There are both pros and cons. We are going to start showing more at Lakmé (Fashion Week) because we want to show the current season," he tells us.

Tahiliani stands rather sternly with one of his prized pieces
Tahiliani stands rather sternly with one of his prized pieces

Copycat fashion
One of the biggest reasons for not showing in advance is to fight the copy market. "It gets copied if we show four, five months in advance. So, like Manish (Malhotra) and everyone else, we have to show current lines and have it in our shops. We are following the same cycle of ordering, and the merchandising team works in advance. We release it when we do the show. Tom Ford did it recently; Burberry's just announced that they are doing it. Why? These are the hottest brands and still have no choice," he rues. But does this practice affect an established designer like him? "Of course, it does. There are other designers copying me, forget the CTC Plazas and Frontier Raas' (popular Delhi stores). Unfortunately, we have a judiciary and the way it works is that if you change the design slightly, it is not considered a straight copy. I sued a well-known designer in Delhi who had identical clothes, and the case went on for seven years. The printer had died, and we were still fighting. So, what's the point?" he asks.

Now and then
What about the new designers we ask, do they have to fight a stronger battle? "For them, fashion weeks are a good idea. The press educates the prêt guys and makes people aware of your name, it is a branding game — you can't do that without fashion week. You can do that with a Bollywood star but even for that there is too much noise as stars are borrowing clothes every day and nothing stands out," he says frankly.

Despite all these years in industry he still feels the need to pull up his socks. "There's so much awareness today. You have to connect with your customer; there's a lot of tackiness too. There is competition the world over, and it is not going away. It was more fun and relaxed 20 years ago," he says nostalgically.

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