On the occasion of Tarun Tahiliani’s 25th anniversary, we get a peek into the designer’s atelier and studio in Gurgaon
The India Couture Week held in July last year saw an abundant supply of film stars who made an appearance on the ramp. Aditi Rao Hydari was the showstopper for Pankaj & Nidhi, Kiara Advani walked for Amit Aggarwal and Kriti Sanon stepped on the ramp for Shyamal & Bhumika. However, for veteran designer, Tarun Tahiliani it was the clothes that mattered more. His showcase of his collection, Bloom, made headlines for bucking the trend of ‘celebrity showstoppers’. The final look, an ethereal white gown, was worn by a model whose face was obscured by white netted fabric, as a reminder that the show was about the outfits and not the person wearing them.
If you’re wondering about the fate of that frothy, beautifully constructed dress, you’d be happy to know that it currently takes pride of place at the designer’s atelier — a 43,000 square feet, red-brick structure, constructed in 2008, that stands out amidst the dull grey nondescript buildings in Gurgaon’s industrial area. It’s the first thing you spot when you enter the foyer, and that is exactly what we do, when we pay a visit to the factory for a walk-through of the facility, guided by the designer himself.
It’s a chilly Friday in February and Tarun Tahiliani is dressed in a black t-shirt, deep blue jacket and denim trousers, a beige sweater thrown casually over his shoulders. A counter laid out with little nibbles, freshly squeezed fruit juice and tender coconut water, stands in the middle of the space. Beside it, the designer holds court, as we sip on our coconut water. On either side of him, his team of seamstresses and tailors are bent over their workstations, as he leads the gathering of stylists and journalists upstairs to his studio.
Our first stop is the embellishment room where we spot gorgeous crystals in beautiful jewel tones, after which we proceed to the accessories room. Here, we marvel at the stunning potlis and clutch bags with eye-catching details. This is followed by a viewing of some of his latest and iconic creations (an endless and heady mix of intricately crafted and stunningly embellished tulle, chiffon and silk ensembles in delicious shades of pink, purple, red, blue, green, cream and ivory) and textile innovations, one of which is his reinterpretation of brocade. “Traditionally, brocade tends to be stiff and thick. So, we created our own brocade which is soft and light, it almost feels like georgette. I think you should go ahead and feel the fabric,” he says, pointing to a brick red and dull gold sari draped on a mannequin.
We also make a stop at the archive room, which holds prototypes of all his previous collections and designs. “Designers always have to refer to archives. I can come in here, pull something out from many years ago, use it as reference and recreate it quite easily. It would be difficult to create the same from scratch,” explains Tarun, as he shows us some of his outfits worn by A-listers like Shilpa Shetty and Deepika Padukone. Our final destination before lunch is a room that houses a curated line-up of outfits for his 25th anniversary, highlighting his iconic styles and techniques over the years. There’s an olive green and gold brocade jacket and trouser set, then a draped sari gown in yellow to beige ombre and numerous other meticulously crafted clothes that are testaments to the craftsmanship of the design house.
We wrap up for lunch post this. In the evening, we meet him again at his store, in Mehrauli, after which we head to the Qutub Minar for a very interesting fashion presentation... one where Tarun gives us a guided tour of the iconic monument while models dressed in the garments we had seen earlier in the day accompany us on our short walk. The day comes to a close with a soiree at the designer’s beautiful home.
Gaining new insight into the brand that is Tarun Tahiliani, we head back home with a clearer idea of how much work and research goes into every outfit that comes out of the design house. “When we started, we couldn’t use handloom fabrics because they were difficult to work with. But now, we’re able to make much finer fabric through handlooms. Over the past 25 years, we’ve understood fit, we’ve understood drape, and we’ve returned to traditional techniques. We’re also going to be focusing a little more on our accessories, going forward,” Tarun signs off.
The writer visited the Tarun Tahiliani factory on invitation from Tarun Tahiliani.