Are you ready to wear a Tarun Tahiliani?
As designers, we have to make our clothes more accessible and mark my words — very soon, a lot more people can wear a Tarun Tahiliani,” were the exact words of the designer behind the India Modern aesthetics of things, sometime last year when we spoke in the middle of the pandemic. Cut to February 2021 — 26 years after he started his eponymous label — Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail (ABFR) announced that they have entered into a strategic partnership with Tarun Tahiliani, which, in the designer’s words, will tap into “an under-serviced” segment of the market in the form of a new, premium menswear entity.
“The plan so far is to bring greater range to menswear while having a very tight grip on the pricing. With a target to open 250 stores in five years, the scale alone would require us to do many things differently…. We are reinventing internally and reworking many of our techniques to accommodate the sum of what we have signed up for and much more. We are headed towards a very exciting time together and we hope that our target customers feel the same,” said Tarun in a chat. Excerpts:
Congratulations on the partnership with ABFR. What led to this collaboration and what made you say yes?
Thank you for your kind wishes! Unlike what people may think, this partnership is not a pandemic product. It has been in the works for nearly two years and I couldn’t be happier about entering into this partnership with Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail Ltd. because they are just fantastic. They understand scale and numbers like no one else in the market today and each of their home-grown brands is a resounding success. I would be delighted if this collaboration would enable the reach to that kind of scale.
Additionally, I have great personal respect for Kumar Mangalam Birla. My engagements with him over the last two years have taught me so much, especially his attention to detail. And, since I have never worked with anybody or in any serious corporate structure before, this collaboration has been a huge eye-opener and a joy for me. I love that I come to work every day to learn.
One of the many reasons that made me say yes to this partnership is that I strongly believe that Indian fashion and its consumer base is ready for this step up. In my opinion, there is a large section of the market out there that is horribly under-serviced. This collaboration permits me the financial freedom to focus on designing and creating for this under-serviced segment.
Plus, I have always had an amazing time experimenting with menswear and now with the scale and economics being taken care of, I can’t wait to bring the signature Tarun Tahiliani fit, form and quality to a larger audience at a more accessible price point.
Twenty six years in the industry and a pandemic later, you’re now at an interesting juncture with this collaboration. What does this entail for you and your team? What can your loyalists look forward to the most?
I have always wanted to be a designer of relevance to Indians and their needs. Even with my luxury brand, more than anything else, I have always been interested in bringing lightness and understated elegance in my garments to the fore. This is especially so after the difficult year we have all had and it has become even more important for me to build on those values.
I think people can expect great quality and my signature fit, finishing and love for colours. I hope to give Indian men an option that they do not, I believe, have today. I think it is a new dimension for me and in India, particularly because you will get outstanding quality at great pricing from this new venture. Meanwhile, the current Tarun Tahiliani brand will continue to do high-end luxury.
And for me personally, this partnership has allowed me to do what I do best, which is design and build on both, the new and the existing brand. It is difficult to be creating constantly when you have a million other things to take care of and a business to run. I hope to have greater freedom to design and have my partners come in and run distribution, which is their forte.
What are your creative and business plans for the menswear category that you will be launching with ABFR?
The plan so far is to bring greater range to menswear while having a very tight grip on the pricing. With a target to open 250 stores in five years, the scale alone would require us to do many things differently. There are some incredible and affordable fabrics that we are researching, then we are associating with bigger merchants to source those fabrics. We are reinventing internally and reworking many of our techniques to accommodate the sum of what we have signed up for and much more. We are headed towards a very exciting time together and we hope that our target customers feel the same.
With them also acquiring stakes in your couture company, are there any changes that are being anticipated in terms of how you usually handle this segment and your India Modern aesthetics?
No, it’s a very clear association where the creative control is very much under me. So, the aesthetic and principles for the brand remain the same. In fact, if anything, they will be strengthened and even elevated because I will now have much more time to focus on these aspects exclusively. This partnership has allowed me to invest and hold a stake in the new venture while maintaining and having the ability to work on my luxury brand at my own pace. These are two very different drivers.
As far as ‘India-Modern’ is concerned, rather than an aesthetic, I would call it our endeavour. Because to me, clothes must reflect the sensibilities of the era they are created in and should have the ability to evolve with the times and with the evolving choices and tastes of the modern-day consumer. Therefore, it’s only fitting that the choices in the market are able to meet their lifestyle.
The partnership between Tarun Tahiliani and Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail (ABFR) entails the launch of a new contemporary men’s ethnicwear brand soon. The new brand aims to build a Rs 500 crore business in the next five years with more than 250 stores across the country and will launch the first set of retail stores by this September. ABFR will hold 80 per cent stakes in the new entity while Tahiliani will hold the remaining 20 per cent. As part of the deal, ABFR will also acquire 33 per cent stakes in Tahiliani’s existing luxury couture business, with the option to increase it to 51 per cent in the next few years. Tahiliani retains creative control as a part of this collaboration.