Couture” in the Indian context of things is more often than not associated with bridalwear — “and why not?”, asks one of India’s foremost couturiers, Tarun Tahiliani, as I catch up with him about 48 hours before he is set to open FDCI India Couture Week (ICW) in Delhi. Not coincidental at all is the fact that the ‘OG’ designer of the ‘India Modern’ sense of things believes — or rather, swears by — practicality and lightness of the Indian context of couture. But that never means that he compromises on the finery of things as he is all set to delve deeper into his extensive repertoire of working with Indian craft and textiles to showcase his couture collection called ‘The Painterly Dream’.
“In India, really, couture is driven by exquisite embroidery. Many people might put on shapes and all on the ramp but few designers like Anamika (Khanna) will put out beautiful shapes that people actually wear. Couture is for weddings, it’s for Sangeets, it’s for cocktails and receptions,” Tarun explained, as he firmly made a case for Indian couture and its close association with weddings.
For someone of his calibre who has been doing this for about three decades, does it get challenging to keep doing something new? “You know, when I started, I did not even know what embroidery was. And since then, not just the workmanship but even bridalwear has changed. It has been an evolutionary journey,” said Tarun, as he recounted how he used the time during the successive lockdowns of 2020 to revisit the crafts.
A staunch supporter of sustainability, Tarun has always told me how guaranteeing a steady stream to work for his karigars was important to him and this also testifies to his expertise, as year after year, he expertly fuses his design aesthetics with craftsmanship to create a lightness of being that will put any modern-day bride at ease. And this also explains Tarun’s dislike towards the treatment of couture as “costume”, which is a tightrope to walk when it comes to bridalwear in India — and also the West’s perception of what Indian couture and bridalwear is.
Tarun’s ICW collection is set to pay homage to Indian craft heritage and is conceived for the modern, well-heeled Indian. “From playful multi-coloured lehngas to long jackets over lehngas, and red sindoori saris to well-tailored menswear with the traditional magic of drapes, this collection speaks the vocabulary of the studio’s artistry in a technical triumph of fit and finesse. The seamless magic of the finest embroidery techniques such as the chikankari, pichwai, kashida form the strong craft pillars for this collection. The constellation drapes and the tailored zardosi reminisce the confluence of east and west,” said a dossier sent to us.
Perhaps this deep understanding of why practicality and comfort should be priorities of wedding wear in India also stems from the fact that his son Jahan recently tied the knot — and how, according to Tarun, the groom purposely chose a simple chikan kurta over something more elaborate.
A firm believer of touch and feel, Tarun says that he has conceived the show with a 900-ft-long ramp at his “off-site” show so that people can get a closer look at his designs. “You will love it, if you love the clothes — there’ll be no other drama and razzmatazz added,” signed off Tarun, candidly.
Pictures: Courtesy of designer