It is not every day that you catch one of the biggest names in the fashion industry, Tarun Tahiliani talk about everything under the lockdown sun except design. “I am doing as well as I can. I am trying to focus on good things rather than the bad. I am on a farm in New Delhi, quite close to the airport. It has not been as claustrophobic as I had imagined. A lot of friends I spoke to whether in Mumbai or Delhi find it difficult in a much more confined space,” opened up the 54-year-old.
The ace designer or TT, as he is known in the industry, is credited for opening up India’s first multi-designer boutique in 1987, Ensemble. “After three weeks, one tends to set into a rhythm. Basically, I decided that I need a routine. I wake up and freshen up. I am at my desk from 9.30-10 am till about 5.30 pm. I have a full day of work. Honestly, so far, my work is now more about handling what’s going on rather than design,” he remarked.
Urging people to “stay safe, recharge, and keep dreaming for the day not so far, when we all will resume our lives with as little damage as possible,” Tahiliani’s statement on Instagram last month had mentioned that all of his factories and stores will keep shut amid the crisis until further notice. “We have had many challenges. It is the first time we have no revenue, a lot of people to support including craftsmen; people need payments, and (there are) relief issues. Some things are becoming a little clearer now as we go along. But it was terrifying in the beginning. We still don’t know where we land. So, I meet virtually every day with our CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and discuss the new notifications, what the government is saying, we talk to the other people in the industry and do a bit of digital work,” he shared with indianexpress.com.
His eponymous label Tarun Tahiliani Design Studio completing 25 years in early March made it to the headlines and included a “small celebration” with friends and family, long before the lockdown. Tahiliani mentioned how all the years in the industry, still “feel like a dream” and there is yet so much to learn. “The experiences (of the lockdown) are teaching us how we have to move from tactile to online. The supplies, what they (customers) need, many other things need to change. It has only been three weeks since the lockdown. I will deal with it when the time comes. But I am finding the process extremely interesting,” opined the Delhi-based deisgner whose works are known for blending Indian artistry in detailed, structured drapes across couture, ready-to-wear and occasion wear.
How’s the industry reacting to the unsettling times? “The fashion industry is in shock. It is free-falling. It is dire. How do we pay when the revenue is stalled? It is going to be a disaster. Even when we will be operating, we would have lost good and strong months of March and April leading to all the weddings that are full of beautiful merchandise. In fact, we were pleased by the way the spring collection was going, the sales were good, the stores were happy and clients were happy too. But this is an act of God. So, we can’t do anything. Acceptance is the way forward,” he shared.
Tahiliani, who recently participated in a two-day webinar called Stimulus 2020 (organised by Stuti Jalan, founder, WIN (Women Inspiring Network) and Karan Bhangay of The Global Luxury Group, a platform for 70 speakers to discuss and decode business prospects post COVID-19, also mentioned how the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown may help us look at sustainable fashion and living in a more conscious way.
“I think Covid-19 has made us take note of our value system. If you buy something beautiful, you will wear it more often rather than discarding it after one use. You will be more considerate after this when you realise where things are coming from. Even designers can solve a few issues by looking at design and craft more realistically. Small is beautiful in a more qualitative way, however, given the circumstances right now,” he said.
Talking about sustainability, he added, “Most of our clothes are not fast fashion. People tell me they pick those clothes and wear them even after 20 years because of the quality and because they are timeless. That is the basis of being sustainable. Not wear and throw.”
However, in the same breath, he mentioned, “At this moment, fashion is not relevant. There are much bigger problems, philosophies that have to be re-flown and many other things. Fashion is a representation of materialism. So the biggest trend at the moment is anti-fashion. Our consciousness has to be collective.”
Considering a lot of wedding plans have been put on hold or postponed indefinitely, how does he see the wedding industry and people deal with it? “Weddings will be very different this year amid Covid-19. A lot of weddings have got postponed, cancelled owing to the uncertainty. Yet, it is what it is. We have to go on. A lot of designers will suffer, a lot of craftsmen will suffer, so will the laymen. People will still wear good clothes when they are getting married. But will pick up things and couture that they can re-use, rather than using it just once. Instead of doing things to show to others, inward-moving will help people tremendously to do things for themselves and appreciate the beauty,” he said.