Celebrating 25 years of infinite inspirations and undying love for creative consciousness, Tarun Tahiliani kicked off the first-ever digital version of Blenders Pride Fashion Tour with ‘INFINITE: My Identity, My Pride’. Replete with absolute grandeur and sartorial excellence, the show was a walk down the memory lane for the celebrated fashion designer. He talks to us about the grand collaboration, his tryst with the digital shows, and the need for sustainable fashion. By Sushmita Srivastav
Blenders Pride Fashion Tour went digital for the first time, and you showcased your journey of 25 years through it. What was the experience like?
The Blenders Pride Fashion Tour has existed for years. It has come around in the digital format for the first time and I completed 25 years in the industry this year—it was the perfect timing to celebrate the pride we share in using Indian craft in contemporary ways. Someone once said to me, you must do an interesting fashion film. As I always say, fashion has taken me to places I never thought I’d go to and taught me things I never knew of. It gave me my identity as an Indian fashion designer. It gave me my pride. And so I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate that with INFINITE: My Identity, My Pride.
A lot of work has gone into creating it. Taking vintage pictures from the past, wrapping it up with new footage, shooting close-ups of the embroideries, asking questions, throwing poetry on it, questioning identity, showcasing heritage… we have done a lot to make it very much Indian-modern, along with the concept of ‘stream of consciousness’ focussing on the wheel of life. It isn’t just models walking up and down like our last virtual show or what you normally see. Everything is carefully integrated. Ma Faiza has done the soundtrack, Sanatana (Issar) has done the stream of videos, Gautam Kalra has done the styling, Aparna & Anisha Bahl worked on the concept, Swarovski was sweet to come on-board as the luxury partner, and Shri Paramani Jewels who we collaborated with to mix different kinds of stones. We tried to bring all our meanings and beliefs in the film, which was challenging but also great fun at the same time. I loved the whole creative buzz of it.
How did you go about finalising 25 pieces inspired from your countless collections for the show?
I sketched 25 pieces that were based on the techniques that we’ve loved or the collections that have stayed with us over the years. There were concept saris, lehengas with ornate odhnis, caped cholis and draped dresses. I realised that we don’t need to be entirely western or ideally Indian when we can be a good mix of both.
This was your second virtual endeavour after your recent show, ‘Pieces of You’. What were the biggest challenges that you faced?
We were much calm and in control this time. The first time, we obviously were a lot more hysterical. We had less idea of how to deal with the whole COVID-19 situation while shooting. We were very particular about keeping fewer people in the room and maintaining social distancing. All the models were given separate rooms; they came out only to shoot. It was more like a military operation. It tested how vigilant we are. But the results were great because people had been in lockdown for so long and they were hugely appreciative of the show. My sister, who herself is in the business, said that she enjoyed it so much as she could see details that the naked eye couldn’t ever see in the past. The most amazing thing about a digital show is that you can connect with so many more people from around the world, and you can have control over the footage that finally goes out with the best shots, the best lights, the best angles—overall the best way to show what you dreamed of. Also, one can rewind it, watch it over at the leisure of home. It gives way to a thousand new possibilities.
During a global pandemic and nationwide lockdowns, where have you been drawing your inspiration from?
I draw my inspiration from my everyday life. It is an evolutionary thing. I think my next collection might be called ‘Anarchy’ taking its name from William Dalrymple’s book as I think we are living in an anarchic time. So you see, different things influence you in different ways. Especially, during the pandemic, what we are going through is an information overload coming to us from all directions. So, inspiration is never a problem. It’s the thought you need to make it happen.
Thoughts on sustainable fashion?
Well, we are moving towards designs that mostly need hand-work. We anyway do not use much synthetic except for a few imported fabrics for designs where we can’t use the natural ones. We do a lot of printing digitally because there’s not much effluent wastage attached to that. There’s very little use of chemicals, and there’s so much that’s done by hand. The biggest waste our industry produces is the craft fabrics, which we recycle or send to be used by orphanages or the women who make blankets, clothes, out of them to earn a living. Nothing goes waste. Beautiful handmade things are meant to be treasured. We don’t want to discard what’s left, we want them to be used and loved, and what can be more sustainable than that.
Do you see any lasting changes, such as these virtual shows, coming into the fashion industry due to the pandemic?
Well, people at the moment can’t go out to shop and they don’t have many occasions to shop for as much as they did in the past. So the change we see is more monumental but momentary. It’s like when Paris shutdown during World War II and the fashion industry had come to a standstill. But it still exists. And we, too, are going to get through this.