Tarun Tahiliani is one of the rare ace fashion designers of India who haven’t turned to Bollywood. He has not only never designed costumes for films but also actively discouraged the showstopper culture, which, more often than not, demands the presence of a Bollywood celebrity on the ramp. He’s also stayed away from lending his costumes to stylists so that celebrities can sport them at airports.
(Also Read: Made in Heaven actor Siddhant Karnick: Everyone on set was aware we’re wearing Tarun Tahiliani’s designs)
On airport looks
“We’re such a stylish country, with each of us having a unique voice, I don’t know what goes wrong at airports,” Tarun told Hindustan Times at Jaipur Literature Festival, which took place from February 1 to 5 in the city. “Actors and stylists have gone on an overdrive, and are now picking these expensive imported brands even for what they wear to airport. This is only setting false precedents for fans who are blindly following them on Instagram,” he added.
The designer said he can’t recall how many calls he gets to lend his outfits to celebrities for publicity through their ‘airport looks.’ “Bollywood is responsible for robbing people of their personal styles. Nobody is thinking anymore what is their voice, they all want to ape what these actors are wearing at airports for god’s sake. That’s not how style works,” said Tarun. He added that social media is further putting pressure on people to not appear in the same outfit twice.
On sustainable fashion
“Why can’t you wear the same outfit multiple times and get clicked in them? Trust me, they only look better as they age. Even at weddings now, every bride wants to wear beige because Bollywood actors chose that colour at their weddings. And they all need a new ‘look’ for their mehendi, haldi, sangeet, and shadi. I tell them, ‘You’re not actors that you need to change your makeup with every occasion. Just stick to a basic one. And for god’s sake, stop breaking your backs with those heavy lehengas. Not worth it’,” he said.
Tarun then lauded actor Alia Bhatt for promoting sustainable fashion by repeating her wedding saree for the National Awards ceremony last year, where she won the Best Actress honour for her performance in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 2022 blockbuster period drama Gangubai Kathiawadi.
“She’s the only actor out there who proved the point that one can marry a piece of clothing with one’s emotion. I really applaud her for that.”
On not being bewitched by Bollywood
Speaking of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, his 2015 period romance Bajirao Mastani is the only movie Tarun considered designing costumes for. However, due to multiple reasons, including his father’s ill health, Tarun couldn’t do the project. But he has no regrets since he has no ambition to be a costume designer. “I’m certainly not bewitched by Bollywood. I think actors should be actors, designers should be designers. Designers should not be costume people,” said Tarun.
He pointed out the only exception to this rule is if the designer’s aesthetic gels with the world of the movie. He quotes as examples Giorgio Armani’s suits for Paul Schrader’s 1980 neo-noir crime drama American Gigolo and Jean Paul Gaultier’s signature funky wardrobe for Peter Greenaway’s 1989 crime drama The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. Tarun lent his trademark bridal wear for the second episode of Made in Heaven Season 2 but had to call out the makers for not misrepresenting them.
“I have a lot of admiration for Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, and maybe it was a mistake. But who cares? It’s over and done, and I’ve forgotten about it. The whole point was that they were doing it under their own name. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but I called them out so that the designers of the subsequent episodes could get their due,” said Tarun. However, all episodes of Made in Heaven Season 2 dropped at the same time last year on Prime Video India. While designers were credited for the bridal wardrobe in some capacity, only Sabyasachi Mukherjee was given the royal treatment of a cameo, studio tour, and logo placements in the first episode. Whereas Tarun’s bridal wear was attributed to a fictitious designer in the subsequent episode.
Tarun is also quite critical about the state of styling today. “These actors take so much pressure on them to become stars that they end up pulling off ridiculous fashion stunts in front of the paparazzi. I was at a dinner with Bollywood celebs the other day, and was embarrassed to see how they were dressed. And the sad thing is it’s affecting our populace. This isn’t our culture.” Tarun said he grew up at a time when there was no TV and Hollywood films wouldn’t release in socialist India until the VHS era. So, Bollywood was his only window to how India dressed up.
“Hindi movies were amazing. They were so pure. There was no dhinchak (show-off). Greatest actors like Jaya Bhaduri, Hema Malini, and Nutan did their own costumes till the 1970-80s. Then Amitabh Bachchan came as the Angry Young Man and I stopped watching it. Because the simplicity of beautiful stories was left. The cinema became much more escapist,” said Tarun, drawing a parallel to how his mother devised her own style and draped her sarees as per functionality, instead of popularity. “If you look at a picture of your grandmother, you’d see how remarkably stylish she looks. Thanks to Bollywood and social media, people are losing that touch,” said Tarun.
Tarun Tahiliani’s new book Journey to India Modern is published by Roli Books.