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As Indian couturier Tarun Tahiliani arrives in the UAE for his exhibit concluding on September 18, Gulf News tabloid! caught up with him to speak about changing landscape in Indian bridal fashion, the dark side of his industry and more. Here’s his take on…

His Dubai showcase:

“We always look at Dubai as a gateway to the Middle East. The multi-ethnicity of the UAE where we have Emiratis, Bangladeshis, Lebanese and various nationalities is interesting. In a year or two, our next big store will be in Dubai. But till then, I will be coming there to show my collections — a bit of bridal, couture, ready-to-wear mix — to all those who can’t make it to India. I want to reconnect to all those in Dubai and get their feedback during my showcase.”

The evolution of Indian bridal wear:

“I have been a vanguard of this movement where comfort is key. I have been screaming about it for years about Indian brides who can’t walk on their wedding day because of the weight of their bridal outfits. I have seen a few who were left bleeding [after chafing due to metallic embroidery]. For me, luxury is about comfort first and how it feels against your skin. We have moved on from the days where the bride starved themselves and wore embellished corsets. Today, the modern Indian woman can wear heels for an hour on her wedding day and then be comfortable about switching to rubber chappals [flip-flops] an hour later.”

The on-going debate about fashion’s dark-side:

“It’s a good thing if the dark side of fashion that is exploitative in nature is discussed and dissected. If models are being shamed because of their body or their physical appearance, it’s appalling and shameful… But when you have celebrities endorsing products that claim that you are beautiful only if you are fair in skintone and you constantly condone it as a society, how do you decide who’s the victim here or who’s the exploiter?.”

Whether he employs emaciated or under-age models in his shows:

“We always insist that the models are up to a certain size — between sizes six and eight. If they are smaller than size six, then we don’t hire them as they look sickly. In the past, there have been models who have fainted for the lack of food and we have forced them to eat before the show… Why are we restricting women from being women? In our part of the world we think beauty is about narrow shoulders and narrow hips? Often, they look like that because they are starving themselves. We prefer to use real people who don’t subscribe to someone else’s idea of beauty.”

Designer Rohit Bal’s now-deleted post against ‘bastardisation of Indian fashion’ by Bollywood stars:

“Let’s face it: it’s a celebrity-driven world. But the real tragedy is when the fashion press stops being discerning about the designs they review. They have become so apolitical in their tone as they don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. But celebrities give you a mass reach and it’s a fact that plays out at major events in the worlds including the Cannes and the Oscars red carpets… The person that I admire most in the fashion press is Vanessa Friedman [the fashion director and chief fashion critic for The New York Times]. Her interviews are hard-hitting. We don’t see much of that in my country. A good press can educate a customer, instead of writing glorious fashion reports on how much they ‘love, love, love’ the fashion people. Let them write about technique and relevance too.”

Nike’s recent controversial ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick:

“It depends on whether a brand wants to be political or not… Your choice of a model is intended to tap into different groups. Advertising is all about paying a person to pretend that you are endorsing a brand… Gigi Hadid might not wear Tommy Hilfiger, but they are together now. She’s beautiful and a superstar model, so many will buy their designs. Advertising is not just about the truth. It’s far from it.”

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Did you know?

If Tarun Tahiliani could rope in a face of his brand, it would be someone like actress Kate Winslet or TV mogul Oprah Winfrey as they have a lot of conviction and are politically active.

“It’s their radiance within and not their superficial beauty.”

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QUICK FIRE WITH TARUN TAHILIANI

Are sheer tights in?

No.

Do I have to wear knee-high socks?

Cute, but depends on what you wear it with.

What’s the colour that Indian brides should gravitate to?

Pastels. Red often overpowers the bride.

What kind of a fashion moment are we having?

It’s a confused flux and anything goes. There’s no major trend in high fashion and every brand is aiming for its strong identity.

What’s a trend that we must dump?

Mismatched street fashion posing as fashion.

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Don’t miss it!

Tarun Tahiliani is in Dubai for a two-day fashion exhibit from September 17.

Where: Arjawan and Yasmin Room, Shangri La Hotel Dubai.

Time: 11am to 8pm.

Entry: Free to attend.