The Tarun Tahiliani Studio was something that evolved by chance- a fun circuitous route motivated by my love of design - of anything beautiful. Today, the Studio workmanship is synonymous with high fashion and great craft, but in the eighties, having finished a business degree at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, I was back in Bombay bored out of my mind selling machine tools and oil field equipment for a family business. Something was in the air though.
I couldn't sense it, did not know quite what it was... a post colonial, socialist revival taking place. A new identity... a re-definition of being Indian, for which we had to go back and delve into ourselves, into our roots and re-emerge with a new identity that was fused as one. To emerge out of the cocoon with our wings intact, the wings that would really make us fly, if we wanted to.It was at this time that Ensemble was born, in an old warehouse of machine tools, in Fort, Bombay. Initially scorned at, this idea became a movement that gave impetus or acted as the catalyst for the designers of fashion, out of India. Sailaja Tahiliani, Rohit Khosla and I crystallised the idea and went for it. Ensemble, the first multi brand store that pushed retail to an international standard. It urged Indian designers to come away from worrying only about what foreign labels wanted or to be stuck in exports and urged them to come forge a non Indian design entity, whatever that may be. This was airborne December 12 1987. Ensemble was born! This done and the excitement having settled down, I was bored again. Now what? I asked myself. I had started a label and was frustrated.
I sold oil field equipment in the morning, worked in the store when I could and designed clothes on the floor in the evenings. But this is not what I wanted either. It created more frustration. I had no technical knowledge. The only area where we had great masters and expertise was textiles(weaving) and embroidery as surface ornamentation was a major ingredient of Indian tradition. I had already learnt much about the wonderful world of embroidery and its magic but we could not stitch a sleeve on straight or drape a cocoon blouse. So, off I went, back to study a crash course in the world of technique, in New York at the Fashion Institute of Technology.Finally, I set up a studio in New Delhi in 1995 as I thought that this was where the nerve centre of Indian Fashion would eventually be - and I think in retrospect, this was a correct decision.
So we sat, once again on the floor of a tiny studio in a 45o summer heat starting up again...and here we are. Although Ensemble had pioneered a new International style of Fashion Shows, I did my first solo show "The Rubaiyat" at a Gala Fundraiser at the Dorchester Hotel, in London. Several shows then followed in Bombay, Delhi, Dubai, New York, Moscow Hong Kong and on, culminating in a showing at Milan Fashion Week, which was our serious entry into Europe and the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Ensemble grew to two each in Bombay and Delhi and finally the Tarun Tahiliani Boutiques, both in Bombay and Delhi.