“You can have four tailors in your garage and become a designer”: Tina Tahiliani

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As Ensemble turns 35, Tina Tahiliani Parikh shares her rulebook on surviving fashion retail in India

As Ensemble turns 35, Tina Tahiliani Parikh shares her rulebook on surviving fashion retail in India

For 35 years now, Tina Tahiliani Parikh identifies and accompanies new talents, organizes collections and ensures that Ensemble stays one step ahead. The past few years, in particular, have seen her venture into online luxury retail, flirt with social media and brave the pandemic, all while scouting for new designers. Some of the biggest fashion names in the country started their fashion journey with Ensemble, but she considers it a myth that you have to be a fashion week designer to get there.

“Honestly, our raison d’être is to find and promote new design talent and I’m proud to say that 80% of Indian designers were launched in our store in Kala Ghoda. Before fashion weeks, we had used to go out and look for new talent on our own. Fashion week, of course, made it easier. But I find it more exciting to look for talent that doesn’t have the bandwidth to be at such an event,” quips Parikh, who is in his fifties.

“I vividly remember my first sight of Tina. I was straight out of college and working with Tarun. She came across as an incredible force of energy in a crisp white button-up shirt paired with high waisted pants and shiny high heels. That’s the memory I’ll always have.”Amit Aggarwal

In fact, many of his recent discoveries – be it Kshitij Jalori or Karan Torani – have been identified this way. “They’ve never been to fashion week and we found them. Part of our job is to keep exploring and we work with designers even in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh,” she adds.

Instagram Discoveries: With Instagram and designers revealing their lookbooks there, it’s so easy to get started. “Very often, the images are misleading. We are definitely looking for an original point of view and are constantly approached by designers who have worked with established names. We understand that their debut collection is likely to be influenced by the people they worked with, but we’re keeping a very close eye. We look for fit, quality and finish.

Excerpt from the archives of the Ensemble

Extract from the archives of the Ensemble | Photo credit: special arrangement

A lot of things look nice on the hanger, but they don’t look good on the body. Funnily enough, it is very easy to become a designer in India today, but supporting yourself is the real challenge. Honestly, you can have four tailors in your garage in Delhi and become a designer. We are looking for people who have the imprint of what their brand represents, but who are able to move forward and innovate, and who are committed and consistent. It’s a tough industry,” she notes.

Fight against plagiarism: “It’s happened once or twice when a designer has reached out to me saying, ‘I saw this piece of clothing on your Instagram and this aspect of this piece of clothing looks like I did’ and I’ve always gone talk to the creator and I worked around that,” she says.

“Tina is for me the first lady of fashion. Thanks to her and Ensemble, designers had a place to start exhibiting their work. She helps us grow our business better and even feeds us with her delicious homemade Gujarati food”Payal Singhal

Over the years, there have been instances where designers have called her out over plagiarism issues. “Who owns what? It’s a big question. A long time ago, when we started, one of our designers said, “No one can do churi sleeves’, if you look at Mughal history, every man or woman wears churi sleeves. A Pandora’s box you’ve opened. It’s a fine line that we walk. We are extremely aware of this. »

Two types of buyers: However, does a buyer care if it is a copy when making a purchase? “There are customers and there are customers – some are very into the design. A large majority may not care and are interested in getting the outfit and are budget conscious and now with Instagram they wants the garment to be photographed well,” she says.

  Extract from the archives of the Ensemble — Tina Tahiliani Parikh with her brother Tarun Tahiliani

From the Ensemble’s archives — Tina Tahiliani Parikh with her brother Tarun Tahiliani | Photo credit: special arrangement

During the closures there was a huge pent up demand for weddings with 50 guest weddings. Many classic, textile-oriented pieces have become fashionable. Overall, we’ve found ways to navigate the uncertainty so it’s fair for everyone.

“Her wardrobe consists of pieces that are between 15 and 20 years old. She takes such good care of her vintage clothes. She is not only a sensible buyer, but also a true champion of sustainability. Plus, whether a designer can make a simple white shirt is her litmus test.Amit Hansraj

The ‘rewear’ proposal: “What’s important is that people realize that fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world. However, which brands in India are truly sustainable – there is no yardstick to measure this. One of the best ways to be sustainable is to encourage our customers to wear their clothes again. In one of our initiatives — rewear — we encourage our customers to come to us with old pieces and show them how to mix and match them and wear them multiple times. I live by it and wear my clothes until they tear.

Consignment management: Many designers had a problem with the usual shipping rules when their collections were returned unsold and damaged during the pandemic. We wonder if the rules have changed? “During the pandemic, in many cases, we have extended support to designers to try to cope. If they had any of our advances with them, we left them alone. A lot of our designers went to commission simply because there was huge uncertainty and a lot of designers had lost their employees. [who had gone home during the lockdowns].”

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