Tarun Tahiliani on Shawls and Textiles

In conjunction with Saffronart’s Auction of Carpets, Rugs & Textiles and the collection Woven in Kashmir on The Story by SaffronartYamini Telkar of Saffronart speaks with designer Tarun Tahiliani about his collection and design aesthetics

Tarun Tahiliani

New Delhi:  Renowned fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani has always been popular for the way his traditional outfits are draped. Noted for his use of historic Indian textiles and motifs, he goes over Saffronart’s auction catalogue of Carpets, Rugs and Textiles, talking about his love for shawls and their popularity in contemporary designs.

Q. Can you tell us a little about your collection of shawls? What drew you to them, and do you have any particular favourite pieces?

My first beautiful shawl is something I inherited from my mother. It was an agonizing decision for her because it was a men’s size and being a naval wife, she had limited resources, so a huge kanni jamewar was something extraordinary – however I do not think except for very old families, the taste for these wonderful Indian heirlooms was overtly developed yet.

Subsequently while living in Delhi one got more exposed to the world of these shawls and seeing the Calico Museum’s collection really sealed this passion – for colours, motifs and finesse I have not seen much in this caliber and I particularly love the matte feeling of the wools being as they are in wool. For complex pattern and colours some of the shawls are literally greater works of art than much that is merely conceptual today.  So I started to collect them – often finding amazing pieces in the New York and French flea markets.  Before treating, they must have been necessary accessories but now can sometimes, however beautiful, feel a little cumbersome to manage.  Oh to find something that looked like a jamewar but felt like a shahtoosh!

Q. You incorporate the rich history of Indian textiles in your contemporary creations in several ways. What motivated you to do this?

I have always loved the rich Indian textile history and eye of colour, and of course motif.  However since most of our fashions were woven to be draped, we had issues with more sculpted fashion which embroidery allowed us to do.  I have done jamewar saris on chiffon and used it as a basis for my digital prints as well. Next season, we are doing jamewar inspired embroideries with dull sequined borders.  The permutations and combinations are endless.

Kanni Badam Palla Shawl – Kashmir
Circa 1930’s
Image courtesy Saffronart

Q. To own and wear a shawl from Kashmir was a ‘fashion statement’ in 18th century Europe, and Empress Josephine is believed to have had an extensive collection. As a designer today, do you think traditional Indian textiles and techniques can be fashion forward?

Of course heritage can be fashion forward if worn in a contemporary way.  It is as much how you wear something as what you wear.  Attitude is so important.  We once cut up and draped a shawl from Punjab on Isabella Blow to make an asymmetrical draped shawl dress which looked amazing.  It’s how you pair things as well.  We find our own fashion forward.

Q. What are some of your favourite motifs from traditional Indian textiles?

Paisleys, florals and jaalis.  All incredible when layered.

Q. Which is your favourite Shawl from the November Carpets, Rugs and Textiles Auction?

I love the Kanni Jamewar – lot 66.  It is really beautiful with almost a tribal feel to the colours and the long central medallion motif.

Jamewar Kanni Shawl

Lot 66 – A JAMAVAR KANNI SHAWL, Early 20th Century, Approx. 10ft 6in x 4ft 4in (325.1 x 134.6 cms), Pashmina wool
Image courtesy Saffronart

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