— JASMEEN DUGAL
To enter Tarun Tahiliani's atelier is like walking into a parallel universe, one of aesthetic perfection. The label is steeped in Indian crafts, keeping in mind the global Indian. So, when one of India's largest fashion retailers, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd., acquired thirty- three percent stake in Tarun Tahiliani's demi-couture for reported $9.25 million, with an option to increase it to fifty-one percent in a few years… it was time for a chat with the illustrious fashion designer.
Tarun, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd just acquired thirty three per cent stake in your demi-couture, with an option to increase to fifty one percent in few years. What is the nature of this alliance?
Well, let me start by saying that I'm extremely honoured to be collaborating with the Aditya Birla group because I believe they are just fantastic. They understand scale and numbers like no one else in the market today and each of their homegrown brands is a resounding success. I would be delighted if this collaboration would enable the reach to that kind of scale. In principle, we decided that it should be two different companies for the simple reason that we wanted a very high engine driver for the new line which required massive investment. This allowed me to invest and hold a stake in the new venture while maintaining and having the ability to work on my luxury brand at my own pace. These are two different engine drivers so it made sense. I say massive investments because we are targeting opening two hundred and fifty stores in four- five years, and the kind of backend that would need is enormous. We did not want the luxury business to hold that back. There is always an opportunity for this investment to increase once we are all more confident. Honestly, this suited me much more, as I don't feel the need to give up more stock at this point. This acts as an assurance with the new company and the new business is being run separately.
Tarun, I believe you and ABFRL are launching a men's ethnic wear brand in which ABFRL will hold eighty per cent stake. Do share your vision and the brand aesthetic.
Like I said, it is a completely new venture where, together, we are determined to bring great quality menswear at a premium, to bridge price point. The vision is to give Indian men an option that they do not, I believe, have today. It is a new dimension for me and in India, particularly, because you will get outstanding quality and diversified choices from this new venture. Meanwhile, the current Tarun Tahiliani brand will continue to do high-end luxury. We are sourcing different fabrics, reinventing internally to work on different techniques while still following the price grid, which means that embroideries will be delicate threadwork, prints will be seen and there will be use of technology alongside the classic Tarun Tahiliani fit.
Do you feel this collaboration will give your brand the muscle to expand which otherwise may have been cautious in the post- pandemic era? What are your hopes from this collaboration?
Any kind of financial association helps in opening up windows and possibilities that otherwise one may not have been able to offer on their own. Adding to that, an association with giants that understand scale and distribution, adds muscle. It can be quite difficult to design when you have a hundred other things to think of for the business but with this collaboration, I can focus on designing for the new venture and will have more time for the current label too. The hopes are to offer men a choice in Indian ethnic wear because both the consumer and the fashion industry are ready for this scale-up. It is only fair if the choices in the market are in sync with their needs.
What are your plans for the next three years?
The aim will be to walk the tight rope and work towards striking a balance between the new venture and the current label. Because while the current label will continue to create high-end luxury ensembles I will simultaneously be focusing towards getting stores for the new brand up and running — and that is a tall order!
23 July 2019 11:51 pm IN CONVERSATION WITH TARUN TAHILIANI