You may or may not recognize the name yet, but Indian-American designer Tina Tandon will be a household name soon enough. The American-born designer began her career at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and upon completion of her studies, Tina worked at well-known companies, including Escada, Christian Lacroix and West Elm. Responsible for styling many A-list celebrities, including Padma Lakshmi and Janina Gavankar, Tandon is one of first Indo-American female fashion designers, besides Rachel Roy, to sell under her own namesake label mainstream in the U.S.
After 10 years of gaining knowledge and experience in the fashion industry, Tandon launched her fusion label, Posh Pari Couture. Still her pet project, Posh Pari Couture produces limited edition couture modernist ethnic clothing for private clients, providing a combination of western and eastern sophisticated ethnic wear, catering to the affluent, young South Asian woman.
The success of Posh Pari Couture, and demand from non- South Asian clients, inspired Tina to diversify her customer base. As the demand for her designs grew, Tina created T.TANDON in 2008, a contemporary ready-to-wear line for the mainstream market. The T.Tandon line offers Day-to-Evening classic and modern pieces, inspired by American vintage.
I had the opportunity to ask Tandon some questions about her career, life, and of course, fashion.
About her reasons behind deciding to start the line, Tandon said:
I was just bored [at West Elm]. I always had an entrepreneurial spirit and always wanted to see how much I can push the envelope, and where I can take things. I have always been the leader kind. I started the South Asian club at FIT and was President of the club for many years. So, I was always starting or leading something! Even though I always had the desire (since I was eight or nine!) and skills, I started my business on a whim, not knowing what I was getting into.”
When asked about her design inspirations, here is what Tandon had to say:
My inspiration comes from many sources, and it’s a very organic process. It usually starts with the fabrics. Much like Coco Chanel, I am first and foremost inspired by the fabrics I see. Each fabric has its own qualities, and I can see what can and cannot be done with them. Images of various possibilities usually dance in my mind, when I see fabrics that inspire me. I am also inspired by my travels, by American vintage, by nature, by the current trends and demand of the market, and the future where the fashion is heading. So, keeping all these things in my mind, and just being surrounded by art and design, and fashion muses, one thing or the other will catch my eye, and I will get inspired by it. It can be anything from a button to architecture in a city I visited or their local attires or a work of an artist that I saw in a museum or an old Hollywood or Bollywood movie I saw, which can inspire my designs or collections.”
Regarding taking inspiration from her South Asian heritage, Tandon said:
For my Posh Pari brand, of course it’s a big influence – as it is an ethnic fusion line. I am always exploring the age-old embroideries and the Indian market for the latest and greatest trims and embellishments, and local trends.”
For my T.TANDON line – it is totally an American mindset – and represents the American in me! It is totally contemporary, and mostly inspired by American vintage. Although, I do go back to some Indian roots and fabrics from time to time and infuse them in my collections every now and then. I am a fan of chikankari work, and you will often find that in my Spring / Summer collections. But, I try to keep it very contemporary, as I think, it would be very cliché for me to design an Indian inspired collection for the American market, being of Indian origins. And, I am anything but a cliché! And it provides me a bit of a challenge to design completely different collections. Keeps me versatile.”
Although her wish list is constantly changing, she said she would love to work with actress Blake Lively, Brazilian model Camila Alves, and Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor.
There are always new fashion muses, who are in the media/ press, and you can’t help but imagine them wearing your designs,” Tandon said.
In addition to designing, Tandon is a strong advocate for female entrepreneurs, and said most of her production is done in units owned by women in India.
Visiting India often and seeing the poor kids on the streets and seeing them skip school to work always broke my heart.”
This is what motivates her to stick with the goal to give a portion of her profits to organizations that strengthens in providing educational aid to the unprivileged. Not only does she give to the larger organizations, but she likes to help families in need.
What can we expect from the Tina Tandon brands in the future?
Well, of course, expanding globally more. We will be expanding into other categories, such as jewelry, accessories, handbags, maybe shoes… the sky is the limit! Also, having our own free-standing store(s).”
Simerjeet Sahota is a lawyer by trade, a writer by night and a fashion student year-round! When it comes to enjoying life, she likes to bake, a shop and read. Not to mention, she is a gluttonous television watcher. Always a feminist, a traveler, and her mother’s daughter.