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When art and fashion collide

In conversation with upcoming couturier, Seher Tareen

When art and fashion collide
Seher Tareen’s treatment of each collection changes to reflect the artist or movement that inspires her and this particular collection was dedicated to renowned artist Amrita Sher-Gil.

Seher Tareen isn’t exactly the new kid on the block but she still is ‘upcoming’ if compared with established couturiers in the country who have been around for decades; she made her fashion week debut two years ago by showing at both pret and bridal week, albeit her bridal week collection was a capsule. The politico-daughter couldn’t quite make her mark with her fashion week foray but more than made up for her shortcomings with several standalone shows at her atelier; the spring collection, inspired by artist Edgar Degas and the Russian Swan Lake ballet, veered towards luxury prêt. Her most recent showcase, held in November at her studio, presented a bridal couture collection inspired by the prolific sub-continental painter Amrita Sher-Gil. Tareen, herself an art student and aficionado with a soft spoken disposition and magnolia white complexion, comes across as a meticulous planner who settles for nothing short of perfection.

Instep sits down with the St. Martins graduate for a tete-a-tete about her latest collection, art and expression through fashion.

Tareen, who has studied art curation in London and often writes about the subject, was propelled into the field of design as a way of expressing what the artists she studied evoked in her creatively. “I love the process of seeing art transform from a concept into a wearable ensemble and then presenting it in the best possible manner. I love that whole journey,” she states.

Most of Tareen’s collections have been inspired by artists. Is this coupling conscious on her part or is it an organic coincidence? “It’s very conscious. When I started Studio S my vision was to create wearable pieces of art, inspired heavily by artists, art movements, even a painting. My recent collection was extremely focused; it was meant to be a fashionable rendition inspired by Amrita Sher-Gil, her art and her life,” she explains.

Tareen’s treatment of each collection changes to reflect the artist or movement that inspires her. “When I start studying a movement or artist that I want to focus on I research their works and identify pieces which will play an integral part in shaping my collection. The process itself is very organic, I wait till the fabric is bought or printed and then I conceive each outfit in accordance with the prints as opposed to pre-planning which design will be super-imposed on which print,” Tareen elaborates on her creative process while putting together a new collection.

Does she make a concerted effort to look for artists who will be the next subject of her collections or is that also an organic process? Tareen affirms that finding her latest art muse happens intrinsically. “Because art is such an integral part of my life I don’t really have to go searching for inspiration; I usually stumble upon my next project while out and about in my daily life. For example this Amrita Sher-Gil collection was sparked by my rapt interest in a self-portrait of hers I saw in London this year at an auction. I was immediately taken in by it and got a book on her which really just set the ball rolling for the collection.”

The conversation moves from Tareen’s design process to how her experience at PFDC compares to hosting solo shows. Tareen states that while she has immense respect for the PFDC platform and its ability to put a designer on the map she most definitely prefers the standalone route. “My PFDC experience was great. It really helps in getting your brand noticed and it’s a great way to keep abreast of the circuit. It’s a great experience for a new designer and it really teaches you a lot about the mechanics of what goes into putting out a runway collection but I feel like it’s also easy to find that your collection is a bit lost in that staggering sea of couture.

When it’s a solo show what I love most is that you have complete control over everything, creatively and for someone as detail oriented as me it suits my temperament much better. For example from my first show I knew that I wanted an eye level ramp instead of a raised platform and wanted a single front row that featured friends, buyers and the relevant media. For me putting together a show is more like creating an installation or cultivating an experience. I want everyone to be immersed in the inspiration,” she elucidates.

Talking more about the creative agency that comes with a solo show, Tareen explains that while she understands the theatricality of the PFDC runway it isn’t her aesthetic to go over the top. “I see a lot of elaborate headgears on the runway. No one does drama as well as Ali Xeeshan and he will often include dramatic props in his presentation but that’s just not my style and I won’t compromise on my artist integrity for attention. In a solo I can afford to go as edgy or experimental as I’m comfortable without worrying about having to outdo other presentations. I can just focus on my work and since each collection is a labour of love I’m not nervous presenting my vision in an environment most conducive to it” she states.

Since Tareen has showcased on two different platforms, in her opinion, does it make a difference if a designer showcases regularly or not? “It makes a lot of difference. I would say my first solo show was a game changer. It helps in presenting my clothes the way the audience is meant to see them and each solo show had a different vibe, matching that of the artist.”

Tareen’s designs are currently only available on made to order but she explains that she’s been working on an online store which will feature artisan crafted pret. She certainly does not want to take the typical retail route and feels that her work doesn’t gel well with the regular model. She intends to work with craft clusters in her village to bring the unique embellishments developed by the women to the forefront, hoping to strike a collaboration that brings benefit to both.

Touching briefly upon Tareen’s Sher-Gil collection, the couturier continues with her lace-up aesthetic, giving it a sensual makeover in keeping with Sher-Gil’s unabashedly sexual vibe. From a gold embellished vermillion velvet coat to a brooding black sari with a painting printed on it, Tareen’s collection is simultaneously diverse and cohesive. Her self-professed attention to detail is evident in the way each piece has been finished and even though it wasn’t a large collection, featuring less than ten ensembles, it stands on its own without feeling incomplete.

If Tareen continues at the pace she is with regular collections and showcases we can safely say that she will carve a niche for herself within the industry in no time.

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