A couple of weeks ago, through some sheer 'first-week-in-Bangalore' chance, I was lucky enough to meet up-and-coming Bangalore designer Tina Sareen. Busy with a a photo shoot to showcase her now fully up and running showroom off St Marks Road, I discovered that Tina's label LBD was masterminded at the end of her fashion degree, not here in sunny Bangalore, but none other than LCF. Being a fellow University of the Arts grad, Tina invited me back a week later for a proper chat and the chance to take some snaps. Click here to read the interview.
Born and bred in India, Tina's designs are more Portabello Road than downtown Bangalore. Splayed with boards of divergent floral printed fabrics, offset by regal looking furniture, crystal chandeliers and tall Romanesque vases bursting forth with eye popping shades of pink flower blossoms, LBD is a girls dream shopping destination. Adorned with charming vintage inspired illustrations, a girlish fairytale style mirror and dressing table, then countered by vivid hues of fluorescent blue and orange hanging silks and sequin-embellished mini dresses, you can tell Tina's Indian heritage is still intact, if vigorously shaken with the edginess of London's street style.
So on one sunny Saturday afternoon in Bangalore I wandered over to St Marks Road to have a proper chat with Tina about India, London and the 6,000 miles of style distance in between...
Firstly, obvious question, where does the inspiration for LDB come from?
Well, after graduating from LCF I got of press coverage: ASOS chose 3 of my pieces to stock online along with 4 other graduates. They sold out in minutes and I guess this gave me a bit of confidence to set up my own line. I moved back home to Bangalore, and was already aware that the city had little to offer in the way of western fashion but a huge market for it. I created LBD as an affordable bespoke label that always involves the customer in the design process. My showroom has a lot of ready-mades that people can browse for ideas and if they want something particular they come to me I use my skill as a designer to advise them in their choice. I try to encourage clients to experiment, to go for something a little different.
Now that you’ve seen both sides of the story, as it where, how do you think Indian style compares with that of the UK?
India is all about drama and passion and this is definitely reflected in the clothes. People are always celebrating: festivals, weddings, there’s always something going on and these events are perfect opportunities to show wealth. In the Indian psyche, the more drama you have in your clothes, the richer you are. People like to see where the money is going, that’s why Indian dress is usually a lot more ‘bling’: there’s always a lot of embroidery, pattern or embellishment. I think in India you dress for others, whereas in the UK people seem to dress for themselves. In London people have fun with their style, they are more daring and I guess because it’s a lot colder there’s always the opportunity to layer your clothes up and get more creative.
So what sort of stuff do you wear? Where do you buy your own clothes from?
I generally buy a lot of my clothes from abroad, European designers or high street stores like Topshop. It’s hard to find clothes to suit my style in Bangalore as there aren’t a lot of western brands. Sometimes I wear my own designs but since I’m up to my neck in designing clothes everyday when it comes to myself its just easier to go shopping!..
What’s been the biggest influence in defining your own sense of style?
I guess a lot of it has to do with my mother, she’s from Burma but her upbringing was very westernised so when we were children she used to dress us in a lot of western clothes. Most of the time she’d take us to a boutique to get clothes made. She would style the colours and fabrics together for us, she has a great eye for that kind of thing. My dad’s a businessman so his clothes are quite serious: simple, with clean lines and not so much drama. None of us are very avant-garde; we are all fairly practical in the way we dress.
How did you get into fashion and why did you choose London? Is it something you always wanted to do?
Well I’ve always liked working with my hands, in school I used to have books full of sketches and drawings and I loved the idea of making a statement with your appearance. I thought at one point I wanted to be a hairstylist but I went on a family holiday to London in 1998 and found the street styles so different and inspiring compared to India. It was more my kind of fashion. When I was 15/16 I started designing my own clothes. I’d take my drawings to a local tailor down the street and get him to make them for me. It’s quite difficult in India because a lot of the tailors are only familiar with traditional patterns, but it was fun to collaborate with them and get them to understand. Later on I started to research fashion schools and finally chose LCF in London. Luckily they accepted me so that was that!
Your designs are obviously heavily influenced by western fashion, but you also create bespoke, traditional getup. What’s that all about?
In India you cannot survive if you don’t make Indian clothes. As I’m just starting up it’s a great source of revenue. People will come to me and ask me to design their entire wardrobe for the wedding, and in India this constitutes about 7 outfits! I recently designed 40 outfits for a bride and her whole family! People come to me because I can offer them the traditional garments they need but with a bit of an edge, a distinctive use of colour with an uncomplicated silhouette that can be customised to compliment their body.
|Some of Tina's beautiful, hand embellished, traditional Indian garments|