I met Tina at a Member of Tribe dinner party in the Hamptons. She wore a yellow backless gown, and when I told her I loved her dress, she said it was of her own design. We quickly bonded over fashion, and when I asked her about her clothing line, T. Tandon NY, she invited me to her Spring trunk show. The event was held at the Waldorf Astoria in an intimate suite, where guests drank champagne, lounged on the couches, tried things on in the walk-in closet, and received henna tattoos. A photographer shot two models in full looks throughout the night. The Spring preview featured one rack for day and another for evening. The day offering was cheerful and delicate, with soft silk charmeuse blouses, bow and eyelet details, and incredible embellishments of fringe, feathers, beading, and embroidery. Part of me wanted to wear the poet collar blouse with a midi skirt, and part of me wanted to wear the cut-out dress and stop everyone in their tracks. The evening section was even more distinctive. Everything was leather, in its most feminine iterations. The classic black biker jacket stood out with gold flowers and chains. A dress that was asymmetrical and peplum in front revealed itself to be backless. My favorite thing of all was a black dress with an abbreviated cowl neck and flower embroidery. It was in the evening/party section, but I could see myself wearing it anywhere! The trunk show also featured her other brand, Posh Pari Couture. Designed for the Indian market, the Posh Pari rack was filled with beautiful saris, scarves and suits.
Tops and dresses for day.
Leather and sequins for night.
Tina Tandon was born in the United States, but spent her early childhood in India (ages 2-12) and her teen years in North Carolina before moving to New York for college. Her earliest memories of knowing she was interested in fashion were in India, going with her mother to the tailor for custom-made outfits. She had the desire to start her own line since “eight or nine”, saying that she has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. In high school, she was teased for her background and her clothes. Now she focuses on the value of that experience. “It has given me a wide understanding of fashion, and how it relates to culture and the social dialogue in each region. In some regions, the lifestyle is more relaxed and casual, and so is their dressing choices, and in big cities like NYC, the ladies like to dress to the nines, representing their polished and ambitious outlook. In India, fashion has now become an amalgamation of traditional heritage and the western modernity.” She went to college at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), earning the Faculty Scholarship, Presidential Scholar honor, and the Jay Baker Scholarship, which is awarded to only ten students each year. It was during these years that she developed an interest in American vintage, which continues to influence her designs. Tina started the FIT South Asian Club, interned in public relations at Escada, and worked in showroom sales at Christian Lacroix before graduating summa cum laude. She embarked on her full-time career in design and product development at West Elm, then moved on to product development at Kenneth Cole and Liz Claiborne. In 2006 she went out on her own as a freelance fashion consultant, writer, and celebrity stylist before starting her own brands, Posh Pari Couture and T. Tandon NY.
Tina’s take on the Aztec trend, with daring black fringe. An ombré coverup.
Posh Pari came first, in 2006. Tina calls it “an ethnic fusion line”, designed for the Indian market. Posh Pari has shown at Indian Fashion Week and the Cannes Fashion Festival. Tina started her primary focus, T. Tandon NY, in 2007. She describes her namesake brand as “modern with a hint of vintage”. Based in Manhattan, T. Tandon shows Tina’s American side. “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!” Tina says. “This line is designed for the contemporary young, hip, jet-setting fashion savvy girls all over the U.S. and internationally,” she explains, inadvertently describing herself. Every piece stands out for its details: a graceful drape, a smooth texture, an eye-catching embellishment, a dramatic cut. All of her pieces feature embellishment or asymmetry, sometimes both. “I like the contrast of the fluid and the static in my collections. Silk crêpes, chiffons and georgettes are often paired with structured leather pieces,” she says. She is also eager to point out that the details, like a pattern of beaded flowers on a violet blouse, are always done by hand. T. Tandon NY has a practical orientation, offering dresses, tops, skirts, pants, and outerwear for Day, Career, and Party. But of all the categories, Tina considers her signature to be “the very unique leather jackets”. Half of new businesses fail within the first five years, but T. Tandon NY is approaching its tenth anniversary, in part due to public relations success. T. Tandon showed at New York Fashion Week, sponsored the New York Indian Film Festival (held at my school, NYU!), and has been worn by many celebrities, including Brooke Shields and Padma Lakshmi. The brand is currently sold in 38 boutiques nationwide, including L.A.’s Kitson, and has also spread to Québec, London, Jeddah, Riyadh, Chandigarh, New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Tokyo. As a resident of Bushwick, Brooklyn, my source of choice would be Sunday Brunch in Fort Greene.
A signature moto jacket with chains and exquisite beading.
The brand makes a point of being environmentally and socially conscious. “Giving to children and women’s causes is an integral part of our company’s modus operandi,” says Tina. The fabrics, from silks to wools, are natural and biodegradable. Manufacturing takes place in factories owned by Indian women, and the brand supports the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). A portion of the profits is regularly donated to help underprivileged children in India so they will not be forced into child labor. Tina recalls, “Visiting India often and seeing the poor kids on the streets and seeing them skip school to work always broke my heart.” In the U.S., T. Tandon NY has sold product for donations at Super Saturday, an annual fundraiser started by Donna Karan to benefit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF).
The Keira party dress.
Inspiration for a collection is an organic process. “It can be anything from a button to architecture in a city I visited,” Tina says. That said, the process often starts with the fabrics. “Images of various possibilities usually dance in my mind, when I see fabrics that inspire me.” Her consistent sources of inspiration are “my travels, American vintage, nature, the current trends and demands of the market, and the future where the fashion is heading.” Her muse is her mother. “Looking through her pics from the ‘60s and ‘70s really gets me excited and inspired.”
As if a rounded collar wasn’t cute enough, this blouse is embroidered with tiny bows.
Sexy and sweet—this backless blouse has two large bows to bridge the gap.
Tina has her pulse on the Indian market and how it is changing. Indian fashion is “extremely wedding-driven,” she says, with bridal lines getting the most attention. But she is excited by the increasing global travel and purchasing power of the young generation in India. “India used to be focused on local tailors, custom wear. Now American and European brands have penetrated the Indian market, and Indian women keep up with them,” she explains. Indeed, T. Tandon NY is carried by India’s Samsaara chain. Of course, Indian fashion carries its own influence. “Nothing can compete with the intricate embroideries, beadwork, and embellishment techniques of India,” Tina says. She appreciates chikankari work in particular, sometimes incorporating the technique in her spring collections. Tina has been selected as a Roshni Honoree, an award given to top South Asian professionals in America.
My favorite thing! Note the dangling sleeve straps. When on, they create the coolest cold-shoulder shape.
Me at the trunk show. Halston Heritage dress and Style Paris handbag.
Having worked in so many different parts of the fashion industry, Tina is seen as an industry authority, full of insight and advice for those seeking to join the fashion world. “Fashion is so saturated these days that you not only have to know the people you want to cater to, but also fine-tune your unique selling point and aesthetic as well,” she says. She gained ten years of experience in the industry before starting her own business, and she recommends that aspiring designers take time to work in the industry and learn their craft. “It can get discouraging sometimes, but it’s important to stay passionate and believe in what you have to offer.”
Tina Tandon stands proudly before her collection.