Designer profile: Tata Naka
It seems to me that one of the many rules of fashion is to have an unusual, and preferably unpronounceable, name; I mean compare your average number of Smith’s to the number of Yamamoto’s in the business and the tongue twisting, mispronounced names win hands down. And still they keep on coming as new generation award winners, Tata Naka, goes to show.
Made up of 25-year-old identical Russian twin sisters, Tamara and Natasha Surgulade, the label takes its stage name from the union of the girl’s first names. From their childhood days growing up in Tibilisi Georgia the pair were nicknamed Tata (Tamara) and Naka (Natasha). Having been educated in both Switzerland and America, the pair then moved to London to study fashion design and marketing at Central St Martins in 1996.
“Our target customer is someone with an individual sense of style who does not necessarily follow trends and is probably creative. Someone who is prepared to spend money on quality.”
So alike were the sisters that telling them apart was practically impossible, and they soon became known collectively as Tata Naka. Hence the name of a label that is fast building a reputation as one of the many to watch.
Based in London’s Fulham, Tata Naka is now not only a thriving business, but has also managed to build up quite a cult following. With Helena Bonham Carter, Natalie Imbruglia, Kelly Osbourne and Sarah Jessica Parker as clients the look is definitely one for those who prefer individuality.
“Our target customer is someone with an individual sense of style who does not necessarily follow trends and is probably creative. Someone who is prepared to spend money on quality,” say the sisters of their clientele.
In May 2002 Tata Naka saw their autumn/winter 02/03 collection draped on models as they paraded around the V&A. As part of the museum’s ‘Fashion in Motion’, they went down a storm and in September of the same year they showed their first collection in the white tent at London Fashion Week.
Fashion, it seems, has always been their first love and the twin’s childhood play revolved around their obvious talent for design.
“I think our biggest influence was Russian art and literature, along with our memories of our home country, family and friends.”
“I think we started doing fashion drawings from about 5 years old says Tamara. “We used to dress up and put on our fashion shows at home.”
The sister’s home environment in Georgia has been a great influence both in their work and their early inspirations to become designers.
“Like many Georgian women, our grandmother was very stylish,” says Natasha. “Also we used to see Audrey Hepburn films and when friends and relatives went abroad they used to bring us magazines. But I think our biggest influence was Russian art and literature, along with our memories of our home country, family and friends.”
However, it wasn’t just the modern fashions and images that grabbed the girl’s attention.
“Thanks to the influence from Turkey and the mix of east and west, Georgian national costumes are amazing and very feminine,” says Natasha. “Each region has its own way of dress, and you used to be able to tell exactly where a person came from by the different embroidery on her clothes. But there is not this big appreciation of them as fashion, not in the same way that antique clothing has become a cult in Europe and America,” says Tamara – a concept that the girls carry through into their work.
While it may be true that the sisters are twins and work together, both have very different styles and talents when it comes to their clothes. So keen to show their differences in their graduate collection were Natasha and Tamara that they both insisted on showing separate collections. And the Tata Naka label is no different; the label is split into two separate collections that are shown as one. Confused? Well, Natasha concentrates on Tata Naka itself while Tamara designs for the ‘Stolen Memories’ part of the label.
“We start with the same concept and we interpret it in different ways.”
“We show together and sell together,” they say. “Usually the stores take a mixture of the two.”
“Natasha is more about cut, I’m more about decoration,” says Tamara. “I like the idea of clothes being made from stolen memories. Imagine a collection of 18th century upholstery fabrics and Edwardian lace mixed with 50’s shapes.”
That’s not to say however that the Tata Naka collection is a wild mixture with no clear theme. “We start with the same concept and we interpret it in different ways.”
On the business side of things Tamara concentrates on semi couture and made to order while Natasha concentrates on ready-to-wear and knitwear.
The work that Tata Naka produces is a sumptuous mixture of delicate antique fabrics, embellished with appliques and a cut that adds a contemporary twist to their clothes. They both have very different looks, Tamara’s part (stolen memories) is romantic, decorative and feminine, and Natasha’s clothes are more about experimental cutting and textiles.
Just 3 years after graduating from college, their collections are available in Selfridges, Liberty, Harrods, Barneys in New York, LA and Tokyo.
Having been selling their own designs while at college, Natasha and Tamara received great interest from stores and boutiques. Once their graduation show in 2000 was over the sister’s collections were immediately snapped up and the pair wasted no time in setting up the Tata Naka label.
“We started straight after our college show. The collection was bought up by Barneys New York and Liberty’s of London and received good international press coverage.” In fact just 3 years after graduating from college, their collections are available in Selfridges, Liberty, Harrods, Barneys in New York, LA and Tokyo.
Branching into other areas of fashion is also important to the girls. A knitwear, menswear and kidswear range (sweetly entitled Taka Naka Shrunk) as well as accessories; bags and a small collection of homewear are all very important to them as they eagerly develop their label.
So if money were no object what would the future hold for Tata Naka? “We would expand internationally, open our own shops, do more homewear and make a film.”
As for following the latest trends, or even creating them for that matter, forget it. “We don’t consider trends much. Your feelings vary from day to day so should your dress accordingly.”
But there’s one current trend I’m sure Tata Naka is hoping to follow; the one where the smaller label’s are starting to get the credit, money and press attention that would, in previous years, have alluded them.
by Nicola Brewer