Words: Sopan Sharma
Photography: Kal Kalim
Ensembles: Hunkemöller and Fab India
“INDIA IS A COUNTRY OF CONTRASTS. IT TEACHES ME, EVEN NOW THAT I AM OUT, ACCEPTANCE”
INTERNATIONAL MODEL TATIANA VAILES IS THE FACE OF BRANDS, A WRITER, AND A FIRST-TIMER TO INDIA. BUT BENEATH THE GLAMOUR OF PIXELS, SHE COMES ACROSS AS A PERSON OF IMMENSE DEPTH AND INTEGRITY
It’s early light, the streets are just about getting warmed up. The sleepy hometown of the magazine wakes up, a usual day ahead. At the Mahatma Phule Bhaaji Mandai, or just mandai as the city’s largest vegetable market is known, seems relaxed, stretching itself out of slumber, taking jute covers off the produce. An angelic figure appears wearing a saari, but it’s obviously not from around here. Fair hair, eyes of colour, long legs on which she seems to waft around. Things kind of freeze. Beats the effect of the showstopper walking down the ramp in a sea of camera flashes, where nothing really stops. Stopping a waking Indian street, now we’re talking. Tatiana Vailes, or Taya as she would come to be known to us, is an international model from Russia, now based in Paris. She trots the world, shoots with the likes of Playboy, and is seen as the face of international apparel brands. Resolute ideator and our international creative consultant Kal Kalim was shooting with her in Tamil Nadu for an international perfume brand, and having her swing by Pune for a quick, surreal shoot was his idea. But of course, it wouldn’t be a cliché. Kal’s plan was to look at duality, of having Taya strut the streets in a saari, but also appear in lingerie indoors. The idea was to be able to look at beauty in its forms, but with a pristine, unchanging core.
That core was to be Ms. Vailes. We begin by asking her about her touchdown in the mandai. “The Indian market is something special. So many people, an unimaginable amount of colours, smells, unknown fruits and greens. Everything is completely different, none of it feels familiar”, she says. But memorable? “Of course. It was an extremely unusual experience, which I will remember. Such pictures remain in the memory for a long time”, she smiles. Before the shoot, there were legitimate concerns within about how she would handle the size of the fabric that turns into the draped saari. But with the shoot on, the lightness and airiness of the garment seemed to surprise her, pleasantly. “The saaris were so beautiful that I couldn’t resist, I’m taking back three.” Taya’s international journey began in Russia, her place of birth. “I grew up in one of the largest cities of Russia, St. Petersburg. My first shoot also happened here. A German photographer took notice, invited me to Germany, and gradually other photographers in Europe began to learn about me”, she explains.
Of late Taya has also cultivated a thriving Instagram community @TayaVais. Many of her 18.6k followers fashion photographers themselves, from where she now gets shoot calls from around the world. Taya and Kal have worked closely on many projects, which include METAPHOR, Kal’s streetwear apparel brand. The brand attempts to create no-rules clothes for the streets, trying to ditch beliefs and stereotypes that do not seem to be helping humans at large. These beliefs have made the world unsafe for the vulnerable and the weak, and the brand is doing its best to vitalize the streets by creating a new set of aesthetics and thought. Taya, with her close to- perfect yet human beauty and almost universal appeal, is the face of the brand for this season. The work of Taya’s life for now revolves around form, and its aesthetics. Given her depth we are tempted to ask her what she thinks about the problem of form, and how it has become an integral part of the individual urban crisis. “Each person is born in a unique body. For some, nature bestows an ideal body from birth, others have to put in a lot of effort to keep themselves in shape. I love beauty in all its manifestations.
Of course it is nice to look at a beautiful body, but without the beauty of the soul, it loses its colour.” At Just Urbane we think ourselves fortunate to be able to collaborate with international creators and artists, and share with them the taste of working in India, with Indian talent. It’s not luxury and it’s not easy, but somewhere, somehow, some reward seems in store. As a parting note, Taya confirms. “India is a special country, unlike any other. I take back experience. India is a country of contrasts. It teaches me, even now that I am out, acceptance. And to find beauty in everything.”