How Nancy Tyagi Brought Indian DIY Culture To The Cannes Red Carpet

How Nancy Tyagi Brought Indian DIY Culture To The Cannes Red Carpet
Nancy Tyagi

In many Indian homes, the hum of a sewing machine is a familiar and comforting sound. From altering clothes and fixing tears to pico & fall our all our mom's sarees require, these machines have been an integral part of household economies and personal & cultural expression. In joint families, the person that operates the 'silai machine' is considered the artist; everyone's favourite and a real MVP because we all the importance of a good fit. For women in orthodox families it has been a source of personal income and a practice of their craft which is deeply valuable for one's identity. For Nancy Tyagi, the sewing machine was a precious tool as well; one that would transform her life.

23-year-old Nancy moved to Delhi from Baranwa village, Uttar Pradesh with her family for better opportunities and to prepare for UPSC exams. That's when the pandemic lockdown hit and her dreams of pursuing civil services were shot down. Living off of her savings, forced to find a means of livelihood, Nancy decided to invest in a camera and film herself designing outfits on the sewing machine that belonged to her mother in hopes to earn some money from her videos. Growing up, she had taught herself how to stitch by making clothes for her dolls, a pastime that sparked a lifelong passion. This early fascination laid the foundation for a journey that would see her sewing her dreams into reality, one stitch at a time.

Nancy Tyagi at Cannes 2024
Handmade outfits by NancyNancy Tyagi

Nancy quickly grew a following with her reels that captured her entire process of creating an outfit. I remember coming across one of her videos and wondering could it be that easy? It wasn't. She made it look easy with her skill and vision. Nancy would film herself scouring the wholesale markets of Delhi looking for the best fabrics and sewing them into perfect replicas of haute couture that celebrities wore for red carpet events and film premieres. With her '100 days of outfit from scratch' series, Nancy was on a mission to show the world that anything the biggest names in fashion design did, she could too. With each video came more, followers, more admiration and more opportunities to monetize her craft turning her into one of the most popular homegrown designers.

Despite the early criticism and body shaming, Nancy persevered in making these stunning, intricate outfits, all on her sewing machine. Her craft evolved from recreating celebrity outfit inspirations to original creations and designing outfits listing her sources that were both affordable and accessible for the community of fashion enthusiasts she had gathered. When she walked the red carpet at Cannes this year it may have been a little surprising for some, but for those who have followed her since the beginning it seems inevitable. Her success is shared amongst them through the affectionate comments that you can see on her posts. It's a collective victory; an inspiring rags-to-red-carpet story and a celebration of dreams come true.

Nancy Tyagi at Cannes 2024
Nancy's 1st outfit for CannesNancy Tyagi

Nancy appeared at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in a lavish pink ruffled gown, entirely self-made using 1,000 meters of fabric. The gown, weighing over 20 kg took her 30 days to finish. The intricate design and sheer magnitude of the project earned her accolades from celebrities like Sonam Kapoor and Bhumi Pednekar, as well as heartfelt praise from her Instagram followers.

Nancy Tyagi at Cannes 2024
Nancy's 2nd outfit for CannesNancy Tyagi

But that wasn't it. Nancy revealed her second outfit for the festival — a lilac variation of a saree featuring intricate silver embroidery. She wore it with an in-built hood and a backless blouse that looked like it was straight from a Disney femme fatale's wardrobe.

Nancy Tyagi at Cannes 2024
Nancy's 3rd outfit for CannesNancy Tyagi

Her third outfit that just came out today was a sleek black tailed skirt with a corset, a magnificent feathery stole styled with a beaded pony tail and elbow-length dinner ball gloves. The swoon-worthy outfit, which Nancy states as one really close to her heart, not only displayed a silhouette often seen in collections by leading fashion houses but her juxtaposition of the textures; the cold black beads shimmering against the softness of the feathers, is a true testament to the expanse of her creative vision.

Apart from the outfits, Nancy's interview at the red carpet in Hindi touched hearts as well. We've seen plenty of Indian and South Asian representation at Cannes but this one in particular strikes a different chord. Her presence at the festival may be the epitome of a success story rooted in creativity and resilience but It's still the Nancy we know; absolutely comfortable in her identity, speaking in her native language, answering the hottest question of any global event ("who are you wearing?") with an earnest enthusiasm and pride reflecting not only the work that went into the outfit but her entire journey. She wore who she is, where she comes from and what she can so with her trusted sewing machine as gracefully as she did those outfits and is the talk of the town as a true homegrown haute couture artist for all the right reasons.

Follow Nancy here.