Tahari was born in 1952 in Jerusalem, the eldest son of a Persian Jewish couple. Tahari immigrated to the United States in 1971 as an electrician. Moving to New York he sought work in Manhattan's Garment District, sleeping many nights at a YMCA hotel, or on the benches of Central Park. His position selling clothing from a boutique in Greenwich Village introduced him to women's fashion. He began designing women's fashion inspired by the New York City nightclub scene.