The fashion designer's new store in Kala Ghoda has come alive with art gallery-like interiors, a stunning frosted-glass feature wall, and of course, handmade couture
It’s not surprising, that when we meet Rahul Mishra at his Mumbai store, he’s busy in his atelier with the parents of a bride-to-be. It’s not a surprise either, that the future bride in question is Shloka Mehta, who will marry Akash Ambani in what will undoubtedly be the wedding of 2019.
Mishra’s bridal couture is as loved in India as his stunning Ready-to-Wear pieces are by Parisians. It is these two facets of his label that he wanted to seamlessly showcase at his new Mumbai store. “There is a lot of variety in our work. When we showcase a collection in Paris or bridal looks at Couture Week in India, there are very different requirements. But we maintain a continuity in our storytelling; the motifs we use are the same in both western and Indian wear. The challenge for me was to create a space where bridal wear could coexist with chic western wear at the same time,” explains Mishra.
This is where Mishra’s approach of designing the store like an art gallery came into play. With distressed concrete, reclaimed wood, stucco, simple backlit brass racks, ceiling mounted pin spotlights and plenty of space to move around, Animesh Nayak, principal architect, Open to Sky Architects and Richa Kanoi, creative director of the store, conceptualised the space as a backdrop to his fashion. “The design of the store was as important to Rahul, as the fashion displayed in it,” explains Nayak. “This included the materials we used and how things are arranged. We were careful to not add anything that was overpowering,” he says.
For them the space worked as a soothing counterpoint to the vibrancy of its eclectic, creative neighbourhood in south Mumbai. The store also celebrates the geography of the city - small design elements like seashell door knobs and driftwood are part of the Mumbai story. Details like the jute and gota rug and velvet chairs bring a subtle plushness to the store adding to the trousseau shopping experience.
A walk in the park
The glamourous couture is the focus of the almost 1,600 sqft space but working with a 70-year-old rental building in Kala Ghoda came with its own challenges. Besides having low ceilings, all three rooms inside had different floor levels. “For a comfortable retail experience everything should be on one level. Also, the façade was very small, and we had to introduce three extra shop windows to bring in natural light and also make the store more visible to people,” adds Nayak. But certain elements of the old construction, like the industrial ceilings, were left untouched.
Nayak’s approach was to flip the limitations and turn them into unique aspects of the site. The best example of this, is the stunning 18ft floor-to-ceiling green wall at the far end of the store, which he says was a “dead wall” in the darkest corner when he first saw it. Keeping Mishra’s penchant for botanical designs in mind, and his love for the slow-fashion, slow-life, Nayak and Kanoi created a feature wall with plants suspended behind the frosted glass. “The idea is to make you continue further into the site all the while maintaining a sense of mystery, and having you speculate what could be on the other side,” says Nayak. The store is as contemporary as Mishra’s designs, but it was important to him that the rules of Vaastu be followed - so besides small changes, even the staircase to his atelier was broken down and changed to go up in the opposite direction
The mezzanine, which is now Mishra’s favourite spot in the store, was a small claustrophobic room. “We broke the upstairs floor slab and doubled the height of the space. You can now stand at the mezzanine level and look down at the entire store. We connected both floors visually, giving the area a feeling of magnified vertical space. We couldn’t change the building, but we worked strategically to give it a character of its own,” says Nayak.