In a lane leading to the Gateway of India, a shop window stands out, lined with colourful posters by Latin American illustrators.
Called Design Temple, the shop stocks an array of items: diaries, boxes, playing cards and other knick-knacks. The store, whose theme is urban India, has a separate gallery for emerging artists.
“There is a demand for uniquely designed day-to-day objects,” said Divya Thakur, creative director. “Our matchboxes, storage boxes are good keepsakes because of their designs.”
A few kilometres away, tucked away in Wadi Bunder, in a 15,000-square-feet space that was once a rice mill is Le Mills. The store, which opened four months ago, stocks clothes, accessories, books and jewellery.
“We wanted to offer consumers an alternative retail experience, so we decided to pool in young designers and create a store where people can shop at leisure,” said Cecilia Morelli Parikh, one of the owners.
The two stores, which have in-house cafés, are part of a growing number of high-end, niche stores opening in south Mumbai, which cannot accommodate malls of the kind that now dominate the shopping space in the suburbs.
“The middle class is slowly moving out of south Mumbai due to high property rates,” said Sanjay Badhe, an independent retail and branding consultant. “Affluent families who continue to live here are interested in luxury products. Because retailers want to create a particular ambience, but don’t have a lot of space, they are reviving old locations.”
This year, international clothing brands, customised gift shops, hand-crafted luxury goods stores and concept stores have opened in the city (see panel). Attic, which opened in Colaba three months ago, has in-house designers who produce eccentric and edgy clothes, bags and other merchandise. Five months old, Four Mins to Four, is a customised scrapbook-making shop on Peddar Road.
“I shop at stores like Attic and Le Mills because I think their outfits are unique and customised,” said Rajni Daswani, an independent finance consultant, who typifies the mindset of the south Mumbai elite. “I don’t want to go to a mall and buy an outfit; I want to go to a place that will provide me with a different experience. I like to explore the location along with the store. I want to walk into an old lane and see a wall of orange and red that stands out.”
This trend of high-end, specialty stores opening has encouraged some old shopping hubs to undergo a facelift. Roopam, a 40-year-old departmental store at Crawford market, has added a kids wear and night wear section. Akbarallys, which has been at Fort for 60 years, has also added sections. “We have added international fragrance brands to the store as well,” added Sonia Akle, store manager.
Shops at Mangaldas market, the wholesale textile market near Crawford market, are also trying to keep up with fashion trends.
“In 1980, Akbarallys and Roopam were stores for the rich,” said Yasmin Khan, a resident of Neapean Sea Road. “They were considered high-end fashion stores but things have now changed.”