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Dressing up the malls

From an outline of Banaras ghats in rope lights to a giant Ganesha statue, mall decor is never so dazzling as it is for big festivals and Diwali, Christmas and Valentine's Days are the festivals that call for the most out-of-the-box thinking.

brunch Updated: Oct 20, 2014 11:40 IST
Veenu Singh
Veenu Singh
Hindustan Times
Mall decor,Select Citywalk,DLF Promenade

Never been to Varanasi? Never mind. Just drive past Select Citywalk Mall one of these days, and you’ll see something that closely resembles a ghat on the Ganga near the entrance of the parking lot.

Okay, it’s not the real thing. To get the real thing, you’d have to actually visit Varanasi. But it’s a pretty nifty piece of work and much used by fascinated bystanders as the latest location for a selfie. And no wonder. It must have taken months to visualise and create – and then it must have been set up overnight.

The outline of a Banaras ghat in rope lights at Select Citywalk Mall

Lights, camera, action

No one said mall décor is easy, but it’s a must. There are two reasons for this. For one, like it or not, malls have become more than shopping centres. They’re leisure hangouts too. And for another, because they are so similar in terms of the brands they host, the leisure options they accommodate and the eateries they lay on, it’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish one mall from another.

The décor is the differentiator. And that becomes even more important at festival times, when people are more likely than usual to go to the malls. Add the great social media selfie craze to these factors and there’s no way you can escape putting a huge amount of effort into mall décor.

"Malls in themselves are no longer just entertainment arenas; they reflect the lifestyle and the social psyche of the crowd they host," says Arjun Sharma, director, Select Citywalk. "That’s why we try to offer a great experience to customers in the form of mall décor that not just reflects our emotions regarding a particular festival but also becomes a talking point."

Since malls are open 365 days a year, creating festive décor is all about planning. Any theme takes about 45-60 days to put together, says set designer Varun Malhotra, and when it comes to festivals like Diwali and Christmas, months go into the visualisation, creation and execution.

A giant statue of Ganesha with garlands at DLF Promenade

Malhotra does the décor for DLF Promenade Mall, and this year, his Diwali theme involves multi-coloured rangolis, fresh flowers, fireworks and a gigantic statue of Lord Ganesha adorned with garlands. "To complete the Diwali atmosphere, there’s a play of lights with fireworks on the rooftop, drop lamps on the façade and multiple laser-cut pillars in yellow, orange and red around the hub area," says Varun. Traditionally Contemporary

Whatever you do when you’re planning to do up a mall, you have to think big. In fact, think huge, says Meeta Gutgutia, director and creative head, Ferns N Petals, responsible for many floral installations at malls all over NCR. "For instance, when we did floral mannequins, they were over six feet tall," says Gutgutia. "And the installations have to be put up in such a way that people can pose with them easily."

Diwali, Christmas and Valentine’s Day are the festivals that call for the most out-of-the-box thinking. For Valentine’s Day, Ferns N Petals once did a buggy made entirely out of red roses, which became a massive photo op for lovers of all ages.

An installation titled Asharfi by artist Satish Gupta at DLF Emporio

But Diwali décor must also be somewhat traditional. That’s why you’ll find lots of lanterns, idols of Ganesha, and rangolis.

“Each festival has certain rituals and traditions that are precious to our sentiments as Indians,” says Geeta Samuel of Q Events that handles the décor for Select Citywalk.

Diwali at DLF Emporio, the luxury mall, is all about opulence and lights, says Dinaz Madhukar, senior vice president, DLF Emporio.

And Select Citywalk, aside from its Ganga ghat, is slathered with shlokas and mantras, and a central jyot installed with multiple lights.
So when do these themes actually become reality? Given that malls don’t get a day off, execution must happen at night. “It’s like the story of the elves that used to fix all the shoes once the cobbler went to sleep. He would wake up to a little bit of magic every morning,” says Geeta Samuel. “The most important factor during decor planning in malls is the ability to forge manpower and designs in the dark once the mall is inaccessible to the public.”

And once that’s done, there’s another festival to think about and another theme to consider. Keep that camera ready.

Follow@VeenuSingh12 on Twitter

From HT Brunch, October 19
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First Published: Oct 17, 2014 19:14 IST