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A 111-year-old building gets a makeover for a hip new tenant named Zara

5-storey heritage structure in Mumbai is meticulously restored, down to balconies and brickwork, giving the Fountain area a much-needed nip and tuck.

fashion and trends Updated: May 04, 2017 21:00 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
Ismail Building near Flora Fountain in Fort, in its new, restored avatar as the five-level flagship store for a Spanish fast fashion brand. (Anshuman Poyrekar / HT Photo)

You may not have noticed the 111-year-old Ismail Building in Mumbai’s iconic Flora Fountain area. But it‘s hard to miss in its new avatar.

The five-storey Edwardian Neo-Classical building once owned by the Ismail Yusuf Trust formerly housed banks and offices. But finance and commerce have made way for retail. The building now houses a Zara store.

The move marks several milestones. It’s the famous Spanish fash-fashion brand’s first street location in India - as opposed to the stores it has had in malls for sevenyears. It’s also the company’s largest store in India, covering five floors and a total of 51,300 sq ft. And in a market that’s increasingly moving online, it’s a rare instance of investment in large-scale restoration and south Mumbai real-estate for retail.

Take a look at how ‘So yesterday’ blends with ‘So right now’.

The second-floor display, featuring the original brickwork on the walls. ( Rachel Lopez / HT Photo )

Architects from Zara’s parent group, Inditex, collaborated with local architects Kirtida Unwalla and Mona Sanghvi to restore Ismail Building’s facade and modernise the interiors. The two-year process uncovered several surprises, says Sanghvi. Cast-iron pillars were revealed in boarded up corners, boxed-in windows were broken down to reveal the building’s original balcony grilles. Take the escalator to the second floor to see the building’s original brickwork.

Spot the memorial to those who fought for the state of Maharashtra, and take in the old-world balcony grille as you browse through denim jackets and tasselled skirts. ( Rachel Lopez/HT Photo )

Restoration called for moulding experts, limestone workers and an international team of stone masons. But creating the setting for a modern store also called for picture windows that let in light without turning the merchandise into silhouettes. Concealed lighting on the shelves illuminates the right spots.

A window at the back of the store’s top level looks out to the roofs of buildings leading to the Reserve Bank of India, a rare angle from which to view Mumbai. ( Rachel Lopez / HT Photo )

Glass, gloss and neutral accents make up the store’s interiors. The building claims it uses 30% less energy and 50% less water than a conventional store of its size and has applied for Gold LEED green building certification.

The Hutatma Chowk memorial set against a store mannequin, another way the old and new make peace in the old commercial district. ( Rachel Lopez / HT Photo )

The store is Zara’s 20th in India and sixth in Mumbai. With luxury brand Hermes operating out of another restored building nearby, this marks a change in the neighbourhood. Smaller tenants and older businesses are making way for large-format stores that capitalise on the area’s architecture and tourism circuit.

First Published: May 04, 2017 21:00 IST