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'Quiet luxury has always been part of Mumbai'

In an interview with ‘Lounge’, Aashni Shah, the founder of Aashni + Co, talks about launching the brand's flagship store at Kala Ghoda

The Aashni + Co store in Kala Ghoda
The Aashni + Co store in Kala Ghoda

Aashni + Co, the multi-designer destination for Asian fashion in London, has a new home in Mumbai. Located at the Ador House (former Sabyasachi Store) in the heart of Mumbai's art district, Kala Ghoda, the new flagship store features a curated mix of couture, luxury pret and ready to wear for women and men, as well as accessories from prominent brands.

There's also a capsule edit by some emerging talents from Britain and Middle East. Designed by architect Sameep Padora, the store incorporates some architectural and decor elements from the parent store in London while also paying an homage to the Indian cultural insignias.

Also read: Destinations that offer luxury on a platter

In an interview with Lounge, Aashni + Co founder Aashni Shah talks about conceptualising the store, curating the merchandise and her key luxury retail learnings. Edited excerpts:

What made you pick Ador House in Kala Ghoda?

Some of the best things in life happened to me when I was not actively out seeking. Of course, there was a strong lookout to open a store in Mumbai. But it so happens, I got a call if I wanted to have a look at the Ador House. Undoubtedly, it is the best place in Kala Ghoda. It's got great history and I am not just talking about the British architecture but also the fact that Sabyasachi was there that made it even more special.

Kala Ghoda is full of solo and multi-designer stores like Ensemble. What gives you an edge over your competitors?

I feel every store has its own aesthetic, tone and voice and you sense it when you walk in. Ours has more to do with timeless curation and luxury experientials. It's very essential to stay true to one's brand identity while adapting to consumer preferences and dynamics. The only thing that's going to set you apart is your curation and shopping experience. While the stores may stock the same brands, it's not necessary that pieces you're going to choose from that brand is going to be the same as other stores.

What's the importance of multi-brand stores in an era where designers are working tirelessly to make their stores more experiential?

Each store will have their own story. While it's great to see the established stores creating unique experiential store where you can go in and spend a couple of hours, the stores like us are trying to make sure that everything is under one roof and it becomes easy for customers. Like when you go to a departmental store versus store to store on a busy street. While I believe for a customer or say a bride really knowing what they want entering a designer store may make more sense because they get to see a lot more, they get to truly experience the brand's identity that they're going to pay for, I feel for someone who's looking for more designer options and discovering newer names, nothing can beat the experience that a multi-designer store can give.


The store has been designed by architect Sameep Padora.
The store has been designed by architect Sameep Padora.

How was the process of conceptualising and designing it with Sameep Padora?

The brief was that the property had to stay true to its roots, which essentially for us meant London. The beauty of the place here is that the original architecture was driven by the British as well, hence there was a lot of similarities in the base itself. Sameep is a fantastic creative… so he got in his architectural mind into the space. Essentially, the design aesthetic is inspired by the rich tapestry of Indian fashion but it also embraces a contemporary and elegant ambience. There are heavy touches, which we have taken from the UK store as well… it includes warm tones of wood and the greens.

What are the demands of the new-age luxe pret and couture buyers? Do you see quiet luxury having a moment or it's just a micro phenomenon?

Speaking about the Indian market, quiet luxury is definity having a moment. There is a lot of minimalism and conscious buying taking place especially in a city like Mumbai. Quiet luxury has always been part of Mumbai and it translates into clothing as well. We see more minimalistic brides coming from here than other parts of the country. When it comes to luxury pret, it's all about comfort and simplifying the over complex, giving them a pre-stitched sari or pre-draped lehnga is a matter of convenience for Mumbai girls.

How have you edited and curated the offerings at the Mumbai store?

Our vision for the Mumbai store was to replicate and build upon the success we've achieved in the UK. The success has mainly been because of the curation and customer experience. Our core objective is to bring a new designers and brands to the very diverse fashion scene of Mumbai. Besides luxury couture and pret, we have separate departments for menswear and accessories. However, the nuances of the customers in India and the UK is vastly different. We're aiming to cater to the specific taste of Indian consumers, while staying true to the core aesthetic that we've built our voice on.

Having retailed luxury South Asian and Indian fashion in London for so long, what have been your key learnings?

One thing that I have learnt is to set your voice and tone and stay true to your aesthetic. Whether you stick to something timeless or trend-based, it's something which you need to develop very early on and set the tone of your store and then stick to it and not confuse the customers. Nothing can beat good customer service.

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