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THE DRESS CIRCLE

Slow shopping




India's concept stores are targetting discerning shoppers and helping others cultivate an individualistic style.

The opening of En Inde in Delhi's Meherchand Market a few weeks ago was a refreshing burst of style. Though there have a few store launches in the city, none have really stood out. En Inde is a concept store that truly has a concept behind it. When I travel to London, New York, Paris and Milan the first stop I make (and if it is a quick work trip, then it could be the only stop I make) is to one of their chic concept stores. Each city has those one or two stores that give you a sneak peak into the vibe of the city, an immediate insight into its style. The collections in the store may be from designers from all over the world but the space and edit are specifically stylized to catch the essence of the place of residence. There is no question that 10 Corso Como is my

favourite concept store. Started by former fashion editor Carla Sozzani it aims to promote slow shopping, with an emphasis on lifestyle over object acquisition.

And this was the very sense I received from En Inde. Sonal Sood and Anu Sukh Lalvani are the duo behind the jewellery brand En Inde. Their steel-based jewellery has been well loved by those in fashion for a few years now. They have a definite point of view and they know how to balance simplicity with statement. When they opened their store they decided not only to stock their accessories but also curate a space full of things they love. There are photography prints, statement furniture pieces from Mumbai's Le Mill and even clothing from the duo's favourite designers. One can shop for signature pieces from Pero by Aneeth Arora, Citrus, White Champa and individualistic leather accessories by Olivia Dhar. All the pieces in the store have been tweaked to match the En Inde philosophy - right from the colour palettes too match the duo person style-lots of black and navy accentuated with colourful splashes of tangerines. One gets Sonal and Anu's distinct style aesthetic in every piece, with all the fashion seeming like it came straight from their wardrobe and the home dêcor pieces would happily inhabit their own chic homes.

Though En Inde is probably the smallest concept store I have been to, it does live up to everything a concept store is meant to deliver. It gives me a style edit with a unique point of view. The duo has managed to make the most of their cosy space, having hosted two pop-up shops to date. This is a concept store that makes you feel that you are a part of the identity and welcomes you with a laid back ambiance, there is always coffee and cake around to accompany the shopping. And this is how concept stores attract a cult following, without this community feel a concept store is really no different than any regular boutique.

Another store that has achieved this style status is Le Mill - with three non-Indian co-founders retailing to a very Indian clientele, giving their space a unique feel. Parisian chic meets Italian mode in an Indian context at this immensely popular store, evident by the opening of a second store last year after the hugely favourable response to the first. To the Le Mill girls - Cecilia Morelli Parikh, Julie Leymarie and Aurelie de Limlette - it is about bringing a point of view in aesthetics across a range of products. There is a feel of high fashion and glamour to everything they do. Dresses by 3. 1 Philip Lim, Azzedine Alia, Mary Katranzou, Isabel Marant are teamed with fabulous baubles by Mawi and En Inde.

These must-have pieces of fashion happily sit next to glassware by Memento, furniture by Carl Hansen, and cutlery by Cutipol as well Le Mill's own fabulous range of in-house home products. One of the co-founders, Parikh, even hosts style sessions so that her customers understand the aesthetics and feel like they are a part of Le Mill sensibility. Le Mill is in striking contrast to the other and more established concept store in the city, Bungalow 8, which has a far more raw yet refined sensibility. They both have a philosophy behind everything they do. In many ways these two stores complement each other and speak of the two very distinct vibes that Mumbai has - it is a city that loves to be chic and yet embraces all things boho.

Concept stores are also about more than the products, they are more importantly about an experience. Many a time when I have walked into 10 Corso Como in Milan, there is some interesting exhibition, event or pop-up shop happening. Once there was a Prabuddha Dasgupta photo exhibition, another time Salvatore Ferragamo had displayed an exhibition of their most famous shoes and once a fashion magazine had collaborated with several designers for a pop-up store selling customised T-shirts to raise money for a women's charity. A concept store is more than a place that sells product, it is a home to style.

Among India's first concept stores was Delhi's Moonriver which now celebrates a decade of style. Known to be an authority on stylised home dêcor, the store has now expanded into fashion. Modern Indian design is mixed with contemporary international style. Diptyque candles, Kalighats, Abraham and Thakore home and fashion range, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Pero all come together in a harmonious style symphony at Moonriver. Creative director Radhika Gupta marks her 10th year in the business by introducing a new international floor that will retail Diane von Furstenberg, Zadig and Voltaire, Marni and Brazilian sportswear brand, Osklen. This mix of Indian and international is very interesting as it actually mirrors the Indian women's wardrobe. Most Indian style-setters are as happy to wear an Anamika Khanna as they are an Azzeline Alia. Also in the pipeline for the store are monthly style salons, book readings, fashion feature screenings and pop up sales to augment the store's already singular brand image. These will be held in their cafê, which doubles up as a bookstore to Penguin Classics.

With Le Inde and Moonriver in Delhi and Le Mill and Bungalow 8 in Mumbai, the two fashion capitals seem to have finally found their own tastemakers. Their growth and acceptance is a sign that aesthetics are evolving and style is becoming more design than trend driven. With such stores run by true style-makers and design pioneers, one hopes their good taste raises the style bar in the country.

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