Near the Kemps Corner flyover, a big, ornate door attracts attention. The wooden door, fitted in an archway, has an antique look and features intricately carved wooden panelling. Behind it lies Ahmedabad-based designers Shyamal and Bhumika Shodhan’s new flagship store in the city. Housed in a heritage building next to a popular bookstore, it is a time capsule of a bygone era.
A 1,800 sq ft space, the store is split into two levels. The stark brown walls, with subtle hints of gold gleaming through, serve as the backdrop for rows of gowns, lehengas, anarkalis, kalidars and saris. “We wanted the store to look like a museum. The look is inspired by old havelis,” says Shyamal, as he smoothens the matka silk fabric of his shirt — a variation of a bandhgala that he has teamed with grey jodhpurs. He adds that helping restore a 200-year-old haveli in Ahmedabad helped in ideating for the store’s concept. The designer duo sourced all the antique-looking furniture — mirrors, wooden panels, tables and stools — from dealers in Gujarat.
The store has a light-to-heavy approach to the order in which the clothes are displayed. To the left, as one enters, is the designers’ popular-with-the-NRI-market “global line”, comprising pastel-shaded chiffon maxis and gowns, with bodices done up in delicate lace and transparent panelling. The designers, who debuted at Lakme Fashion Week in 2006, have carved a comfortable place in the bridal couture market, with a formidable client list that comprises NRIs from across the world.
The next shelf is dedicated to anarkalis and suits in embroidered pinks, beiges and golds, and subsequently, heavy Indian bridal wear in deep-hued georgettes, nets and velvets. The most striking visual element is to the right side of the studio — vintage hinchka (jhula) chains with miniature elements that are suspended from the ceiling. They serve as hooks for the opulent bridal lehengas, all in a distinctly red story with intricate zardozi and pita work. There’s also a shelf for embellished accessories such as box clutches, pumps and peep toes, in deep velvets adorned with gold. “The idea was to be a top-to-toe bridal space. Brides often complain about not finding the right pair of shoes or bag, so we wanted to fill that gap,” says Bhumika, dressed in a brown and beige flare raw silk maxi.
A vintage-finish spiral staircase, leads to the mezzanine level that is home to the men’s collection, and a cleverly concealed workspace. There are rows of sherwanis, reception jackets and kurtas in matka silk, the latter providing a breather from the ostentatious clothing. “Our design philosophy includes going back to the roots with handwoven fabrics,” says Shyamal, as tunes by Anoushka Shankar play in the background.