SABYASACHI Mukherjee’s new Delhi flagship store is an Instagrammer’s wet dream and nightmare all rolled into one. Perhaps, it’s because every square inch of this 13,500 square-foot retail space is treated with such devotion that one is constantly worried one might overlook a quiet, finer detail in documenting the larger flourishes. But, what one has learnt from meandering through his Kala Ghoda store in Mumbai multiple times, is that the secret is to take in the whole canvas and composition at first glance and only then venture closer to study the craft, nuances and renderings. Much like you would at a museum.
But on a breezy Delhi evening last week, the compound of One Style Mile, Kutub Serai, where the Sabyasachi Calcutta store is housed, was far from sombre, as Mukherjee and his sister Payal, alongside their parents and his formidable staff, celebrated the store opening with a lively party. The fairy lights strung in the courtyard with live musicians playing, Marut Sikka’s catering and guests lounging around on antique four-poster beds, made for quite a modern-day soiree, but that illusion was quickly dispelled as one stepped into the confines of the store.
The contrast was palpable as hand-painted vintage chandeliers canopied the entryway where walls were covered in intricate hand-fired Portuguese tiles and opulent chaise lounges lined the passage. The subtle incense in the air, a whiff of mogra and the strains of a Ghulam Ali ghazal immediately slowed down one’s pulse and gait. That’s when you knew you were under the spell of a visionary’s sorcery. Mukherjee masterfully draws you into the magic of his phantasm — a two-winged structure flanking a heritage monument with a grand staircase. While one wing houses bridal wear and bespoke jewellery by Kishandas and Co. for Sabyasachi, wing two offers ready-to-wear, saris, kurtas and his accessory line, with a separate floor for menswear.
Much like the Mumbai store, but grander in scale and conception — and much further down the imaginarium rabbit hole — this Delhi outpost carries Mukerjee’s unmistakable trademark touch. Antique mirrors, vintage photographs and lithographs fight for space with period furniture, innumerable ittar bottles, vintage Dutch plates and rare carpets and rugs that cover floors as well as the walls. The garments themselves are treated like rarefied art, hanging from age-worn wooden racks and displayed in antique armoires.
Also on display are five rare Tanjores and 63 pieces of art from the Sabyasachi Art Foundation, inspired by the Qajar paintings from Persian dynasty, Indian miniatures and calendar art. The 57 chandeliers, red wallpaper by Sabyasachi for Nilaya by Asian Paints, block-printed chintz, trunks by Jaipur-based Trunks Company and other curios might just become the template for Sabyasachi Calcutta stores to come.
Mukherjee, who is as much a master at his metier as he is a canny businessman, has done well to bring all his commercial endeavours, brand extensions and associated affiliations under one roof. The space is a culmination of collections from the past and present, even offering hints of future enterprises to come.
If the Mumbai store is anything to go by, where many walk-ins come to gawk at his “60 per cent experience, 40 per cent retail” model, the Kutub Serai store may soon also become a must-visit destination.