Category Archives: Mumbai

Bombay Review: Le Mill


LE MILL

Le Mill opened in 2011 to much fanfare. Tooted as the first real “concept” store in Mumbai, Le Mill famously promised to bring favorite Western designers to the subcontinent and absorb the import duties. They’ve made good on their promise, but beyond that asset, the only “concepts” at work in Le Mill are pretty clothes and nice home décor.

That said, Le Mill offers more than your run-of–the-mill boutique (aha.) The store is housed in a large, old mill in the dockyards of Wadi Bunder, and it’s a beautiful space worth experiencing. It incorporates both Indian and Western clothing designers, but also some wonderful in-house flatware, a children’s corner, a gemstone boutique housed in a shipping container, a (lackluster) flower shop, and a cool café for the hot and weary.

Le Mill currently carries a number of chic and fresh designers from the United States, Europe, and India, including Heimstone, The Row, Les Fils de Bengal, Thierry Colson, Neha Malhotra, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Cutler&Gross, and the rising star Saloni Lodha…. Some of my favorite items: a breezy orange sundress by Les Fils de Bengal (9,590), an intricately beaded Saloni dress (29,000), A white crochet top by Heimstone (15,290) or their pink silk pinafore (20,000), the splashy prints by NorBlackNorWhite, and Rajesh Pratap Singh’s exclusive men’s suits.

The aesthetic is pretty standard Mumbai though—light fabrics, hand-prints, bright colors, and beading.  I struggled to see anything new or surprising in their point of view. And I wondered, of all the exciting young designers in the West who might blend beautifully into Bombay’s aesthetic (Proenza Schouler, Erdem, Mary Katrantzou, to name a few)—why choose The Row?

My favorite stuff at Le Mill was actually their home-wares, especially their lovely in-house line of bowls and plates, printed with coolly colored patterns (500-800 rs each; concocted by a former Hermes designer). I also liked their “Platinum” collection—flatwares in solid pastel colors rimmed in silver (330-1490 per piece). Also fun: enamel bowls (500) and tiffins, chunky corked jars (300-600), and Obataimu’s amazing Object Lights—old trumpets, buttermilk churners, cameras and the like transformed into beautiful and unique light fixtures. (about 50,000). The store incorporates some wonderful design elements, like the paper interpretations of Bombay’s ubiquitous crows, the mismatched café chairs, and the flamingo-footed jewelry cases.

If you decide to make the trek to Le Mill, don’t miss out on the café, by Arjun Gadkari. The menu is small, seasonal and immensely satisfying. We tried the ricotta crepes, the breaded chicken, the gnocchi, and the barley salad; my absolute favorite however, was the shredded lamb and mint salad w/ pomegranate. Splendid.

Le Mill
17-25, Nandlal Jani Road
Next to Wadi Bunder New Railway Bridge
Wadi Bunder (East)

Daily, 11am to 8pm

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Shopping By Neighborhood: Kala Ghoda

KITSCH

If, for whatever reason, you feel the need to snatch up Western designer duds whilst in Bombay, Kitsch is probably your best bet. Stocks a tiny and well curated selection of brands, including Stella McCartney, Hervé Leger, and Lanvin. Be forewarned—Kitsch does not absorb the price of the import duties, so, if you can afford these clothes in the first place, you might be better off just buying a ticket to the states and shopping there. Or pay the shipping fees on Net-A-Porter.

N.B. that it’s odd that the least kitschy place in Bombay snapped up that name. Kitsch is anything but.

Kitsch
48, Dr V. B. Gandhi Marg
Near Rhythm House
Kala Ghoda

Monday to Sunday, 11am to 8.30pm

SABYASACHI

Sabyasachi sets the tone with an alluring entrance: before your hand reaches the door it has mysteriously swung open, tumbling you into a wonderland-like rabbit hole of mustachioed maharajas, enameled mirrors, old ticking clocks, and dapple-cut lamps. It’s… entrancing! (Pardon the pun.)

For my money, the final showroom doesn’t quite measure up to the promise of these first two foyers, but the clothing is undeniably beautiful. Even if you’re not looking to buy, Sabyasachi, a rising star in the internatioal fashion firmament, is a fabulous place to view intricate and traditional ceremonial sarees, kurtas, etc. There are also stunning displays of gems, so luxurious that I shied away from asking the price, as I’m so obviously an imposter.

Unfortunately, none of the charming curios are for sale, but if you fall in love—never fear! Head to Mini Market.

Sabyasachi
52 Dr. V. B. Gandhi Marg
Near Rhythm House
Kala Ghoda

Monday to Saturday, 11am to 7.30pm; closed on Sunday.

FABINDIA

Fabindia is a veritable emporium of affordable Indian silhouettes in an endless array of bright, fun prints and colors. The cuts and styles are simple and don’t scream “India!” in that annoying way, so you can bring separates home and integrate them into your everyday wardrobe. My favorites are the blousey harem pants or the short sleeveless kurta tops. They also have stunningly beautiful and affordable scarves and dupattas.

And the price is practically impossible to beat, especially since the quality is incredibly high. Furthermore, your money is being well-spent—Fabindia is run by married couple who source their fabrics and products from over 7,500 craftspeople and artisans across the country. They’ve also made a commitment to maintaining traditional handloom weaving and printing techniques. And most impressively, Fabindia promotes the market-based poverty-alleviation and financial inclusion models through its reliance on community-based companies owned by local craftsmen to source the products.

My favorite stuff at Fabindia, though, isn’t the clothing—it’s the furniture and home wares, which are cheerful, affordable, and often very lovely.

And if you get hungry…

Head to KALA GHODA CAFE for a snack. It’s one of a kind in Bombay, and absolutely worth experiencing. Try their own delicious blend of joe alongside a Melly Salad or a sandwich or waffles.

Mumbai Boss’s Guide to Grant Road

The Bombay-based online guide to the city and its news just published a nifty little map which points out the best places to get produce around Grant Road. Should you happen to be in the area, check it out:

Shopping By Neighborhood: Bandra

Attic in Khar

D7:  is a nice little complex in Khar where you can experience some high-end, casual Indian designers all in one place, including those listed below…

Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna: my favorite shop in the complex, and one of my favorite Indian labels, period. RG + RK sell sophisticated separates in solid colors which often makes wonderful use of delicate cut-outs, elegant draping, and lots of thickly clustered sequining. When I last visited the range was divided into a hibiscus pink, slate and silvery greys (covered in thick metallic sequins to elegant effect), and lemon yellow. Prices generally range from 6,000 to 16,000, but some complicated pieces are more, for instance a sequined dress for 34,500.  On their website, the designers describe their aesthetic as modern and minimal; certainly, nothing in the store could be described as thoughtless or tacky.

RajeshPratapSingh: Next-door, RPS sells simple, starched cotton shirts and tunics in an array of colors, often with stitching as embellishment. Prices run from 5,000-15,000. Understated and sophisticated.

Ranna Gill: Ranna Gill sells bright tops (Rs. 5,00-7,000)and dresses, (Rs. 7000-9000) often in jersey fabric, which are on the flashier side of the spectrum. Think a lot of pink, jungle prints, and the like. Think beading, prints, embroidery, tassels—the works, and often all at once. Kind of tacky, but you might find a great dress to go out in. Also sells Indian style salwars and the leggings to go along.

Namrata Joshi: Next is Namrata Joshi, where you can find nondescript Indian-style tunics, often with embroideries. Nothing to write home about.

Pankaj Ahuja: I found some lovely chiffon tunics in here, some with long blouse-y sleeves, that had richly embroidered appliqués of birds and flowers.

D7
Turning Point Building
Junction of 1st and 16th Road
Khar Danda
Khar (West)

022 2648 5622

Daily, 11am to 7.30pm.

ATTIC: I realize I keep using the phrase “Bombay kitsch” in my descriptions, but it really is a distinctive and prevalent design aesthetic here in Bombay. Maybe it’s better described as Bombay pop-art. Anyway, the look makes use of Bombay’s most iconic colors and symbols: the black and yellow taxi, the Bollywood mustache, the Haji Ali at pink sunset, “Horn OK please” and so on…

And nowhere is this look more available than at Attic, in Khar (the area north of Bandra and south of Juhu near Linking Road.)  Attic is full of all kinds of the odds and ends that make for spectacular souvenirs and presents: printed cotton tees, mugs, notebooks (Rs. 300), ties, pillows with prints of Hendrix and Elvis, wooden picture frames, bright canvas printed sneakers, baskets full of bangles from Ritika Sachdeva, and much more.

I came away with a pair of cloth shorts silk screened with a design of Bombay taxis,  belted with a bright yellow ribbon (Quirk Box, Rs. 1,450.) Some other favorites were: the tops and dresses printed with bicycles in citrus colors (Rs. 1690-2690), the cloth bags with friendly messages (“smile!”—Rs. 2,700), and a white cotton dress with an empire waist by in-house label Half Full: the bust was embroidered with apples, and along the hem ran some grosgrain ribbons. Lovely. (Rs 3,600)

I also admired their eclectic collection of children’s books, including: “Mahabarata, A Child’s View”, “The Night Life of Trees”, and “Trash! The Ragpicker Children and Recycling.”

Attic
Bir Sagar 396/20, Flat #1, End of 17th road, Khar

022 6565 0444

Daily, 11am to 8pm

LABEL by RITU KUMAR: Label is another great place to pick up some clothes that are a fashionable mix of Indian and Western styles. Great value for money, with tops starting at Rs 1000 and dresses at around Rs 2000. I’ve bought a bunch of great little dresses/ tunics in fun prints here, and they make perfect beach cover-ups.

The store listed here is on Waterfield Rd. in Bandra, but there are many others around the city, including one at the Trident Hotel, one at Phoenix Mills, and one on Juhu Tara Road.

187 Turner Rd., opposite Moti Mahal

022 2640 4466

Daily, 11am to 8pm

Shopping for home decor in Mumbai

Towels at Fabindia

There are three great, affordable chains in Mumbai where you can stock up on fun home accessories to decorate your kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom with:

FABINDIA: If you want bright, Indian-inspired home décor for unbeatable prices, look no further than Fabindia. The flagship store in Kala Ghoda has walls lined with bright fluffy towels, washcloths, dishtowels, sheets, bedspreads, pillowcases, curtains and anything else you might need, in fun and constantly changing patterns.

Fabindia also stocks some great accessories like lampshades, picture frames, vases, candles, bath products, and recently, I even spotted a little globe.

THE GOOD EARTH:  The Good Earth takes Indian home furnishing to new levels of awesomeness and sophistication. They have a series of collections covered in designs ranging from lotus-splashed Buddhist-chic to Technicolor Bombay kitsch. These designs are splashed across multi-product lines which often include a wide array of products: plates, cups, pitchers, table clothes, and so on.

The flagship store in Raguvanshi Mills, Lower Parel, sells all the collections, as well as some really beautiful wooden furniture, and everything else from lotus shaped candles, to fragrance-oils, to yoga-wear, to  to cow-print toilet paper.

The Good Earth isn’t cheap, but comparatively to cities like New York or London, you get good value for money. And the design aesthetic is truly charming and original. I wouldn’t mind decorating my entire apartment in The Good Earth (and many well-heeled Mumbaikars do.)

ANOKHI: Anokhi is the best store to pick up traditional Indian textiles at reasonable prices for no hassle. Anokhi is famous for its hand-made block prints, meaning that a design is carved into a block of wood, and then applied by hand in a pattern onto bedspreads, blankets, tablecloths, cushion cases, and so on. Think of Anokhi as Fabindia’s more expensive and more sophisticated older sister. And perhaps prettier.

Anokhi is also applies its block printing (and other traditional techniques like beading and embroidery) to a line of clothing. The clothes straddle the line between Indian and Western—a mix, we’ll say between Indian-inspired Western-wear, and Westernized Indian digs. Definitely a great place to pick up staples for your trip around the rest of the sub-continent. Prices run from about 500-1000 rupees for basic clothing (11-22 USD)

Keep an eye out for: light-weight scarves (350 INR), duffle bags (850 INR), and Anokhi’s great blankets (2750 INR for a double.)

Travel Playlist #3: May in Bombay

Days in Bombay in May are… Hot. Very, very hot.

  1. Nitin Sawhney – Daybreak (feat. Faheem Mazar)
  2. Yeasayer – Sunrise
  3. Mean Lady – Indian Sun
  4. Sunvisor – Over and Under
  5. Vampire Weekend – Diplomat’s Son
  6. Santogold – Lights Out
  7. Lupe Fiasco vs. Empire of the Sun – Dream of a Superstar (Ha! Yes mashup)
  8. MIA – One for the Headskit
  9. MIA – Amazon
  10. Gold Panda – Quitter’s Raga
  11. Yeasayer – I Remember
  12. Shruti Pathak – Paayaliya
  13. Hot Chip – Ready for the Floor
  14. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Home (Party Supplies Remix)
  15. Major Lazer – Keep it Goin’ Louder
  16. Atif Aslam – Tu Jaane Na Remix
Will try to make this available for download asap. still figuring this out.

Back in Bombay

I’m back in Bombay for one month to finish up some work, probably my last month here for a long time. It’s been three months since I was here last, and already, so many new places have opened around the city. This is a crazy and memorable moment in Bombay’s history: the city is on the brink of becoming an international hub, and as such, is attracting a ton of new restaurants and stores, but it’s still a fundamentally, overwhelmingly Indian experience. The city has yet to be tamed in any sense.

It’s a bit difficult to write a guide to shopping in Bombay because there aren’t really any distinctly concentrated shopping areas. Everything is scattered around, and practically everything is a real pain to get to. But you can roughly divide Bombay into North and South, and so that’s how I’ll do it.