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Signature Store by Priyadarshini Rao

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She allows her designs to do all her talking. She exudes elegance and an unmatched trait of patience that has led her to designing clothes that aren’t typical car-to-carpet outfi ts synonymous with “designer way”. With her husband , she launched Mineral – a brand that has managed to expand its footprint even outside the country – and now ace designer has set another benchmark for herself with the launch of her exclusive store – – which is situated at Khar in Mumbai.

Bollywood has always had a great impact on “trends” in India, be it holidays or clothes! Where for majority of the designers their claim to fame remains their association with Bollywood, for Rao the essence of her design has always revolved around clothes which any woman can effortlessly spot – be it from Bollywood or any woman who enjoys wearing clothes to express herself and her personality. Perhaps this has been her guiding lamp, which led her to open her own signature store. Explaining this further, she says: “Having been in the business for nearly 17 years, I felt I had established a certain identity for my label. I have always stayed away from the usual associations with Bollywood and celebrities, and created a product and line that has been an extension of my own voice. There is an emerging market for women who now wear an expression of who they are, instead of blindly following what a television or movie celebrity wore. That customer is my core audience. She knows what she wants and isn’t a victim to fashion.” Adding on to the look and feel adopted for the store, she says: “Self-expression is a key asset of the Priyadarshini Rao label. It is always bohemian in a sense, yet with a firm understanding of the ground around you. We took over an existing designer store and stripped it entirely to recreate what the world of Priyadarshini Rao would be like. Bright, with hints of lived-in grunge chic, and a handcrafted feel to it. Surfaces that are raw juxtaposed against modern lighting, customised fl ooring designed and developed just for the store, very spacious trial rooms and unhurried in every sense.” Adding a point here, she says: “It gives a sense of being in a neo-vintage house, if you pardon that oxymoron. Shops that feel like shops emit a queer, sterile, impersonal feel.”

From chic Westernwear to saris and even shirts for men, the store houses something for everyone, though each piece of apparel has a mark of panache, which cannot be missed! Rao adds: “The assortment planning is done with the collection story at the top of the hierarchy and then the interpretation into tunics, tops, ensembles and saris. We even have men’s shirts right now. My inspiration was Caravanserai for the season, and you will fi nd undertones and overtones of the deserts and the colourful gypsy ethos in the collection,be it in colours, silhouettes, fabric or form. We also have a partner, , who has designed fine jewellery and has a space within the store. It is her fi rst entry into Mumbai, after Chennai and Bengaluru.”

Delving further into the ambience of the store, Rao shares: “The store had to be a canvas for the clothing and not stand out conspicuously or drag down the merchandise. Tejal Mathur designed our store. She was familiar with my designs and language, and was instrumental in bringing it to life. She is also a ‘purveyor’ of salvage of elements that have intrinsic architectural value. We chose a muted palette of whites, earth, and grey largely in the store, with many surfaces unfi nished. In some places, we even exposed the brick walls and undid the ceiling plasters.” Rao shares that the sourcing of the materials and the accents were done by the store designer herself and they came from across the country including the Mumbai Flea Market, Agra and Pondicherry.

Elucidating on the challenges faced while putting the store together, Rao states: “The store isn’t on the main street. But for a customer who seeks out great clothing, she would make an effort to find it. Work had to be restricted to a few hours in the day, as the remainder of the occupants in the upper floor is residences. Lead times for flooring, lighting and re-fi nishing the salvage took its time. A lot of attention has been paid to fi nishes, and making sure the elements age well with the store.” As for the visual merchandising, the designer opines that they wouldn’t want to change it more than twice
in a season and the VM elements, much like the architecture, will remain understated.

Getting into the specifics of lighting and flooring, she shared that the lights came from Focus Lighting and these were LEDs, which seemed an expensive solution, but as Rao says: “It may get offset by lower electricity bills. The quality of the light is extremely good. As for the fl oorings, Bharat Floors were the flooring suppliers.” Rao, talks about the customer amenities extended at the store, apart from the car parking facility,
the store is one of the few stores in the city to offer spacious trial rooms, which can be expanded or collapsed to serve as one or two trial rooms. Also, the store has well-maintained restrooms and in the receiving area of the store, there are seating options and free Wi-Fi for those who need to remain connected!

The USP of the store remains the availability of a wearable collection of clothing that has the distinctive bearing of a designer’s signature. On a parting note, this is how Rao describes her store: “It is a space that is immersive and shuts you out from the urban buzz outside. It allows a woman to inhabit a world of her own and encourage her to experiment with what she wears and how she wishes to express herself to the world outside.” Time doesn’t press upon her and it elevates her into opting for a more grounded yet distinctive lifestyle! And do we agree? Yes! Very much.