The online retail boom in India got offline retailers worried. There were speculations that the brick-and-mortar stores would soon vanish to oblivion with the growing popularity and acceptance of e-commerce portals. But now, when offline and online retail have a peaceful co-existence with offline retailers extending their offerings through the online medium as well, we are witnessing an altogether new trend – that of online retailers opening brick-and-mortar stores. We visit one such store – The Bombay Shirt Company at Kala Ghoda in Mumbai.
Launched in 2012, the Bombay Shirt Company is the brainchild of Akshay Narvekar. The brand offers made-to-measure shirts with a combination of fabrics and styles to suit individual tastes and preferences. Post a successful two-year online existence, Narvekar decided to launch his flagship brick-and-mortar store. The city he narrowed down upon was Mumbai. Housed in a heritage location – Kalaghoda – the store is indisputably a treat for the eyes with its royal yet subtle interiors.
Doing up the storeCommenting on the store design, Aurnab Biswas, the interior designer behind the fantastic visual appeal of the store says: “The Bombay Shirt Company’s flagship store is intended to be a compelling intersection of the new and the old, replicating the essence of the brand itself. The restored furniture has a distinct ‘mid-century modern’ feel to it, while the shop’s graphics and colours remain contemporary.”
Flooded with natural light and framed by old-Burma teak doors and windows, the warm interior is dramatically centred round a circular wooden work table, which is complemented by an antique surgical lamp belonging to the family of Narvekar. Biswas has maintained the broad vintage aesthetic of the area while infusing it with contemporary and modern design elements.
Sharing his views on the design philosophy followed, Narvekar reveals: “Our brand encapsulates the essence of the city – modern, yet buttressed in old-world charm. The store design has been worked around the same line of thought and offers a healthy mix of quirky, trendy designs as well as corporate staples for both men and women. The collection includes an extensive range of 130 fabrics that can be mixed and matched with different shirt elements (collars, cuffs, buttons, etc.) as well as design options such as contrast fabrics and piping.”
The colour pallets which remain constant in the store interiors are black, white, grey and wood. The colours used are in sync with the brand’s colours and theme. Narvekar adds: “All of our branding revolves around these. The thought was to maintain the broad vintage aesthetic of the area while infusing it with contemporary and modern design elements.”
The lighting inside the store is well thought out to impact the ambiance. There is an antique surgical lamp and then there are open filaments to add to the subtleness of the ambiance. Though, it is the natural lighting that gives the store a warm and cozy feel to it. As for the walls, Biswas shares: “The building in which BSC is housed is a vintage one and we have tried to maintain those aesthetics throughout our store. We plastered the vintage wall that was a part of the building interiors and the only addition we made included the glass windows.”
From online to offline According to Narvekar, their success in the online vertical only helped trigger the idea of having an offline store but the idea to have a brick-and-mortar store was on the agenda since a long time. As he explains: “Spread over 650 sq.ft., the flagship store had been a long time in the making. It is always a pleasant experience to have an opportunity to interact with our customers. We were just waiting for the right time. Having physical presence allows customers to interact as well as explore the custom-made experience in its own way.”
Three months since its launch, the store has already managed to create a niche for itself – one because of the ambiance and secondly owing to its niche offering. With kiosks at malls in Mumbai, the brand was more or less equipped with learning the ropes of offline retail sale but putting up a standalone flagship store threw up many challenges related to the interiors. Narvekar says: “It took us three months to put the store together. A lot of renovation work took place; and that too during the monsoons. We have had experience doing offline spaces (our pop-up kiosks) so the other logistics were not much of a challenge. Training the staff was time consuming as there are many nuances that go into the making of our shirts, and hence our stylists needed to be well versed in terms of fabrics, design elements and the various options we offer.”
Greeting the customerOnce the customer walks into the store, they are naturally attracted towards the swatch board which displays over 130 fabrics and looks like an art installation. Below it are displayed the various collar and cuff options and this centre-piece is complimented by display of the sample collection on either side. This is where the customer starts interacting for the custom-made experience, post which the store staff takes them through the ‘design your own’ experience, which includes browsing through the swatch books, choosing the fabric, designing different elements of their shirt, etc. All this happens over a cup of coffee and some fun conversations with the BSC team as well as other customers. As for the collection segregation, there are two choices of fabric to offer – Essentials and Select – based on different fabric thread counts. Also on display are women’s and men’s collection. There is a mix of fabrics from cottons to linens as well as a healthy mix between casual and formals, quirky and staid.
Narvekar further elaborates on the customer amenities extended at the store saying: “We have a stylist on board who assists customers in designing their shirts. We also have a master who takes the measurements. This apart, we brew our own coffee, which the customers can enjoy while designing their shirts. And then of course, there is a round table where all the designing happens and a trial room for getting the fittings done. You can also connect to our Kala Ghoda store via phone by calling our customer care number.”