(originally written for Dazed & Confused – yup story isn’t South African… I make the rules, I break them)
Bombay Electric is a small boutique in Coloba, Mumbai that, since its launch in late 2006, has quickly established itself as the centre of the city’s fashion scene. In fact, its appeal has spread considerably further: I first heard about the boutique at home in Cape Town, and the international glitterati also seem to have discovered it (Liz Hurley and Jade Jagger popped in just last week apparently). It’s the kind of place, like Colette in Paris or Dover Street Market in London, which feels more like a gallery space than a shop, with a passion and enthusiasm for progressive design, and its success has certainly been helped by a new wave of strong Indian talent, with designers blending centuries of tradition and craftsmanship with radical (but wearable) experimentation. I spoke to co-founder and Creative Director Priya Kishore.
Me: Tell me a bit about your background and how that influenced the creation of Bombay Electric.
PK: My husband and I found the space (it had been disused for fifty years) and designed the interiors and branding. We kept historic features such as the original teak beams (a present from the king of Burma 150 years ago) and huge arches and pillars. We mixed Indian antiques with industrial iron racks and aluminium trunks – the philosophy was to present the space as a metaphor for the harmonious culture clash that is Mumbai – a high speed collision between the traditional and new.
As creative director I now focus on the buying and curating of the collections. I’ve taken the scenic route to retail and fashion – from studying Politics and Philosophy at Oxford and nearly signing over to academia in Chicago, to working on strategy for Harvey Nichols advertising, and then as a futurologist. I suppose Bombay Electric is a combination of my interest in anthropology, luxury retail and an unbridled optimism about the future.
Me: When did you decide to open the store?
PK: It all began on a trip to Mumbai, where my mother is from. I have been visiting Mumbai every two years since I was born, but there was one visit in 2005 that changed everything. I was inspired by the energy of the city, the speed of change and growth, and the harmonious coexistence of tradition and modernity. Mumbai is a city of extremes and opposites, and Bombay Electric is really a mirror of the city, antique and futuristic in one space, old school Bombay with the electric new future.
Me: Can you give some examples of the designers you’ve worked with?
PK: Sonam Dubal, Small Shop, Gaurav Gupta, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Rasa, Bian, Savio Jon, Puja Nayyar, Indja Pink by Vineet Bahl, Aparna and Norden Wangdi, Anuj Sharma, Anupamaa just to name a few.
The styles of our designers range from Greek Gothic saris to hand woven scarves that take a month to make. Voluminous silk mini-dresses in pop colours to subtle hand-made, hand-embroidered men’s shirts. All that links everything is designers who push the limits of traditional Indian design.
Me: Any new designers we should be looking out for in particular?
PK: Gaurav Gupta is certainly one to look out for, young, talented and ambitious; his design stands out as individual and unique. His complex drapes and ingenious silhouettes have gained quite a cult following amongst our clientele.
Me: Indian fashion seems to be thriving at the moment what do you think is driving it?
Priya: It’s such an exciting time to be in India. Indian fashion, and indeed design, are currently experiencing a renaissance. The drivers would definitely have to be economic growth coupled with a new social and creative freedom. As well as artists and designers to create a new visual language, you need an audience to consume and use the language – this is where the social growth element comes in. Bombay Electric is living and breathing because of not only our designers, but our progressive clients who have new tastes and desires for expression.