Tucked in a refreshingly quiet street just minutes from the madness of Rashbehari Avenue stands a beautifully restored two-storey house. Inside is a treat for handloom and handicrafts lovers. Byloom, the apparel, accessories and lifestyle store at 58B Hindustan Park, is just over a year old. With the city going into collective buy-buy mode ahead of the festive season, t2 checks out what makes Byloom one of the most sought-after shop stops in the city.
“We thought there was need for a space to showcase handloom and handicrafts,” says Malavika Banerjee, one of the four partners of Byloom. Bappaditya Biswas and his wife Rumi and Malavika’s husband Jeet are the other three partners.
“Our forte was handloom weaves, traditional handlooms with a modern twist,” explains Bappaditya, who has designed most of what is housed in Byloom.
The shop, an old south Calcutta house that has been tastefully restored, mixes bright colours with antique furniture, reflecting Byloom’s signature traditional-meets-modern style.
“So many people have appreciated the way the house has been restored. We wanted to have a space that was a nice, comfortable luxury store,” said Malavika. What’s more, everyone from Hillary Clinton to Priyanka Gandhi, Aparna Sen to Moon Moon Sen, Rituparno Ghosh to Meira Kumar, Kirron Kher to Sunanda Tharoor... has picked up Byloom products.
For the partners, Byloom started as a space where they could do “what they liked”. The four don’t think of themselves as an NGO but they are driven by the need to help aritisans become self-sufficient.
“We know what the market wants and we give the artisans the designs, helping them upgrade their craft to meet urban sensibilities,” says Bappaditya.
“Their crafts will survive only if we make them self-sufficient,” adds Malavika.
Handloom saris — cotton, silk, tussar, linen — dominate the first floor of the shop and the sales.
Innovatively labelled, each range is a brand by itself. “Each sari has its own character, hence the unique names,” says Bappaditya.
So, there are Abir saris — cotton drapes available in a riot of colours. Then there are the Shibori silks, the Disco khadis and the Mascara saris.
|1. The first-floor landing gives a glimpse of what is in store for sari-lovers 2. The Canteen 3. An earthen tea set
4. Scarves in fifty shades of happy! 5. Colourful batuas... you can match them with your saris 6. Linen saris on display on the first floor 7. The textile jewellery collection
8. Tussar panjabi with dhoti
The price range is as varied as the types of saris available and everyone can find something to suit their budget. So while an Abir sari comes for Rs 750, a jamdani can go up to Rs 15,000. And there is everything in between.
“We never wanted to be inaccessible, and we always want to give our customers value for money,” says Malavika.
t2 pick: The linen saris in a rainbow of colours that drape beautifully (Rs 3,500); the very innovative Mascara sari, which are negative jamdanis (Rs 13,500); the new Abir with Rajshahi border (Rs1,750).
Though saris occupy a queen’s share of the store, Byloom has also made a mark with its scarves, dupattas and accessories, including textile jewellery (earrings and necklaces made from cloth), bags and footwear. There’s also a readymade garments section that has men’s kurtas, bandhgalas, dhotis and women’s tops, long kurtas and blouses.
“Our scarves with their multiple-layers and crossflaps are a big hit,” says Bappaditya.
The store also has a range of home furnishings like stitched kanthas and cushion covers, handmade towels and gamchha napkins. Other handicrafts items include bags and batuas, Santiniketan leather items, handmade soaps, natural products like hair packs, earthenware like beer mugs and tea sets as well as notebooks and wrapping paper.
What started with an in-house brand, Bailou, has now expanded to include a range of products, not just from Bengal but from across the country and in some instances — like the footwear options — from abroad as well. So, along with a Bengali kantha, you may pick up a Rajasthani camel leather bag, cooking pots from Nagaland or sandals from Kenya.
t2 pick: Multi-layered scarves (Rs 550 to Rs 1,450), textile jewellery (Rs 239 onwards), beer mugs (Rs 397).
Team Byloom doesn’t believe in being predictable and boring, hence they hold exhibitions at the store throughout the year to show off their new fashion lines. “We always wanted to have something for the committed shopaholic who would love the idea of their favourite shop offering something new in the form of exhibitions,” says Malavika.
t2 tip: Look out for the pre-Puja exhibitions — Agun (September 21-23), with everything the store has to offer in hues of yellow, red, orange and gold; Bling (September 28-30), with a range of sequin-woven saris; Power of Solid (October 5-6); Exclusive Bailou Jamdanis (October 12-14).
Byloom satisfies more than just your craving for good weaves. Canteen, the in-house eatery on the ground floor, is a must-visit. Sit back with your spoils of the day and rest your feet. Then tuck into typical “canteen” fare like Luchi-Chholar Dal, Fish Roll, Luchi-Kosha Mangsho and Mangsher Chop. There’s also Chicken Momo, Chicken Pita Pockets and Caramel Custard.
t2 pick: Coconut water with lime and honey (Rs 75) and Mangsher Chop (Rs 125).
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Pictures by Rashbehari Das