|(From top) A glimpse of designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s studio at 85 Lansdowne; the facade of the store; proprietors Pooja Goenka and Shalini Nopany. Pictures by Pabitra Das|
85 Lansdowne. Not just any address. Come Sunday, the store near the Hazra crossing will be born as the city’s “largest design destination”. A one-stop fashion address, all set to cash in on the couture craze gripping Calcutta, this two-storied hub right in the heart of the city is home to some of the nation’s best known labels along with some budding ones, shop-in-shop style.
The designer list, truly, is as big as it gets. On offer are creations by Rajesh Pratap Singh, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Rina Dhaka, Kiran Uttam Ghosh, Shantanu Goenka, Anamika Khanna, Raghavendra Rathore, Anuradha Vakil, Rahul Khanna and Rohit Gandhi (Cue), Manish Arora (Fish Fry), Namrata Joshipura, Puja Nayyar, Varun Bahl and Anju Modi.
Other labels include A2 Home, Nisha Beri, Gauri Bajoria, Priyamanjari Todi, Meera Mahadevia, Suhani Pittie, Shalini Sahni, Bon Bibi, Mallika’s and Stoffa.
Brainchild of Shalini Nopany and Pooja Goenka, friends for some 15 years, the seed was germinated about a year ago, during “just a casual conversation”.
“Pooja and me were chatting one day, discussing how the city doesn’t have a single place with access to all designers? The next thing we knew was that the hunt was on for an old building to set up store,” recalls Shalini.
Other than great location, a “clean property”, a suitable layout and a “stunning fa?ade” were the other must haves. After scouting “more than 30 houses”, the duo homed in on a 70-year-old mansion on 85B, Sarat Bose Road and roped in interior designer Ajay Arya to do up the 5,000 sq ft place. The layout is more like that of a home than that of a commercial retail space.
“With an old Calcutta home, straight out of the British Raj era being the main look for the store, we decided to retain the fa?ade and structure. The exterior and interiors have a sense of synchronicity and as a designer I have taken a little liberty to fuse in a few modern accents, but only if they were in complete harmony,” elaborates Arya.
The walls inside 85 Lansdowne are all-white, the interiors tonal, soft and subtle, just so that “they wouldn’t disturb the merchandise”. The original net cemented flooring has been retained and design elements have been introduced in solid wood and metal. The 100-year-old railway sleeper wood beams on the ceiling and window ledges add to the old-world charm.
Ancient furniture like a four-poster bed, chest of drawers and hat racks have been sourced from antique dealers. Wooden louvered windows stained in algae green, verandas with intricate cast iron railings and a lush green lawn (come winter and it is all set to convert itself into a cafe) add to the beauty of the property.
The USP of this design destination, claim Pooja and Shalini, will be the “unbeatable prices” offered since every piece will be priced without an added mark-up margin, hence available at the price quoted by the respective designers.
“We have rented out the space as per the designer’s requirements? it will be like their own studios in town,” says Shalini. So while some labels will have an entire room to themselves, others will share space. “Two labels will be sharing a room in such a contrasting way that they will bring out the uniqueness of each other’s design sensibilities,” adds Shalini.
The other unique feature of the store is a range of services like bridal consultancy and designer consultancy on offer. This will include setting up dates and co-ordinating deliveries.
“Calcutta anyway is a huge trousseau market. We will be more than happy to fly down our designers for bulk appointments,” says Pooja.
85 Lansdowne also promises to promote new talent through exhibitions. “We realise the potential of young designers and we also know that they are not able to invest in racks or space. Hence, we are looking at a monthly event to promote their work,” reveals the duo.