Can Glamour and minimalist ideas blend and complement each other? The Forest of Chintz’s first experiential center in India is a perfect place to find the truth!
Forest of Chintz, an Indian craft-forward luxury brand, had announced their first experiential store in India in 2019 in Mumbai. The founders Sumangali Gada and Nitali Mehta, wanting a contemporary design, had approached SJK Architects, headed by Shimul Jhaveri Khadri – a renowned architectural practice for the design of their store. The site for the brand’s new retail outlet was located at Mumbai’s Shakti Mills in Mahalaxmi. The products at Forest of Chintz highlight the art of hand-embroidery, which also forms the core of their collection. Alongside materials like beads, crystals, leather, and metal studs, other techniques like zardozi, aari, and laser cutting have been used.
What’s in a name?
Chintz, a fabric extremely popular in Europe for over two centuries, was originally exported from India between the 15th and 19th centuries. Forest of Chintz pays homage to India’s leadership in the fashion industry at that time through its name. Their collection is inspired by the wild leaves and flowers of the forests and adds a touch of mysticism to the name.
The Design Brief
The design brief was to reflect the brand’s aesthetic sense and complement its contemporary, fashion-forward products, which are made using traditional techniques. The design had to make their products – ‘the hero’, while simultaneously creating a unique experience for the customers. Sumangali and Nitali were inspired by the way artefacts are displayed in a museum and wanted something on the same lines for their store – minimalist with all focus on the products. The brief looked for a contemporary design aesthetic while maintaining its Indian roots.
When Shimul Jhaveri Khadri and Roshni Kshirsagar first walked into the site, they found the perfect setting to unleash their design ideas. An 800-square-foot bare, column-less, rectangular space with a 14-foot-high ceiling and three east-facing arched windows reflecting the old mill architecture was patiently waiting for a magical transformation.
Inspired by the Baoris or step wells of India, the design concept revolved around creating a monolithic display through a series of steps emerging from the floor and blending into the walls. The ins and outs in the stepped display, all designed ergonomically, form alcoves for the customer to engage with the products at an intimate scale. The steps were sensitively designed as per the product measurements; the depth of each step would display different accessories as per designation. The stepped design was an attempt to encourage customers to pick up the pieces and interact with them while considering its accessibility and functionality.
The Grey backdrop
In an overstimulating and jarring world, understated projects confidence that bright colours could not achieve. A cocoon of grey epitomizes the store interiors, sheathing the walls, the steps, and the floor in equal measure. The grey backdrop draws no attention to itself; it keeps its distance, remaining separate where the colourful products can shine and attract the customer’s gaze. The display units are made using Siporex blocks and painted over with grey tints, rendering an organic, raw, and handmade look.
Shimul Jhaveri Khadri wanted the steps to run along the store’s peripheral walls and blend seamlessly with them and the floor to achieve a monolithic look. The humble combination of cement and POP in grey tints created a neutral canvas for the display. The overall sharp lines and clean geometry of the steps give the space a minimalist look.
The Central table
To complement the grey surrounding and add glamour and luxury to the raw, organic space, a 10-foot-long table is placed centrally in the store. With a mirrored top, the table is clad in a distressed mirror that reflects light beautifully, adding to the sensorial experience of the store. With the golden tonality on the cabinets, Shimul Jhaveri Khadri tries to evoke a luxurious feel in the experiential art gallery-like space.
Glamorous décor would be underwhelming without lighting. Simple gold pendant lights hanging from the ceiling lend a soft glow to the space. The statement three-piece brass chandelier above the central table doubles as the icing on the cake, pulling everything together to form a lavish interior. Under-cabinet lights also create an atmosphere perfect for such a magnificent setting.
As one experiences the space closely, one can discover other intricacies of design. The distressed mirror plugs, circular hangers on the wall, display chains, slender brass hangers, and the fine brass inserts lining the trial room shutters all exhibit the impeccable attention to detail.
The Perfect blend
Minimalism and glamour don’t necessarily cancel each other out; with a few high-quality centrepieces and great ambient lighting, even tiny dull spaces can feel like an upscale place. Shimul Jhaveri Khadri and the team succeeded in creating a sophisticated elegance through their minimalist glam approach for the design of the Forest of Chintz’s experiential center. The no-nonsense minimal décor, along with the bespoke lighting, lends the space an ethereal feel, allowing the visitors to experience the space as a gallery as well as a store.