At Aashni Shah’s expansive new store in Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda, it’s the tea bar that is the hub of all action. From its strategic location on the lower level, one can feast one’s eyes on some of the most beautiful Indian designer wear while sipping on a cup of hot Moroccan mint tea. It is also Shah’s favourite spot in her flagship store where her Indian sensibilities meet the British roots of her brand.
It all started more than a decade ago when Shah, then an aspiring filmmaker working in the UK, returned to Mumbai for her wedding shopping. “That was the first time I visited designer stores in India and it re-confirmed my notion that there was a huge gap in the UK for such outfits, and I decided to do something about it,” she recalls.
From a tiny office in London, she cold-called her way to designers, learning the business of fashion, before finally setting up her multi-designer destination, Aashni+Co, in Notting Hill in 2012. Her store showcased collections from big Indian names such as Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Rohit Bal, Manish Malhotra, Anamika Khanna, Tarun Tahiliani, Gaurav Gupta, Rahul Mishra and many more. Three years later, she held her first wedding show in London, where creations by all the leading names in the industry came together under one roof. “It only grew bigger with each edition, with me exclusively devoting the last six months of the year to the wedding show,” says Shah.
In the last few years, however, she felt the desire to do something more. “There was nothing left for me to do with the UK store because it is on auto mode and the online operations run out of Mumbai. I wanted to shake things up a bit again,” she says. The result? Her first store outside of the UK. “Mumbai is home. I have been coming here once every two or three months, so I get the pulse of the people,” she says.
At the iconic Ador House at Kala Ghoda, her 5,800 sqft establishment spells luxury. Besides the well-known names, the store also boasts ready-to-wear Western designs from brands such as Lovebirds, Shahin Mannan, Kanika Goyal along with new and upcoming names in Indian wear such as Ashdeen. There are also plans to bring down designer wear from the Gulf as well, she adds.
Shah, who is big on inclusivity, is conscious about keeping a variety of silhouettes that compliment plus-sized frames. She even has a few plus-sized mannequins, including a pregnant one. “I strongly feel that a pregnant bride can’t be a taboo. You will soon see her in a wedding outfit,” she says.