Colaba's quirky and contemporary fashion store folds up to graduate to a global arena; insiders say bridal market hegemony hurt it
Bombay Electric (BE), the relatively young (it opened only 10 years ago) designer store will pull down the shutter on its Colaba location on April 29 and move to London. The store stocked contemporary Indian fashion designers with a brave and global aesthetic including names like Miu Niku, Manish Arora and Little Shilpa; as well as vintage and quaint accessories picked up from travels to faraway lands. By this, it distinguished itself from the costume-y elegance of Ensemble and the Indian prêt-focussed Ogaan, located around the same neighbourhood.
Bombay Electric in Colaba shutters this Friday. Pic/Bipin Kokate
It’s gamine director, Priya Kishore, was the brand’s model, marketing professional and tastemaker, all rolled into one. When the whispers of the jumpsuit first reached Indian runways eight years ago, Kishore was already wearing them. Five years before even the most daring junta was emboldened enough to wear buzzed patches in their hair, Kishore sported a mohawk.
“Bombay Electric was created to nurture and support a new wave of Indian fashion and design and break stereotypes,” says Kishore over email from New York City. “And bring India to the forefront of global fashion. It was never just a store. It was never a museum. It was a movement. In the next chapter, we look forward to channeling this same energy to the global marketplace.”
Indian fashion has had a strong influence in London and thus, it would seem like an easier market to be noticed in than New York. The move seems to have been in the making for some time; though some of the lesser-established designers, we hear, were not informed and still have to be paid. In October 2015, BE collaborated with Selfridges on Oxford Street for a pop-up shop. Now there’s a more permanent move, with details tightly under wraps “We have decided on a very special location to be revealed after a comprehensive architectural restoration is complete,” says Kishore. “Select design components of our Mumbai Flagship will be delicately integrated into Bombay Electric’s new home in London, but [we] look forward to an exciting new experience and brand identity as we go global.”
The essence, though, will remain the same, Kishore reassures loyalists. The designer pool will stay and the store “will continue to embrace its bold and directional retail positioning.”
However, the move may have been necessitated rather than planned. BE was always more of a shopping destination for foreigners and NRIs than Indians. In a market dominated by bridal couture and trousseau, its refusal to enter the costume-y mainstream excluded it from a hefty market share. Regular shoppers say that since even designers focus more on the bridal market, the stocks were not refreshed fast enough to satisfy the buying impulse. New designers were also few and far in between. All these factors made the store better suited to a global market than an Indian one. Our loss.