Minimalist Garden

Vikas Bhadra Explores the New Garden Vareli flagship store designed by Ar. Kavan Shah in Mahalaxmi, Mumbai

What was the client brief for the project?

To move away from the pure showroom concept. To make it user-friendly and create a tactile experience of colours as people move about the shop. To re- invent display systems and create possibilities of versatile display as newer styles of fabric are introduced every now and then.  The space had to be a true reflection of the brand (We were keen that the space had a strong dialogue with its place whilst reflecting the brand’s commitment to craftsmanship, quality and attention to detail, expressing the timeless and understated nature of the brand).

What according to you are the tenets of good design when it comes to well-designed retail spaces?

The idea is to develop a constructive, conceptual and impressive design in order to make the shop more open and appealing.

And the ability to create an architectural identity for the brand that is true to it.

Garden is a well-known brand with existing brand loyalists; was the end design to uphold this status quo or broaden the horizon, in terms of the look and feel, to entice the new age audience?

Our goal was to create a contemporary aesthetic to help the brand reintroduce their collection into everyday wear. As the brand in expanding in terms of designs, textiles and colours, it became necessary to create a distinctive architectural identity for the brand.So the goal here was to translate the same brand aesthetic into an interior, integrating our fascination for Modernism without losing the integrity of the brand. Thus, I wanted to create a space that is inviting and open, the same feeling you get when you walk in to a gallery.

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Likewise what was the design approach and strategy adopted?

The contrast between the textures of the garments, hanging on neatly spaced racks that read like sculptural elements and the cement wall is all part of the establishment of the uniqueness of the new store. An intentional lack of decoration allows focus to remain on the collection and surrounding space, and garments are subtly displayed against freestanding IPS polished walls and on thin metal rails. Keeping things “simple, clean, bright and airy”, the roomy interiors ably assisted by strategically placed floor-to-ceiling mirror walls encourage the visitor to move around, explore and experience the space.The store concept combines old and new in order to generate a kind of palazzo atmosphere, steering away from a pure showroom and promoting a new retail architectural format in place of a more traditional retail boutique structure

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What challenges did you face?

How to divide a square box with floating  structural members? We extended this fractured geometry to harmonise with other spaces in the plan. Using these fractures and angles, we made a barrier against direct views to the rooms, created a space in front of each room entrance, and reduced the corridor sense of the circulation area. During the design process minimalism and honesty in detail and materials became the ultimate challenge. But the most difficult part was getting rid of all the unnecessary details. My work is inspired by the lines and contours found within architecture. I am also interested in exploring how texture and tone can be achieved by using a single colour, most recently grey.The texture is also very warm, comforting and soft when you touch it. It achieves the completeness that I was looking for in this space.

Since the merchandise is yet to be loaded, I may be wrong in asking but will ask anyway, will the colour palette remain restrained or will it change?

There are two types of material – those that get better with time and those that don’t .Self-finish materials get better with weathering. Carefully zeroing in on choosing a material that weathers we used cement IPS inside and outside, subtly lending the aesthetic a timeless appeal.A combination of rugged and chic, cement peripheral walls painted in charcoal and IPS-finished free-standing internal walls, interspersed with polished concrete structural columns are complemented by ash wood flooring .The architecture is designed to complement the pieces on display, making use of a range of discreetly opulent materials to focus attention on the collections and evoke a sense of intimacy. Thus we employed a monochromatic palette of concrete. Massive concrete walls define carefully assembled geometric composition and angles in endlessly fresh and unpredictable patterns. This room has a simple grey colour scheme, adding emphasis to the brightly colouredtextile hanging on the wall.

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In retail outlets lighting plays a key role was there any specifics adhered to as far as the lighting is concerned?

The showroom is illuminated by reflected natural light and warm LED fixtures that are tucked into coves.

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Photo Credits: Jesal Shah

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