Last August, when Bollywood’s favourite designer (he is no longer earnest about that epithet) opened the doors to his sprawling Ambavatta store near Qutub Minar in Delhi, his staff wondered why he hadn’t advertised in newspapers. But Manish Malhotra, who is well-acquainted with bling-happy Delhiites, knew that word of mouth would suffice. “I opened the couture section then, and thought why not take over the entire other side to display my diffusion line?" says Malhotra, interrupted every few minutes by excited customers seeking style counsel.

The diffusion section opened last month, adding to the charm of the 100-year-old haveli, which has been architecturally altered slightly to become a 7,500 sq.ft store. It is a huge, airy space with dome-shaped glass and iron windows, its rough and uneven stone floors strewn with lovely carpets handpicked by Malhotra, multiple fitting rooms with carved wooden mirrors and deep-hued velvet curtains, sofas and chairs also wearing velvet. There are two intertwined peepul trees in the courtyard. There is nothing vintage about the store’s setting; surprisingly nothing is very modern either.

The diffusion line that includes long, chiffon tunic-dresses, embellished kurtas, ombre saris and jackets, shirts, kurtas and separates for men is garnering a lot of attention. “The prices start from 15,000 and go up to 50,000 and this year, I will bring some pieces down to even 12,000," says Malhotra, keen to convey that all that glitters is no longer gold for his label.

But what is clearly top-selling is all that glitters; his couture priced 60,000 onwards to 15 lakh or so—ornate lehnga ensembles, embroidered velvet blouses, shimmery shararas, tassled chunnis, dazzling saris, sherwani sets, churidars, kurtas and lavish coats for men. “I make clothes that people ‘dress up’ in, I don’t want to do prêt, nor am I in the business of making pyjamas for bed," says Malhotra.

The clothes are just an extension of his fashion shows—a swirl of embroidery, embellishment, fluid fabrics in flamboyant colours and slim silhouettes. His diffusion lines need to evolve considerably before they become a distinct statement.

Manish Malhotra at Ambavatta, H5/1, Kalka Das Marg, Mehrauli, New Delhi. For details, call 26646661/2.

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