Display is a critical function for designers or artists since their work is essentially visual. Where and how a designer’s work is mounted—the look of a gallery or a store, or even its street address—gives it meaning as well as brand definition. While the hundreds of objects at Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s new flagship store in Delhi convey dozens of physical and sentimental elements, the big idea is one. It is the way he reclaims history by giving his own visual language to the past.

Everything looks overwhelmingly decadent at first glance. But there are so many selective slices of history running amok that finding descriptors is hard. The largesse of the store, its depth and the cavernous way it holds antiques offer the viewer the liberty of choosing words.

The 13,500 sq. ft store is divided into two wings by a heritage monument. One wing has women’s bridal wear, jewellery by Kishandas and Co. (of Hyderabad origin) for Sabyasachi and trunks by Trunks Company, Jaipur. The other has ready-to-wear garments, saris and kurtas. There is a separate floor for menswear.

However, the garments, beautiful as they are, are only one part of this store’s allure. Hand-fired Portuguese tiles, calendar art, Tanjore paintings, old mirrors, miniature paintings, vintage photographs—many in sepia or black and white—wallpaper developed especially by Sabyasachi for Nilaya, a line of wallpapers by Asian Paints, an antique hookah, old Khan Mohammadi and Shiraz carpets, block-printed chintz, coloured ittar (scent) bottles and porcelain pieces add to the space’s charm. Sixty-three pieces of art displayed there are from the Sabyasachi Art Foundation, a sub-project of the Sabyasachi brand. For those interested in numbers, there are 57 chandeliers, 732 ittar bottles, 112 antique carpets, five rare Tanjores, 214 vintage Dutch plates, 318 hand-retouched studio portraits and 42 pieces of calendar art.

It is like a mine of credible India, Incredible India and Make in India. For those who will buy garments here, it’s akin to an art gallery. For those who will browse, it’s the kind of museum the government should have built two decades ago to showcase the bridge between India’s crafts and cultural legacies and couture.

Still, it is “Sabyasachi’s store". The sign outside, “Sabyasachi, Calcutta," reveals how Sabyasachi is still a captive of the past who is tied to his home city. His stamp is evident in the way an oleograph of goddess Saraswati is placed next to a Baluchi tapestry; the way new photographs from his recent couture collections are frozen inside old frames with fuzzy glasses (like antique photographs); and the way calendar art is retouched with embellishments. This is his way of reclaiming history, something he does consciously, right down to the subdued lamps. For instance, the brass utensils or ittar bottles would never have found a place in a 19th century drawing room. Ittar was a luxury toilette item and brass utensils were strictly for the kitchen. But here, they are at the fore—alongside rare Tanjores and densely embroidered lehngas.

“As a designer, I am constantly pushing the envelope to see how I can make my brand well-rounded and create a better customer experience. There are many aspects to brand-building that people normally don’t pay attention to. I am the spokesperson of my brand, yet I am a very reclusive person. I rarely have too many physical interactions with my customers. Instead, I envision my stores as my living rooms, so it can bring my customers as close to me as possible," says Sabyasachi.

We are told that a line of prêt for children called Chhota Sabya will soon be in the store. Either way, this store will remind India of Bada Sabya, the designer, for decades to come.

Sabyasachi, One Style Mile, Haveli Nos.6-8, Qutub Serai, Mehrauli, New Delhi (011-26644350/26644352). Open from 11am-7.30pm.

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