There’s a new address for the fashion cognoscenti to find their muse in. Aashni + Co, the brand that’s been churning things up on the scene in London’s Notting Hill since 2012, has now found its first home in Mumbai. Its launch this weekend saw Bollywood stars and other celebrities give it a glitzy welcome as they arrived to check out the curations by founder and creative director Aashni Shah. At a time when the booming wedding industry is throwing the spotlight on wedding and luxury Indian wear globally, the time is right for a one-stop shop for designers, and Aashni + Co aims to do just that. The selection of silhouettes with ivory and pastel embroidered lehengas, bright-hued saris with embellished blouses, fusion pieces, gowns, exquisite jewellery and more, will soon ensure this place is earmarked in every couture lover’s book.
Two levels of luxury
As we walked into the new flagship store at Ador House, Kala Ghoda, warm, wooden tones set in two levels envelop the beautiful space designed by architect Sameep Padora. It’s cosy and unhurried, more like spending time in a quiet country home in the UK, something that Aashni wanted. The repertoire of the store was versatile and luxurious with a mix of couture, luxury pret and ready-to-wear for women and men. The collections included prominent names like Dev R Nil, Ashdeen, Gaurang Shah, Torani, Mimamsaa and Shweta Kapur, in addition to Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Tarun Tahiliani, Anamika Khanna and more. Plans are afoot to also showcase a capsule addition of labels from Britain and the GCC.
For Aashni, it’s been quite a journey, having first worked as an assistant director for feature films, then going on to become an entrepreneur and pioneering the way for Indian fashion designers to enter the UK and Europe when she opened the London store in 2012.
It all started 11 years ago, at a time before her engagement when she was trying to find clothes for her functions, and that’s when she spotted a clear gap for this in the UK. “We had high street stores, but no luxury Indian designer wear. When I visited Mumbai, I realised how the UK had nothing like what India has now. That’s when the idea of opening Aashni + Co came about,” she reveals.
As a bride who was shopping for her clothes, she took the leap to open her own retail store. The early days were challenging as she had no background in fashion. She adds, “I had also left India at a very young age. The research was minimal and I remember searching online for: ‘Who are the top 10 designers in India?’ I just found a few store numbers and had to make calls and ask if they wanted to stock their clothes in London. But I think it was the right time for it as everybody was ready to step out and explore things.”
‘India is the place to be’
After a decade of taking Indian fashion to the world, Aashni is back where it all began – Mumbai, the city she grew up in and learned all about the craft. As life comes full circle, she’s happy to be here and also knows it means being in a thriving industry, with some of the biggest names present. She states, “Now, India is the place to be. It’s also the ideal time to be in the fashion industry. What was there 10 years ago is no longer in existence. We’ve seen multiple emerging designers doing couture wear now. We have seen established designers going into couture wear and the number of silhouettes coming out now, which didn’t exist, is astonishing! I understand that this is a competitive retail market and we are in the hub of it, however, I feel that every designer outlet has its own voice and aesthetic. It all comes down to your curation, and I think, as long as pieces are a classic and they’re beautifully done, there is always going to be a demand that won’t diminish.”
In addition to being a platform for new collections from established names from across India, the opening in Mumbai will also be a springboard for upcoming talent. As someone who understands both the Indian and Western markets, does Aashni also see her store here playing a role in bringing designers down from abroad? She affirms. “Yes, in fact, Spring-Summer 2024 is when we will be introducing two or three designers from the Gulf. They do beautiful garments there with versatile sizing, so a lot of the silhouettes can be worn by XS going up to plus size.”
Here’s to something that we can look forward to. Aashi + co brings its global outlook and distinct curation to Mumbai. For now, with the aesthetics and clothes, this is the space to browse in, and settle for an afternoon cuppa between your buys, at the tea bar on the lower level.