We all know what the legendary Coco Chanel once said about accessories, however the impact of just one accessory from the Forest of Chintz is enough to dissuade one from adding a necklace or bracelet to an ensemble. At the brand’s all-new Mahalaxmi store, grey decor perfectly complements Forest of Chintz’s bright accessories. Founded by Sumangali Gada and Nitai Mehta, the India-proud label creates intricate, handcrafted earrings, necklaces, bags, scarves, bracelets, and brooches that follow a contemporary design approach. Neon-pink beaded earrings spelling out LAX and JFK for travel junkies, a gothic dark silver necklace with metallic spikes jutting out from its pendant and a gold filigree-style floral brooch are some of the items on display.
A history of craftsmanship
Founders Sumangali Gada and Nitai Mehta have been part of the fashion industry for over two decades. They own and run Adity, a fashion export house, established in 1967, that has previously worked with names such as Michael Kors, Celine, Roberto Cavalli, Armani, Gucci, Pucci, and Escada. Though they run the company together, neither founders have any formal background in fashion and are entirely self-taught. Sumangali has studied to become a financial consultant and Nitai has a law degree. However, managing Adity has been helpful in charting Forest of Chintz’s brand journey. As Nitai says, “The experience of working with these brands [Gucci, Celine, etc.] has given us great exposure to innovative, unique, and contemporary design.”
The products at Forest of Chintz highlight the art of hand-embroidery. It forms the core of the collection. Other techniques like zardozi, aari and laser cutting, have been used, alongside materials like beads, crystals, leather and metal studs. The materials are sourced from all over India, while the products are crafted in the brand’s Mumbai workshop.
What’s in a name?
Chintz is a fabric that was extremely popular in Europe for over two centuries. It was, however, originally exported from India in the 15th century, right up to the 19th century. Hence Forest of Chintz pays homage to India’s time of leadership in the fashion industry with its name. The word forest was added to give the moniker a touch of mysticism, and it also signifies a beautiful place, which changes with every season. Pieces inspired by the forest make their way into the collection, easily identifiable by their wild, imperfectly perfect leaves, and flowers. Gothic art, sea anemones, polka dots, all sparkle in the India augural edit of the brand.
The founders even launched a capsule collection of clothes, available at the Mumbai store. The garments are conspicuous by their simplicity, clean lines and flowing silhouettes, in direct contrast with the vivacity of the rest of the jewellery on display. Sumangali explains this as a way for buyers to understand the statement jewellery, to try it on while donning a simple grey top, allowing the craftsmanship to shine, and it does, quite literally.
A study in grey
The decor of the store plays host to a myriad of colours that splash across the curated display of products. Forest of Chintz’s accessories are interspersed by its decorative busts that are embedded with sequins, beads, in contrasting shapes, sizes and shades. Almost resembling an experiential art gallery-like space, the store’s interiors were ideated by Shimul Javeri Kadri of SJK Architects. The sharp edges of display areas were inspired by the baoris or stepwells of India. A faux grey IPS finish envelops the entire space and a grey sculpture painted in similar tones sits in one corner. Simple gold pendant lights hang from the ceiling lending a soft glow to the space. The no-nonsense minimal decor allows all the focus to fall on the products. “We wanted to create a space which allowed the visitor to experience the space as a gallery and also a store,” says Nitai Mehta.
Leading the way
“Forest of Chintz is influenced by everything that is fascinating in our lives, nature, history, travel, the modern world, technology, architecture, art, the wonderful craftsmanship in India as well as around the globe,” say the duo behind the brand. According to Nitai Mehta, over the last years, India has slowly become the innovation hub of the world, in terms of software, hardware, and other scientific developments. “So why not in design and fashion?” asks the entrepreneur. That’s the objective of the brand, to highlight Indian innovation to create a truly international design house. While Forest of Chintz has been around since 2012, its presence has been limited to select luxury stores across the globe, including Le Bon Marche in Paris, ikram in Chicago, Barneys in Tokyo, among others. Seeing the boom of craft-based luxe brands and the receptiveness of the market to handmade quality products the duo decided to finally launch their first store in Mumbai.