Housing couture: the sculptural and spatial allure of Vishal K Dar's retail architecture
by Devanshi ShahApr 28, 2023
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Anmol AhujaPublished on : Mar 21, 2022
The recent resurgence of ethnic-inspired labels in the realm of women's fashion has been fuelled by sustainability, a sense of the local, and an unmistakable hand of craft. Akin to architecture and design, it seems that a distinct identity in Indian fashion design, couture, and label culture is also found in a fusion of sorts: that of traditional craftsmanship, motifs, details, and materials, the last of which the Indian subcontinent is especially abundant in, and of an interpretation of modernity, of contemporary culture. The latter manifests itself in cut, fit, form, and abstraction in these when it comes to garments. The design narrative for New Delhi-based Raro House of Fashion designed by Studio Lotus states this tussle for identity to be at the centre of the retail store's design scheme, and in line with the "modern Indian woman who is confident in her identity and experimental in her style".
The house of fashion brings two high profile labels - Utkarsh Ahuja’s trousse couture brand Matsya, and ethnically reimagined off-the-rack daily wear brand Basanti Ke Kapde - under one roof, and uses distinctive design principles and elements to impart each of them their uniquely suited identities in the store. While their expression and foci might be different, an underlying sense of ingenuity binds them, and in essence the store’s design. The idea here remains to diversify yet integrate, to distinctify yet unite.
Spread over 10,000 sq.ft., the store is located on the first floor of a commercial building and is accessed through an internal staircase placed along the northern edge of the rectangular floorplate. The spatial planning of the floorplate essentially operates on the same principle of creating two distinct spatial experiences, while maintaining a unified aesthetic that is derivative of the brands on display themselves, along with an unbroken visual and tactile connection. The experience catered around this bespoke retail design begins with a central atrium outfitted with membrane lighting to mimic an open-to-sky courtyard. Towards the east of the courtyard and aligning with the relatively narrow glazed front of the store, Basanti Ke Kapde is housed on the naturally lit end of the floorplate, in line with the more casual line of clothing the brand is associated with. The other end, oriented towards the back of the building and accentuated partly by the faux courtyard houses Matsya’s more formal, dramatic collections.
For each of the two divisions, a subtle interior design scheme with hints of understated luxury and utilitarian design, a Studio Lotus signature, washes over the store. Delineated by a carefully formed display and visual system, the shopping experience at Raro develops along a well guided trajectory marked by the two zones' further subdivision into smaller room-like spaces featuring a bespoke furniture cluster to provide a personable shopping experience for the visitors. While Matsya consists of a men’s section, a semi-bridal attire section, and a bridal atelier and consultation space for bespoke garments, Basanti features a relatively more fluid layout. Both retail zones have been further segregated using a system of arched openings fitted with glass following the existing column layout of the floorplate, preventing the occurrence of impeding sightlines without any rigid boundaries.
The individual design schemes for both brands and zones have been designed to evoke strong albeit well-defined aesthetic sensibilities, strongly stemming from the functional aspects of the garments each of them display. Basanti, for instance, is characterised by a much more minimal, austere material and colour palette. The scheme uses slim metal rods and cane to create the open shelving that displays Basanti’s collections and merchandise, along with industrial lighting grids to form focal points for spotlighting extraordinary pieces. Complemented by monochromatic textured paint and light concrete flooring adding to the moody tone, the interiors serve as a dramatic backdrop to the breezy, semi-formal garments on display. However, easily the most distinguishing feature for Basanti and its half of the retail experience is how it utilises an ancillary verandah as an overlook for seating clusters and trial rooms, while creating a vegetative edge for the zone as well as the facade and allowing filtered light to fill the space.
Interestingly enough and in influential contrast, the design scheme for Matsya curiously draws from ancient Indian temple architecture to form a sanctum-like space within its retail zone. "The brand evokes a mystical image for their target audience – the modern bride – and this image has been translated in the retail zone through a monolithic expression," states the design team at Studio Lotus on the identity they sought from to create Matsya’s distinctly cultural one. The differentiating factor here derives from the spatial planning of the zone. Comprising more 'surfaces' in the form of partitions for sub-zones, the low-light aesthetic is propounded by the use of dark stone cladding and textured concrete. As opposed to the narrow metal rods, a rhythmic array of backlit stone fins punctuated by brass rods placed along the interior shell of the structure itself create the shelving for the display system.
The lighting and décor strategy for the retail space further echoes and grounds the distinctive persona of the two brands. The grid lighting in Basanti is contrasted against yet complemented by blown-glass lamps for Matsya. The floral upholstery of Basanti’s light timber furniture does the same for Matsya’s velvet upholstery in deep colours and burnished wood. Constantly indulging in dialogue and subtle interplay of materials and textures without the desire to upstage, the dynamism of both these expressions merges to a functional and spatial calm in the courtyard space.
Name: RARO House Of Fashion
Typology: Retail Store (Interiors)
Location: Naraina Industrial Area, New Delhi
Design Firm: Studio Lotus
Client: Utkarsh Ahuja, RARO House Of Fashion
Design Team: Asha Sairam, Neelam Das, Sonam Agarwal, Randhir Kumar and Avesh Gaur
Site Area: 10,500 Sq. Ft.
Built-Up area: 6500 Sq. Ft. Retail Floor + 400 Sq. Ft. Stilt Floor
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