The No-Mad Settles
Mumbai’s Mangaldas Market is an unexpected location for a contemporary label yet when it comes to No-Mad, the decor and lifestyle brand founded by Anuj Kothari with creative director Valerie Barkowski, it somehow fits. It’s appropriate even that a label that takes inspiration from the bazaars of India has settled into the heart of one. The No-Mad Fabric Shop is their first brick-and-mortar and a nod to the neighbourhood’s wholesale textile market. Climb up one flight of stairs tucked inside a bustling galli and enter a fresh jasmine-perfumed oasis, cleverly designed to mimic the traditional gadda-covered fabric stores that are the hallmark of the area.
Ever consistent with their storytelling, a raised platform covered in No-Mad upholstered mattresses urges you to take off over your footwear and sprawl over comfortable cushions while you browse patterns from their collections.
We caught up with Anuj to chat about No-Mad growing roots.
Tell us about the No-Mad Fabric Shop. How did the idea for having a fabric-focused physical space come about?
I think the idea for this just fell through very organically over dinner with Valerie. This actually used to be the No-Mad workshop for 4 years before we moved to a larger premises close by. The space was lying vacant for a few months and Valerie casually mentioned maybe we should do something with it which got me thinking. A few days later I just had this eureka moment. This needs to be a No-Mad fabric shop inspired by the traditional centres in the market. I bounced the idea off my team and a few friends who I really trust in terms of advice and everyone was very enthusiastic about it from the word go. And we were ready for launch in 3 months in October 2018.
Can you give us some context to the neighbourhood and fabric market?
So we are actually located in the hub of the textile market in Mumbai, Mangaldas Market which is a 100 year old market mainly dealing in wholesale of textiles for garments. Rows upon rows of fabric shops selling fabrics of all sorts in dimly lit lanes. The main market itself is one big complex with several entry and exit points. The textile market is surrounded by other smaller markets with each having its own specialty like Crawford Market, Lohar Chawl selling electrical fittings and lights, Mahatma Phule market for fresh produce of all sorts, to Abdul Rehman Street which sells stationery and related items.
What are the advantages and challenges of being in Mangaldas Market?
I think the biggest advantage for us is the fact that we are the first and probably the only ones amongst the contemporary brands to be located in a non-high street or mall location like this in Mumbai. It would be so boring for a brand like No-Mad to be in a conventional location. Also the location and the physical space itself allows us to offer a unique and intimate shopping experience to our customer and also gives them a chance to explore an area which they wouldn’t otherwise venture into much. Trust us when we say, we ourselves discover something new every day on our way to the shop.
In terms of disadvantages, of course there are few in terms of parking, lack of clean toilets and the fact that our customer needs to make a very focused effort to get there resulting in fewer walk ins.
We love the map you created with The City Story. Tell us about how creating a guide came about.
When we started work on the shop, we knew it was going to be an uphill task to bring people into the shop, given its not-so-conventional location. We knew our communication was an important tool that we would have to use to draw people in. We started brainstorming and having explored that area quite a bit myself, I knew I wanted to create some kind of “map guide” which would allow people to explore the area based on our recommendations.
I think it was just something that was meant to be as I found The City Story while doing some online research as to how we could put that map together. It was so easy to work the girls from The City Story and I think we had a really good synergy in terms of what we wanted to achieve with that map. I think people are very happy to receive a copy of the same and are willing to explore the area beyond us.
What are some of the neighbourhood’s highlights you’ve discovered?
In terms of highlights, being a foodie, Thakkar Bhojnalaya really tops my list. Additionally, I wasn’t aware of this tiny hole-in-the-wall called Paris Bakery selling cookies and macaroons. That was a pleasant surprise. We even discovered a shop selling trunks of all shapes and size just 5 mins away from our shop, which was a revelation as well. The Bombay Panjrapole (a cow shelter) was a fun place to discover as it was difficult to imagine something like that in the middle of Bhuleshwar.
We are also about to launch a series of immersive walks that will allow people to explore this treasure trove of a bazaar bang in the middle of South Mumbai. We have tied up with Bombaywalla to curate a special No-Mad Bazaar walk encompassing a range of cultural, shopping and food places, keeping it relevant for both an Indian and International audience.
Who designed the store?
Based on my idea of a traditional fabric shop, Valerie designed the layouts and display which was then executed by our in-house team lead by me.
How has No-Mad evolved as a brand since its inception?
I think as a brand, we are one of the few ones to stick to our philosophy over the years and we have been able to create a distinct identity for our selves in terms of our branding, communication and design. That said, I think the fabric shop has given us a real context in terms of actually meeting our customer in person and getting so much valuable feedback from them in real time.
The collection itself has evolved in terms of product category and more is in the pipeline for the coming year.
What’s next for No-Mad?
A new No-Mad concept shop in a “conventional location”. Our lips are sealed for the moment.
LOVER has teamed up with No-Mad and Bombaywalla for their first Bazaar Walk on 2nd February 2019.
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