Mumbai Style

Since the 15th century, when Vasco da Gama discovered the direct sea route to India, Mumbai has become a vital link between East and West. Today, this former cluster of islands is a vibrant megalopolis of more than 20 million people: India’s largest, richest and fastest city, which adds its own unique cultural spin to all aspects of fashion, design and haute cuisine. 


While Mumbai is home to Asia’s oldest stock exchange and some of the country’s wealthiest tycoons, it’s Bollywood that provides the city with its glamour. The Indian film industry predates the birth of Hollywood by a decade and is the world’s most prolific, releasing more than a thousand movies every year, and celebrating with parties that set the style of the city’s fashion scene. Sponsored by Lakmé Cosmetics, Mumbai’s two annual fashion weeks, in March and August, create a buzz and energy unlike anywhere else, mixing local style, color, music and design in a way that make them pulse with unmistakably Indian energy. 


For anyone tempted to get a taste of the fast-moving and fashionable character of this intoxicating city, a place I’ve called home while writing my Love Travel Guides, here is my pick of Mumbai’s hippest haunts, from Colaba to Kala Ghoda.


Bombay Electric

Mumbai’s answer to Colette in Paris, Dover Street Market in London or Barneys in New York, this cutting-edge store, located in a heritage building, is more like a gallery for the New Indian Cool than a boutique. Creative director and founder Priya Kishore curates India’s best fashion and design and mixes in bold jewelry and vintage collectibles with exclusive capsule collections from emerging designers. Look out for established talent such as Manish Arora, Péro and Gaurav Gupta as well as hot local labels like NorBlack NorWhite and Bodice. The in-house brand Gheebutter features wonderfully soft cotton shirts, shorts and pants, and has acquired cult status among the city’s best-dressed men. 

1 Reay House, Best Marg, Colaba; +99 22 2287 6276; 


Le Mill

Founders Cecilia Morelli Parikh and Julie Leymarie worked at Bergdorf in Manhattan and L’Oréal, respectively, before joining forces to create this luxury concept store with an Indo-European aesthetic. Located in a splendid Victorian building, it showcases international designers and selected Indian labels, including Shift by Nimish, Bodice, Dhruv Kapoor, Anushka Khanna and NorBlack NorWhite – plus local teas from No. 3 Clive Road, homewares from Bar Palladio Delicatessen and a wall of cashmere scarves from Janavi.

1st Floor, Pheroze Building, C.S.M. Marg, Apollo Bunder, Colaba; +99 22 2652 2415;


The Table

In the five years since its opening, this restaurant has grown in stature so much that there are whispers of The Table deserving India’s first Michelin star. Husband and wife team Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf gave up corporate careers to pursue their dream of creating a restaurant, and lured the supremely talented chef Alex Sanchez from San Francisco. He creates innovative dishes based around fresh, seasonal produce, much of it grown on their farm, a short boat trip away. At lunchtime, fashionistas and socialites dominate; the communal table is a great option for singletons, and is particularly lively at cocktail hour.

Kalapesi Trust Building, Apollo Bunder Marg, Colaba; +99 22 2282 5000;


Kulture Shop

This cool studio shop features the creative talents of cutting-edge Indian graphic artists from around the globe. Founders Arjun and Jas Charanjiva and Kunal Anand have a great eye for outstanding graphic art, and their shop is an unerringly cool celebration of urban culture from more than 40 artists, displayed on a wide range of objects from limited-edition prints and T-shirts to mugs and phone cases. 

2nd Floor, Hill View 2, 241 Hill Rd, Bandra West; +99 22 2655 0982;



The entrance to Priya Kishore’s celebrated Bombay Electric fashion boutique



A carefully curated edit of international and local designers at Le Mill



Freedom-fighter badges from hip graphic design emporium Kulture Shop

Kala Ghoda Café

The heritage precinct of the Kala Ghoda area in South Mumbai has become one of the city’s coolest areas. Home to the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Jehangir Art Gallery, the narrow lanes behind them has become the epicenter of India’s contemporary art world. Between the galleries are stylish boutiques and hip cafés, including KGC, as it’s affectionately known, which was founded by photographer Farhad Bomanjee, who returned from Europe to create his perfect coffee shop. The few tables are set in an early 20th-century barn with vaulted ceilings and whitewashed walls that are perfect for displaying small art shows. The compact menu features fresh simple food and the best coffee in the city, made from organic, South Indian arabica and robusta coffee varieties grown on sustainable plantations.

10 Ropewalk Lane, Kala Ghoda Fort; +99 22 2263 3866; 


Acclaimed Bengali fashion designer Sabyasachi, who is known for his opulent fashion, has created one of the most extraordinary shopping experiences in the country. The stunning 8,500ft showroom has 22 vintage hand-painted chandeliers, 52 antique rugs, 400 old glass ittar (perfume) bottles, antique plates from Kolkata, as well as clocks, antiquarian books, vintage calendar prints and more. The store is a testament to Sabya’s love of the rich aesthetics of India and a visual and sensual feast for those who visit it. The two-level space stocks Indian and Western fashion, ready-to wear saris and menswear, as well as a bridal jewelry collection created by Sabya and jeweler Kishan Das and Co. of Hyderabad, which has been in business since 1870.

Ador House, 6K Dubash Marg, Kala Ghoda; +99 22 2204 4774;

Good Earth

India’s most acclaimed lifestyle store is a one-stop shop for beautiful design and a celebration of India’s craft legacy. Created by Anita Lal, a designer and potter intent on preserving India’s rich design aesthetic, the first Good Earth opened in Mumbai 20 years ago and now has stores across India. This flagship outlet is located in a sensitively converted textile mill, with dramatic interiors and a stylish café. Although the store stocks a wide variety of items for use throughout the home, and clothes made using natural fabrics and embellished by traditional craftsmen, it is particularly famed for its hand-decorated tableware and bed linens.

Raghuvanshi Mansion, Raghuvanshi Mills, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel; +99 22 2495 1954;


The Bombay Canteen

This recent addition to the Mumbai dining scene is located in the historic mill area, which is now also home to tall office blocks. Tucked away in a low-rise building, the restaurant is a recreation of an old Mumbai bungalow, with meticulous detailing such as traditional tiles and stained glass. The menu features seasonal produce and contemporary twists on classic regional Indian dishes, all ready to share, including a trio of desi tacos, which use Indian flat bread, and large-format dishes like tandoori red snapper in a coriander and chili marinade. Specials at the bar include martinis made with gooseberry juice and jaggery (cane sugar) and punches served from handcrafted brass bowls.

Unit 1, Process House, Kamala Mills, S.B. Road, Lower Parel; +99 22 4966 6666;

Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra

Celebrated author and restaurateur Jiggs Kalra and his son Zorawar opened this restaurant in late 2013 to offer their guests a gastronomic adventure through the past, present and future of Indian cuisine. The unique and entertaining dining experience is carefully orchestrated with wonderfully flamboyant service and innovative presentation, embracing elements of molecular gastronomy, regional cooking and dishes inspired by both royal kitchens and Indian street food. The tasting menu is the best way to experience the restaurant, with small signature dishes that can be paired with wines.

First International Financial Center, Bandra-Kurla Complex; +91 22 6642 4142;



Obataimu’s creative director Noorie Sadarangani believes in the art of slowness; the boutique’s name translates from the Japanese as “overtime” and the shop celebrates the process of making an object. A school of tailors sits at the heart of the establishment, producing its Shibui line of relaxed, androgynous pieces and its Wabi Sabi line of conceptual, often laboriously handmade, art pieces. Open for just six months annually, the rest of the year it pops up in spaces such as Rue Vertbois in Paris and Selfridges in London.

Military Square Lane, Kala Ghoda, Fort Sameeya; +99 84 5484 5854;

The Gem Palace

The Mumbai outpost of India’s most iconic jewelry chain is run by ninth-generation jeweler Siddharth Kasliwal. Having created jewelry since 1852, and been court jewelers to the Mughal royals, the Kasliwal family still has royal clients as well as loyal fans in both Hollywood and Bollywood. This exquisite boutique is perhaps the most beautiful store in the city; the magical interiors – including a private salon upstairs – were laid out by Dutch designer Marie-Anne Oudejans and hand-painted by artisans from Jaipur.

D8, Ground Floor, Dhanraj Mahal, Apollo Bunder, Colaba; +99 22 2288 1852;


Your address: The St. Regis Mumbai 


Rasa glasses from Good Earth



The Bombay Canteen’s Chicken Chettinad desi tacos



Discover “the art of slowness” at fashion boutique Obataimu,
which also boasts pop-up food areas



The perfume bottle

When Coco Chanel was asked why her dressing table was covered with hundreds of perfume bottles, many of them empty, she replied: “Those bottles are my memories of surrender and conquest, my crown jewels of love.” Surprisingly, commercial perfume bottles are a relatively new invention. In the early 1900s, women would buy fragrance in simple glass containers and decant it into their own bottles (like the 1920s atomizer pictured). The game-changer was a meeting between Parisian perfumer François Coty and glassmaker René Lalique. In 1905 they joined forces and Lalique went on to create hundreds of designs for Coty and other perfume houses. Today, antique perfume bottles, known as “flacons”, have become desirable collectibles.
For London-based flacon dealer Linda Bee of Gray’s Antiques, “the interesting thing is the way they reflect art movements, from Lalique’s art deco creations to Schiaperelli’s surrealist “Shocking!” (1936). Generally speaking though, people’s interest is more emotional than cultural. I get male customers buying a bottle because it was the perfume their mother wore.”

The board game

In this hi-tech digital age, some families are returning to the simple pleasures of traditional board games. Games like chess and backgammon are often beautiful artifacts in their own right. Auction houses routinely sell antique chess sets for thousands of dollars, while brands like William & Son have carved out a reputation for selling exquisite luxury backgammon sets made from the finest leather or even crocodile skin (pictured). Investing in a luxury board game is something more and more of us are embracing – a fact not lost on design houses. Ralph Lauren Home, for example, has released a games compendium crafted from the finest materials including leather, walnut and silver leaf, while New York’s Bello Games offers myriad figurine chess sets, with themes ranging from the American Civil War to Robin Hood. But the ultimate in statement board games is surely the legendary Ringo Starr Chess Set. Made in 1973 by Asprey, in collaboration with designer Robin Cruikshank, each piece in this sterling silver and gold plated set was fashioned in the shape of Ringo’s hands, right down to the rings worn by the drummer.

The fountain pen

For a certain type of person, there is only one type of pen – a proper ink pen. Whether you’re writing a novel or dashing off a note to someone, signing in ink speaks volumes about how you wish to present yourself – which is why it’s vital to own a quality fountain pen. Of course, you’d be forgiven for thinking that email and ballpoint pens might have killed off the fountain pen, but remarkably, sales have risen over the past 10-15 years. And interestingly, while the fountain pen was once considered a masculine accoutrement, brands are increasingly designing them with women in mind – like this Bohème Doué Moongarden from Montblanc, which boasts a handcrafted retractable gold nib and a sinuous lacquered red gold-colored pattern on the barrel, inspired by tree leaves at full moon. So why exactly is the fountain pen holding its own? Perhaps it’s because it represents a nostalgia for an era when people took time to do things right, when the personal touch mattered. After all, which would you rather receive – a hastily sent email or a note written in flowing indigo ink?

The Romanesco

Earlier this year, U.S. Vogue posed the question: “Are vegetables the new meat?” Veg is all the rage right now, it seems, and not just for the usual health-conscious, save-the-planet reasons – but because it tastes great And yet there is still a nagging sense that however imaginatively prepared, cabbage or kale will never inspire the same excitement as a juicy steak – that vegetables will always be doomed to play a Best Supporting role. Enter the Romanesco, a vegetable so visually arresting, it demands top billing. Somewhere between a broccoli and a cauliflower, its tightly packed lime-green florets are an example of phyllotaxis, a naturally occurring fractal pattern. Once only to be found in farmers’ markets, Romanesco’s popularity is growing fast, thanks in part to high profile advocates like Michelin-starred chef April Bloomfield. Anyone considering giving Romanesco a whirl would be well-advised to follow Bloomfield’s advice: “Pop it into a heavy bottomed pot with some fresh rosemary, salted anchovy and tomato, roast until tender and aromatic. Just perfect.” 

The hamam towel

Canadian Jennifer Gaudet, founder of Jennifer’s Hamam in Istanbul’s Arasta Bazaar, is a passionate defender of Turkey’s vanishing textiles tradition. Thankfully her mission has been boosted by the global popularity of the hamam towel or pestemal – a compact and lightweight towel that’s highly absorbent and dries five times quicker than regular towels. “The hamam towel is something very special in Turkish culture,” she says, “because the hamam is very special. It wasn’t just a bathhouse, it was a communal meeting place. Visiting the hamam was a daily ritual. Over the centuries, Turkish women took this functional item – the towel – and transformed it into a thing of beauty.” Istanbul now boasts hundreds of stores selling a vast array of towels. And with pastels gracing catwalks this season, pestemals like those pictured (from Ailera) are sure to go down a storm. Best of all, when you’re not on holiday, they have a variety of other uses. “People use them as tablecloths, throws, curtains, scarves or shawls,” says Gaudet. “The only limit is the owner’s inspiration and imagination.”;

The globe

Demand for globes has rocketed in the past decade. Yet for the most part, today’s globes are a far cry from exquisitely made antique versions, which are expensive and often too delicate for everyday display. A hand-painted Bellerby & Co. globe, like the exquisite “Livingstone” model pictured, takes a vast amount of expertise to complete, as the firm’s founder Peter Bellerby discovered when he decided to make a globe for his father’s 80th birthday. “I thought it would take three or four months” he recalls. “After all, how difficult can it be to make a ball and put a map on it?” Bellerby soon discovered the challenges facing anyone set on creating a high quality globe. Indeed, even sourcing a genuinely round sphere proved nigh impossible. Six years on, however, his bespoke globe-making firm in London now has orders arriving from all over the world. So, in Bellerby’s opinion, what is it about these objects that elicits such passion? “There are so many things a globe evokes, from childhood geography lessons to a sense of adventure… to wondering why you’re on the planet.”

The emerald

When it comes to haute joaillerie, green is the color. Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett and Mila Kunis have all been spotted wearing emeralds on the red carpet; the famous Colombian emerald mine Muzo is creating a precious stone brand with top designers like Shaun Leane and Solange Azagury-Partridge; and earlier this year in Hong Kong, Christie’s sold an emerald ring from Afghanistan for $2,276,408 – an auction world record. While Colombian emeralds remain the most sought-after, African stones are coming to the fore, according to Keith Penton, Head of Jewelry for Christie’s: “African emeralds are being used by many of the best jewelry houses in their current designs. I’m sure that in time the best African emeralds will create record prices.” If you’re thinking of investing in emeralds, Penton offers the following advice: “Look for the best clarity and the richest color and avoid opaque or overly pale colored stones with no appearance of life. Above all else, buy something that you love and that you’ll wear. There’s something very sad about jewelry that lives in a bank vault.”

The Art of Hospitality

Ever since Claude Monet was made artist-in-residence at London’s Savoy hotel in 1899, painting a series of iconic views of the River Thames from his top-floor room, hotels and art have enjoyed a fruitful relationship. St. Regis in particular has a glorious tradition of working closely with artists, notably in the murals that adorn the walls of each St. Regis hotel bar. This custom dates back to 1932, when Maxfield Parrish’s celebrated Old King Cole was installed at The St. Regis New York, depicting – legend has it – the hotel’s founder, John Jacob Astor IV. Today, all St. Regis hotels and resorts feature eye-catching works, often by local artists, ranging from Andrew Morrow’s Love and War at The St. Regis San Francisco to Bedri Baykam’s Bosphorus Breeze at The St. Regis Istanbul.


Now St. Regis has teamed up with fashion and lifestyle illustrator Maya Beus, whose sketches and watercolors have previously been commissioned by the likes of Vogue and Oscar de la Renta, on a three-month project exploring the role of the butler. For Beus, who is based near Split in Croatia, the project, entitled Butler Stories, involved intense three-day drawing assignments at three St. Regis hotels – Florence, Rome and Istanbul – meeting the staff, getting a feel for each property and doing quick-fire sketches that she later transformed into delicate watercolors.


“Normally I work from photographs so it was a new experience for me to sit in a hotel lobby or a bar trying to capture a moment and tell a story,” says Beus, who featured among the world’s leading up-and-coming illustrators in Taschen’s publication, Illustration Now! Fashion.


A butler lays the table of the exquisite Royal Suite
of The St. Regis Rome beneath a Murano chandelier




The St. Regis Rome’s magnificent Belle Epoque staircase,
one of Beus’s favorite spaces. “I never used the elevator while I stayed
there,” she says. ‘‘Why would you when you can walk
down those incredible stairs?” 

“It was great to be able to pick my viewpoint, focus on what I thought was interesting and then sketch an outline. I sat for a long time watching people work – waiters, receptionists, butlers. It was a kind of theater; the staff move around these amazing spaces almost like dancers.”


Beus has traveled widely in the course of her work for major fashion houses and luxury brands, but this was her first stay in Istanbul, where she describes being “mesmerized” by the beauty of the architecture of the new St. Regis hotel. “The lobby is one of the most beautiful spaces I’ve ever seen,” she says. “The main chandelier is like a sculpture – the color changes during the day depending on the light. It’s really magical.”


Part of the brief for Butler Stories was to create original artworks depicting the hotels’ most impressive spaces, but Beus’s illustrations also offer a glimpse of a more intimate aspect of hotel life: snapshots of the daily routine, such as the serving of afternoon tea, the “sabrage” ritual (opening champagne bottles with a sabre), and “family traditions”, which might involve arranging a surprise treat for a guest’s birthday.


The most challenging aspect, Beus reveals, was getting her subjects to relax. “I would watch people working and then try to capture a particular moment. It was vital for them to feel comfortable. In a drawing you can really see when someone’s position is stiff and unnatural.”


As the title, Butler Stories, suggests, the project required Beus to shadow St. Regis butlers as they went about their work. “What I realized after talking to them,” she adds, “was that to be a great butler you really have to like people. It’s not enough simply to look elegant – it has to make you happy to make other people happy. That’s a very special quality.”


Your address: The St. Regis Florence; The St. Regis Istanbul; The St. Regis Rome

“I sat for a long time watching the waiters, receptionists and
butlers at work,' says Beus, 'It was a kind of theater – the staff move
around these amazing spaces almost like dancers”


The home of The St. Regis Florence is a beautiful 15th century
palazzo designed by legendary Florentine architect Brunelleschi