The first rule of Colaba Cartel is that there are no rules. For one, the multi-designer fashion store is currently in Kala Ghoda and not Colaba. Also, the boutique lets its cartel of designers decide what goes on the racks, making the fashion buyer redundant (and in this case, much missed). The brainchild of Illeshaa Khatau and Nitya Arora, Colaba Cartel occupies the space that once housed Masaba-Valliyan –until December anyway, after which it moves into Parvati Villa in Colaba.
Let’s start with the good stuff: Colaba Cartel has splashes of coolth, featuring young labels like House of Sohn with their pleated-front shirts and tropical print twin sets. We also delight in Delhi-based designer duo Hemant & Nandita’s collection of embroidered sweatshirts and cross-stitch kaftan dresses, most recently seen at American retail giant Anthropologie; and the confectionery-hued, unicorn-sequinned prettiness of Sukriti & Aakriti – which should carry you through any Karva Chauth high teas (yep, they’re a thing) or Diwali card parties on Malabar Hill. And, of course, it’s home to Valliyan’s blingy jewels, tasselled-earrings and medallions.
Unfortunately, none of these are enough to drown out all the chaos, beginning with Deme’s slinky slips, sheer shirts and bra-lets and achieving peak with tulle numbers by Astha Narang, kitted out with can-cans (optional and customisable) and designed for destination weddings, sangeets and what have you.
The store could do with a serious edit, culling out Narang’s dark floral prints, sad approximations of a Sabyasachi photo-shoot; Anupamaa Dayal’s stale bohemia; and Studio Verandah’s frayed denim tops.
Here’s where the Cartel’s anarchists take over, and bum us out a little. The store could do with a serious edit, culling out Narang’s dark floral prints, sad approximations of a Sabyasachi photo-shoot; Anupamaa Dayal’s stale bohemia; and Studio Verandah’s frayed denim tops, an army of which you’ll find in the gigantic Zara next door at Flora Fountain.
We also can’t help but roll our eyes at the party ensembles from Deme by Gabriella, a local designer who you’re better off tapping online or directly for a better range; Nikhil Thampi’s metal-clasped cocktail dresses; and Shriya Som’s heavily embroidered shirts and jackets, all of which stick out like a sore thumb in the bright, pumpkin-coloured space.
In order to mount an effective insurgency, Colaba Cartel needs to develop a stronger identity, sharpening their jumble of daywear, party-pieces and festive looks into a singular draw. Plus, for a store that claims it won’t force you to break the bank, prices here soar to Rs 60,000 for some pieces. Maybe the identity crisis will resolve itself in the coming months. But for now, CC is just a random mob making a lot of noise.
Getting there: Shop no G-2 Machinery House Burjoji, B Bharucha Rd, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai, call 9322797331, a House of Sohn ‘Nysa’ khadi shirt for Rs 5,200.
This story was contributed by Sonam Savlani a fashion and culture writer who has written for ELLE, Vogue and Grazia.
Wake up to daily updates on what to eat/shop/do in your city