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01.10.2018

Standing amidst full-frocked, aggressively ugly gowns at the newly opened Samant Chauhan store behind the Taj, we remember with nostalgia the bush-shirted, moustachioed tailor who presided over this space before (it used to be Radiant Tailors), wielding his smile and his scissors with devastating effect, cutting through conversation and cloth with equal aplomb.

The gorgeously old-school tailor shop has been converted now into that most dreaded of spaces, a “fashion boutique” selling Indian and – God help us – festive wear. Walk in and you’ll be greeted by a black-and-grey “industrial” palette that looks more boring than Berlin, but this too is deceptive. Hiding among the linen kurtas are bustier gowns clumsily and unimaginatively embroidered, as well as party dresses that go out of their way to be unappealing. The simpler shapes are not spared either, their clean lines ruined by a haphazard rash of pleats or a weird rounded draping around the hem. Who are the people that wear these clothes, we wonder, and are they all freakishly tall?

“Rajputana!” shrieks a line of linen sprays, candles and oil displayed on one wall, smelling indeed like the forgotten room of a palace, one that hasn’t been aired out in centuries. Also available are limp leather wallets and pouches, loosely inspired, it seems, by the Nappa Dori store down the street, and garishly stamped with Chauhan’s name.

Totter up a flight of stairs to the half-loft and you’ll find that all pretence of “minimalism” has been abandoned, exchanged for baby pink salwar sets with tulle dupattas – these make the DDLJ song currently pumping out through the speakers seem modern. They belong firmly in the Bhagyashree era, best accessorised by a homing pigeon.

Thinking of flight ourselves, we make a beeline for the exit, only to be told that what used to be Radiant’s storage room next door has been turned into a menswear store. Rohit Kamra from Jaipur, a black-and-gold sign announces. One look at the putrid green velvet bandh-gala in the window, and we can’t summon up the courage to go in.

Boys, you’ll have to brave this one on your own.

Getting there:  Samant Chauhan Mumbai, Roosevelt House, Apollo Bunder, Colaba, Rs 65,000 for an embroidered gown.

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