“Go wait at Tiger, go,” an exasperated lady gestures wildly at her shopping-bag laden companion, batting him away from her sojourn into Sephora. We’ve been wandering around Palladium Mall for over fifteen minutes now, trying to find the new Japanese sneaker store, so we follow him from a distance, grateful for our unknowing, ambling guide.
He is headed to India’s first outpost of Onitsuka Tiger, brought to these shores by the guys behind Royce and Papabubble. We find it hidden behind Vera Moda, a brightly-lit, serene wedge that smells like new rubber and offers dudes much-needed respite from the frenzied, frilly fast fashion next door.
Well, dudes and girls too, we’re assured by the friendly sales staff: most styles are unisex. Alas, they aren’t available in sizes smaller than 6 (UK 36), which means us and our little feet are going to have to settle for just watching, and if we’re feeling frisky, a fondle or two.
Most sneakers here are lightweight and pliable, the kind that you can express your love for by wearing all the time.
“That’s what a strip-club feels like,” our male friend tells us while pouncing on a pair of navy-and-white sneakers, featuring Onitsuka’s signature stripe but with a nautical canvas back reminiscent of boat shoes, perfect for an end-of-summer trip to Positano. We look at the pair longingly and settle instead for running our fingers over the furrowed stripe of an off-white, single-coloured suede sneaker, which seems like a good idea now but would get instantly killed on the streets of Mumbai.
More practical are sturdy pairs in pleasing, classic combinations like red and navy, black and grey – we particularly like those from the Mexico series, perhaps because they too remind us of the beach. If you’re feeling fancy, check out the higher-end Nippon Made shoes. What’s the difference, we ask. “These are handmade in Japan, while the others are manufactured in Vietnam,” our sales guy tells us. “But check out the detailing in even the regular pairs, it’s really something.”
He’s not wrong. Most sneakers here are lightweight and pliable, the kind that you can express your love for by wearing all the time. They come in several variations of the signature Onitsuka design, high-top and low slung, suede and leather, often with a thin black stripe slicing the sole, waxed laces and a careful, even stitch. Guys, also check out cool t-shirts and tracks with a Tiger flap over the pockets, distinct but still wearable; and branded backpacks that you can carry to the gym. There’s a much smaller selection of women’s garments, featuring a neoprene-textured black t-shirt that would look great on a 5’10 frame. We sniff and turn away.
On our way out, empty-handed and blue-balled, we spot our guide from before sitting at a bench outside, surrounded by bags, looking even more frustrated than we are. “Go on in,” we tell him, “those shoes will cheer you up.”
Getting there: Onitsuka Tiger, First Floor, Palladium Mall, Senapati Bapat Marg, Rs 6,900 for a pair of sneakers.
Wake up to daily updates on what to eat/shop/do in your city