Business Standard

Retail snobbery

Read more on:    Sme | Palladium | Phoenix Mills | Luxury Retail | Atul Ruia
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With the launch of in Mumbai's , and hospitality find a new expression.

It’s a teaser of what the Shangri-La might be like when it opens a few months later, a foretaste of the 45-storey high world of luxury that the hotel promises, its façade dramatically black and gold, a sky lobby — Mumbai’s first –—located at a height of 500 ft with spectacular views of the Arabian Sea and the race course. Part of the redevelopment of Phoenix Mills, Palladium, its luxury mall — the equivalent of Bangalore’s UB City and Delhi’s DLF Emporio — straddles the first three levels of the Shangri-La in a striking Art-Deco ambience spread across 200,000 sq ft of restaurants, upmarket brand stores, salons and lounges, and it is this that was introduced last week to the city by promoter .

“It looks like the shopping malls in Dubai,” cooed 19-year-old Pratyusha Shah, having already alerted her friends to its existence in downtown Mumbai. “Palladium,” she said, “is closest to Deira City Centre in Dubai,” tucking her Gucci shades into her Polo backpack — symbols of her frequent trips to the desert outpost. Pointing to the glass-domed atrium clad in smoked mirrors and surrounded by hand-laid Italian marble, onyx and wood paneling, she added, “This matches any international design.”

Shah may not know Atul Ruia, managing director of The Phoenix Mills group, but she’s accepted Palladium as the most significant shopping landmark in Mumbai’s Lower Parel area. It is Ruia who is responsible for transforming this run-of-the-mill shopping area into Mumbai’s latest luxe destination. With Palladium, he will have completed the development of the first phase of Phoenix Mills, the Shangri-La launch forming part of its second phase and to be ready by the summer of 2010.

Developed with an investment of Rs 100 crore, Palladium spreads over a total built-up area of 450,000 sq feet and an additional 300,000 sq feet of car parking over five levels. Along with P G Patki and Associates, the architects for the project, the Ruias have seen to it that the luxury mall area, assisted by the ambient lighting, set off the architectural landscape. An elegant canopy at the entrance, what some some might consider an unnecessary frill in a highly populated city such as Mumbai, adds to its value. “We are catering to the well-travelled consumer,” Ruia explains, one reason why no expense or design detail has been spared in providing the ultimate luxury experience for the shopper.

Comprising of 55 retail outlets — 22 of which will open to the public today — and a clutch of food and beverage outlets, a lot of strategic planning has gone into the design of the mall. “Achieving that effect has taken meticulous planning and scientific designing, something very few will realise on the mall floor,” explains Ruia. “For instance, the atrium is the focal point and the manner in which the line of sight is handled is an integral part of the design.”

Gayatri Ruia, as business development director for Palladium, adds, “We have placed antique Art-Deco furniture and objets d’art to underline the luxe appeal.”

A trained interior designer herself, Gayatri Ruia spent long days mulling over the colours, shades and floorings for Palladium. “Anyone who knows me and has been to my house will recognise that the Art-Deco floors at Palladium are my idea,” she smiles at the admission. Overall, Palladium’s retail space exploits Neo-Classical elements within a contemporary idiom.

Internationally, such malls are part of five-star hotel experiences, since the profile of the guest and the shopper usually match, and because the experience being provided is similar in both cases, and therefore complements the other. Atul Ruia ticks off some of these unique value additions that have been incorporated into the design of Palladium, such as “personal shopping assistance, ample parking area, forex counters and banking, VIP lounges, luxury salons, upscale eateries and even baby care facilities”, services that will be made available from early next year.

Besides PG Patki Architects, Callison Architecture Inc and 505 Designs have worked on the design, constructed by Shapoorji & Pallonji, and Ahluwalia Contracts. The Ruias have an interest in malls and hotels around the country, though the Shangri-La, in which the Palladium is situated, will be the Asian hospitality giant’s flagship hotel in India (it operates another hotel in New Delhi). As a result, Gayatri Ruia points out, international luxury brands that until now had been limited to the heritage wing of the Taj Mahal Hotel or the Grand Hyatt Plaza at Santa Cruz, will now be able to come together under the same umbrella, to offer their customers the kind of high street experience that has otherwise been missing in Mumbai.

Already on board at Palladium are Zara, Burberry, The Comedy Store, Tommy Hilfiger, The Collective, Ted Lapidus, Bo Concept, Top Shop, Estee Lauder and designers Rohit Bal, JJ Vallaya, Shantanu & Nikhil and Anita Dongre. “Brands cannot afford not to be here,” she points out, “which is why by February next year we will have full retail occupancy.”

Style, as we might suggest, has its own snob value.

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