Simone Arora attributes her career choice to having grown up in a home where she was exposed to larger-than-life things. She watched grand sets being erected and furnished for films her father, Sanjay Khan, made. Her mother Zarine, a popular model in the 1960s, started designing interiors for hotels and homes of celebrities like Manoj Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore three decades ago. Arora’s sisters are in the field of design too: Farah makes jewellery, while Susanne styles homes. Arora, who began creating upholstery fabrics two decades ago, recently forayed into home décor with the launch of her store Simone. She describes the nature-influenced brand, which spent three years in gestation, as her latest “labour of love”.
The store follows two other pet projects. There was ‘Decor’, the curtain and upholstery fabrics company she founded with husband Ajay Arora, and ‘Amore’, her residence in the posh JVPD Scheme neighbourhood which she styled. Arora seems to have spared little cost while kickstarting Simone. First, she bought 8,000 sq ft space in Colaba’s Amerchand Mansion three years ago. She flew out a team of Norwegian photographers and stylists to South Africa to shoot images for use in presentations made to clients and potential partners. She tied up with 40 brands, five of whom will have a permanent presence in the store.
Arora gives her decor the curious tag of “nature luxe”, which she explains is the unlikely marriage of nature and luxury. The idea was to evoke serenity that is “much needed in our hectic lives.” Some of the pieces mimic the textures of gravel, rock and crystal. The effect oozes elegance but an absence of quirkiness is palpable too. Among the statement pieces are a spotless white work table supported by a single column of driftwood and a chandelier fashioned from a twig-like metal frame and glass icicles.
She chose to call the brand Simone because it reflects her own fashion sensibilities. When we meet, she is dressed in a black silk top paired with beige trousers, diamond earrings and rings; her hair arranged in tasteful swirls.
Arora invested in this South Mumbai store because it came with stone walls, high ceilings and arching windows. “I wanted to combine a heritage structure with a contemporary feel inside. It is not seen often in Mumbai but such stores are common in Europe.” One year was spent securing permissions from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to strengthen and beautify the building. The facade was restored by conservationist Vikas Dilawari. Among her partners for the permanent collection are American metal designer Michael Aram and wildlife photographer Caroline Gibbelo.
The challenge will be to play with the concept and routinely replenish stocks. Her husband, Ajay, stresses the need to showcase not just beauty but also value. Upholstery, for instance, can cost between Rs 750 and Rs 20,000 per metre, while showpieces are priced from Rs 2,000 to Rs 20 lakh. Arora says the collections have received interest from interior designers but hopes her prices will also draw walk-in customers.