Across the street from Jehangir Art Gallery and the historic David Sassoon library, stands a cheerful yellow building with gleaming teak balconies that reflect the light of the sun through a myriad of stained glass patterns. Transformed by Anita Dongre’s vision and one year of architectural attention, the historic Sassoon Building houses Anita Dongre’s newest flagship store– a love letter to craft, an embrace of a bygone era, and a celebration of old meeting new.
Anita Dongre said, “Bombay is my home, and the Sassoon building has witnessed every change in this city. In restoring this building we wanted to keep as much of its original form as we could– stained glass windows, timber beams and staircase, the tiles… I wanted to bring back the luxury of the 19th century and have it meet the effortless grace of the 21st century. It’s been a particular joy to realize a vision that mixes Indian crafts with colonial architecture against art that celebrates nature’s bounty. I’m excited to watch people experience this space through all their senses– sight, smell, touch, and heart.”
As you open the doors on the ground floor, expect a feeling of calm to wash over you. Escape the bustling Dalal Street as you set foot on Anita Dongre’s signature black and white marble flooring, breathe in the rose fragrance and cast your eyes on the lush green and gold handpainted pichhwai walls that hold 200-year-old exposed teak beams. Peeking at you from the floor above is an 'otla' type open verandah with original cast iron railings, and stained glass recreated from patterns the Sassoon building flaunted in the 1800s. This verandah is framed by Rajasthani jharokhas.
The ground floor features jewelry and Anita Dongre’s newly launched vegan accessories, set against custom-designed wallpaper that draws from Anita Dongre’s embroidery patterns.
In its original form, the Sassoon building featured an unadorned ground and three upper floors accessed by an elegant timber staircase. This beautiful teak staircase has been restored, carrying you through to the first floor past rich gold pichhwai nature scenes painted against an emerald green base. This floor houses Grassroot and the ready-to-wear collection featuring craft stories against 200-year-old metalwork and timber frames.
The second floor features menswear against grey and gold hand-painted pichhwai walls. Light pours in through a wall of balcony doors behind lush green plants. Historic pictures of this building show that the balconies were added only once the fort ramparts were removed around 1865. Cast-iron columns with Corinthian capitals support the rich timber balcony structure and are lined by glazed tiles. During the restoration of this floor, the wooden balconies were brought back to life, stained glass was painstakingly recreated from old pictures, and tiles were salvaged from the original while new pieces were created to match the pattern. Experience a priceless luxury here– a quiet gallery to witness the passage of time– look over the Rajabai clocktower and Kalaghoda’s many architectural buildings.
As you meander through the store you can’t help but experience a sense of wonder– both for Anita Dongre’s vision of paradise that bursts across this space, and the painstaking craft details that make up every surface whether floors, cushion covers, or clothes. Triptych mirrors amplify the sense of luxury that this building's high ceilings, wooden floors, and pools of light invoke. The ultimate indulgence however is the third floor– the bridal floor. The domed timber roof visible as you climb the grand staircase is now just out of reach. When the doors open you see rich embroidered lehengas in pools of theatrical light and a tikri wall that transports you into ballrooms and palaces.
Anita Dongre’s newest flagship store in the heart of Mumbai’s art district– Kalaghoda is proof of how the forgotten can find a place in our modern world- whether craft, architecture or a way of life. From hand-embroidered cushions and elephants embroidered on sheer curtains, to restored metal and woodwork, and tiles and stained glass that recreate the grandeur of “Bombay” before the fort walls went down, every inch of the 8500 square feet of Sassoon Building is given a new lease on life while celebrating the inherent and original elements of luxury. As you walk out of this experience, you’ll carry with you a feeling of tranquility and freedom. Here, straight out of Anita Dongre’s vision of paradise, nature coexists with craft and the old meets new in a harmonious rhythm.