Something Old, Something New

Less than a clutch of years ago, it used to be the luxury shopping address in all of Mumbai. If you were a top-notch European label, one that demanded the premium retail addresses of the world, you wouldn't look elsewhere but The Taj Mahal Palace and Towers' shopping arcade.

In fact, many of India's historic luxury stores still have this gilt-and-chandeliered passage as their showroom address: Ravi Chawla's Ravissant has been here for decades. Devaunshi Mehta's Dia for over one decade. The still resplendent Gazdar is at home here.

But a browse through one summer afternoon tells a different story. Has the regal Taj's shopping arcade lost some of its shimmer? The spectacular lobby of the hotel was not too crowded. Besides me, there was just one other lady at the shops; after spending over an hour browsing, she left without buying anything.

Two things need to be kept in mind when understanding the Taj's status as a luxury-shopping haven today. The brutal terrorist attacks that held the historic hotel hostage for four days three years ago still hurt. The shock has resulted in excessive security measures and stepping into the hotel, even for Shamiana's famous cold coffee, is arduous.

Also, Mumbai's fast-growing retail-scape has allowed for newer spaces. Hermes opened a standalone flagship at Horniman Circle nearby, with the breath-stealing architecture of the Asiatic Library as its neighbour. The Palladium and the soon-to-unveil Shangri-La hotel in Lower Parel are busy, buzzy and show an enviable footfall.

Save for Louis Vuitton and possibly Mont Blanc, most of the other European labels are in transit here. Burberry and Moschino came and went quickly. Vuitton has been here for eight years, but Christian Dior less than two. Dior isn't ready to let go of the premises as yet, but it's firmly eyeing the new luxury mall that's scheduled to open in the Bandra Kurla Complex in two years.

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