Starting with this post, I bring you a series of conversations with curators who have a strong entrepreneurial streak. These taste-makers curate the newest, most unique experiences across various disciplines of art, design and all things fabulous.
First in the series is a conversation with Aarti Patkar, curator of The Vintage Garden on timeless design & alternative retail
In 30 seconds …
Curator Aarti Patkar in conversation about what makes pop-up shops at The Vintage Garden unique, fabulous and most importantly relevant to both buyers and designers who come to it’s monthly shows held at a beautiful colonial-style bungalow in the heart of Mumbai
Who should go and why?
Discerning folks who care more about design-philosophy and craftsmanship rather than labels will find a select group of designers, from Mumbai and other cities who are creating collections rooted in India’s heritage but contextualised for modern consumer.
Meet Aarti Patkar and The Vintage Garden
An investment banker in her pre-curator avatar, Aarti is wife of a talented Bollywood director, daughter-in-law of blue-blooded Nawabs, devoted mother of adorable three-year old Imaan and curator of The Vintage Garden.
Patkar, who’s impeccable eye, cool-hunter’s curiosity and love for both modern and vintage design is legendary, decided to use the large courtyard and some of the spare rooms of her family’s colonial home to create a unique, one of a kind pop-up shop in the heart of Mumbai. The underlying idea, as Patkar says, was “to create a space where like-minded people could meet and buy from designers who are creating sustainable and fabulous design”.
Housed inside a 1920s colonial bungalow with saturated yellow walls, charming antique furniture, old mosaic floors and antique wooden doors The Vintage Garden is a nostalgic space with its eyes set clearly towards the future.
Meander around almond and mango trees, meet designers who are doing cutting-edge work and passionately sharing their vision and philosophy with discerning buyers, with jazz playing softly in the background – the whole experience is novel and fabulous.
In conversation with Aarti Patkar on curating The Vintage Garden
CC : You were one of the first people in Mumbai to start the trend of small, curated design pop-up exhibitions. Since then many similar shows have come up not just in Mumbai but all over the country. How does Vintage Garden remain different?
AP : The USP is the space and the experience. You see, the display is as important to me as the products themselves. No stall like structure in any of my pop ups. All products are displayed on antique furniture owned by my family. With ambient music playing, we try to create a fun atmosphere to shop. It’s a place to find some of the best designers and products in the country, talk to them and when you need a break have some delightful short-eats and a cuppa at The Vintage Garden Cafe. Thanks to this beautiful bungalow my great grandfather built with an 1800 sqft outdoor area under the shade of a badaam and a mango trees and 3 indoor rooms connected via an old and large wooden staircase, I have plenty of opportunity to display products in an interesting and unique way. Combine that with an inherent appreciation of old, new and authentic design which I grew up with, The Vintage Garden is not just a pop-up but actually a retail experience unlike any other in Mumbai.
CC : Give us an example of an individual / design brand that’s taken advantage of The Vintage Garden?
AP : Over the last four years I’ve had the pleasure of showing several fabulous designers to Mumbai. My life at large and it’s mosaic background means that people who come to shop at my pop-ups are of a completely different ilk. My shows are not meant for those looking to buy cheap. On the contrary, it is where discerning buyers come to buy exquisite things, whether they be hand made pickles or wedding attire.
As a result therefore, many designers who’ve shown at The Vintage Garden have met key contacts who’ve helped them take their business to another level. Some of my favorites which come to mind immediately are :
Chola by Sohaya – Brand launch
Roma Narsinghani – Brand launch
Nicobar – Bombay launch event
Pero – Bombay sale for the first time
Bungalow 8 – Bandra pop up
CC : What kind of individuals or brands use Vintage Garden – both in terms of exhibitors as well as buyers?
AP : With the lack of retail space as well as the exorbitant real estate prices in Bombay, the pop up format is a huge attraction for designers from all over India. Whether it be Payal Singhal , NorBlack NorWhite, Akaro and Myoho to relatively new brands like The Sole Sisters and Fizzy Goblet to out station brands like Vraj:Bhoomi and Malleka, Naushal Ali, Crow, or Bungalow 8’s suburban pop up, The Vintage Garden is a fairly coveted pop-up and I have worked hard to keep it as discerning and tightly curated as possible.
Each of my pop-ups have at least 2 brands from outside Bombay , 2 new collections and 2 entirely new brands. For me the lesser known the better as I strive to bring a degree of uniqueness to my exhibits.. Curating the exhibit is very important for me…. Only if I feel that I am willing to buy a product from the designer (either for myself or as a gift for someone) will I invite them to showcase.
Over the last few years The Vintage Garden has developed an incredible database of upwardly mobile women (and men) who understand design and quality and are willing to pay for products that suit them regardless of the ‘brand name’. My clientele is usually 30+ working women who have the spending power and are looking for unique styles and silhouettes that suit their body types irrespective of size.
CC : Over the last three years what would you say are the top trends in the design pop-ups? And how have you seen them change?
AP : In fashion I have seen the anti fit, comfort dressing trend last a long time. Organic fabrics and just easy breathable materials are very popular as well. Clothes that can carry you through work and a social outing all in one go are hugely popular. Statement jewelry brands have had a good run as well.
CC : You have a gift of making every space beautiful. What would you say is the most important thing to keep in mind when decorating a home?
AP : How you feel about living with all the stuff you buy! That’s the most important thing! You should love to be in your home and you can only do that if you decorate it according to your style. Not just the style that your interior decorator suggests.
CC : If you had the chance to chase one dream, what would it be?
AP : I think I’m living my dream – surrounded by beautiful things and I get to meet and interact with incredible people who create theses things.
A parting note
A much needed alternative to Mumbai’s extortionate retail spaces or large exhibitions which take place in ugly halls and trade centres, The Vintage Garden is an experience from another world. Each show is carefully curated to bring designers from Mumbai and other cities who are creating functional, sustainable and fabulous design. A collector’s paradise, head over to their Facebook page to check-out forthcoming shows, the next one is scheduled for 22nd and 23rd of April. A visit to one of Patkar’s pop-up shops is worth every moment of your time – in gold.
Here’s to great design, experiential retail, discerning buyers and lovers of cool. Salut!