Once a rice mill, and now a happening concept store – Le Mill is the baby of three French expats who have balanced the act between industrial aesthetics and retail chic with spatial flexibility and
Text by : K Parvathy Menon
Photos Courtesy : Cecilia Parikh
Nestled in the Mumbai dockyard’s chaotic lanes near Wadi Bunder is an old rice mill that is the destination for a multi-functional concept store; here fashion, art and lifestyle co-exist in one realm.
The store aptly called ‘Le Mill’, is the ‘love-child’ of three French expats – Julie Leymarie, Aurelie de Limelette and Cecilia Morelli Parikh who were tired of shopping abroad for everything. They came together with a common goal – to bring contemporary Indo-European aesthetics to their adopted country and in their endeavour, they were joined by fashion consultant Anaita Shroff Adajania.
The three ladies were looking for a large space that was interesting and unique, but such a volume in Mumbai was a far reality. That is when they came upon a rice mill owned by Parikh’s in-laws for decades – a huge gamble due to its location
and structure.This spacious 15,000 sq ft shed is now packed with a collection that is a consummate mix of design and functionality.
The interiors of Le Mill adhere to the theme of a rural mill; hence the original structural framework of the mill was retained to create a unique industrial setting for its new eclectic sensibilities.The clay tiled sloping roof, wooden beams, epoxy flooring and high ceilings were also preserved and restored; and all ducting and services were left unconcealed to create the desired setting – an industrial apparition visible to the naked eye.
The interior spaces take a detour from the commonly found colours and bling; instead the space sighs in muted low-key aesthetics in dove grey, beige and blush pink. Monochromatic tones of greys and whites render the many tiny volumes within the mill – a luminous setting that would have its own identity without overwhelming the products.
The large volume has been partitioned into zones with help of levels and an aisle display around a central container. As you enter the space, the home furnishings and utility take front stage, gradually directing you to the anterooms, the open mezzanine floors and to a large container in the centre.
Displayed in the setting are merchandise from all over the world, and ‘made in India’ labels on products that aren’t easy to find in India itself. As Cecilia Morelli Parikh says, ‘‘we have filled it with all the kinds of things you just can’t find here for your own home”.
Products are not displayed in elegant cases or shelves but on simple white metal stands with adjustable racks that are a common sight in any warehouse. Home furnishings, crockery and jewelry are flaunted in the lower level while clothes and fashion are displayed on the upper floor. For a sophisticated and urban milieu around the fashion area, a wood paneled wall becomes background, and also provides an elegant finale to the large space of the store.
The most riveting vision in the volume is the huge shipping container in the centre of the space that has the store’s name written on its walls. Le Mill’s architect and interior designer Ashiesh Shah decided to use the container for the jewelery section; a separate, strong chamber reminding all that the space that we saunter in is in actuality an industrial space. But apart from the exterior steel walls, everything else about the container is ‘elegance’ – the interiors have been designed to look like the walls of an old Parisian house, replete with mouldings. Suspended from the container’s ceiling, is a mirror that adds to the space within and reflects the limited edition jewelery by designers Adeline of Paris and Sara Betran of Deszo on flamingo-legged jewelry display cases designed by Ashiesh Shah.
One of the most important aspects in any retail space is the lighting, and here too the designers have emphasised on providing for ample natural light. Large ventilators line the top of thehigh walls and filter in ample sunlight, often negating the requirement for artificial lighting.
Apart from the regular lighting features, Ashiesh Shah designed trumpet and butter-churner light fixtures around the store which takes the illumination feature a few notches up.
The quartet wanted ‘Le Mill’ to be a place that appealed to theglobal shopper making him want to come in, relax and enjoy the atmosphere; additionally making it happen are the book section and the flower shop Libellule, which is an intimate structure applauding the combination of metal framework and an old Rajasthani roof.
Le Mill is a store that seems precariously balanced on the edge of two worlds – an elegant, casual life style store meeting an old mill encased in industrial elements. It is not easy to blend these two contrasting aspects, but the founders, Aurelie de Limelette, Cecilia Morelli Parikh and Julie Leymarie along with Anaita Shroff Adajania have developed a space that celebrates shopping while saluting elegance and timelessness in the same frame.