Back to the future
Dubai - Vayu - Design for Living, a concept store in the heart of Lutyen's Delhi, mixes contemporary style in its offerings, yet pays homage to India's rich cultural past
If you are a part of Delhi's style set, then the names Vivek Sahni and Dave Chang will be very familiar to you. Partners for 20 years, they are the duo behind Vivek Sahni Design, a studio known for bringing a touch of modern Indian to design.
They have worked with Good Earth, Tarun Tahiliani, Fendi and Dom Pérignon in branding, communications and events. The two are also part of the founding team behind Kama Ayurveda, a brand that brought the principles of ayurveda to a young urban audience in India.
Both are known for their impeccable taste and Sahni is a well-known collector of beautiful things. Last year, when they decided to open a concept store in the heart of Delhi, it came as no surprise. Starting with the location to the edit, this is a store that is "India chic" personified. "Dave and I always wanted to open a lifestyle store," says Sahni.
"Vayu is our interpretation of contemporary living using India's rich cultural past. We partner with artisanal communities, designers, artists and the occasional maverick to showcase things we love - both contemporary and antique. It is a bricolage aesthetic on Rajasthan."
The connection to the state is partly a throwback to Vayu's location: Bikaner House, just a stone's throw away from the tony Khan Market. This princely house,that belongs to the Rajasthan state government, has recently been restored to its original form and was also the chosen venue for Rohit Bal's couture fashion week show last month. It is expected that a restaurant is to open in this location too. Though for now it is really a destination, this off-the-beaten-track address has added a charm to the store. "The beauty of location had made it a destination and our customers are a good mix of visitors, expats and locals," the two feel.
The space and visual merchandising is Chang's department and the curation is looked after by Sahni - and they make a formidable team. "It all happened very fast: we signed the lease on August 26 last year," says Sahni. "The initial concept took about two weeks and Vayu was open for business in November 2015. Since Dave and I always talked about opening a lifestyle store, we were very sure it had to be an Indian design store and have an Indian name [Vayu in Sanskrit means air]. Dave wanted the interiors to be light and airy but not the usual white-box story. Vayu is a visually lyrical way of putting things together."
The walls were first painted in silvery gold clouds and stripes and then white-washed about eight times. These washes softened the gold to a very pale blue. With Chang doing most of the painting with his own hands, Vayu is truly all about hand-crafted style. Of course, they sell products made by Vivek Sahni Design and Kama Ayurveda, but this store is home to all the collectibles that Sahni loves - including ikat backpacks, Japanese-style print screens and coffee table books.
Pricing has been kept in mind, so a beautiful printed pashmina shawl will cost you just Rs3,000 (Dh165). And as far as fashion goes, he has chosen niche labels that are known for their modern Indian aesthetic - Sanjay Garg's Raw Mango, White Champa, Abraham & Thakore and Bod-ice, which are independent brands known for their use of Indian craft, yet have a very international outlook.
Vayu - Design for Living is eclectic yet elegant. But not surprisingly, an item that has caught most people's eyes is one designed in-house: semi precious table-tops. "Our best-selling items are furniture pieces," says Sahni, "which have been de-signed by Dave and the in-house team." Majestic yet simple, delicate yet decadent, these tables personify the soul of this store.
"Dave and I share a mutual passion for art and all things related to design and Vayu - Design for Living gives us the opportunity to share this. We may lead lives pervaded by technology and mass production, but I think we all feel a tug in our hearts when we see the beauty of aesthetics and hand-made products."
While you may not be able to redo your whole house at this store, you will find beautiful things that are perfect for gifting. The pieces you buy from Vayu are bound to be conversation starters with-out making a "look at me" statement. It is this balance between elegance, extravagance and eclectic-chic that makes Vayu's edit stand out; it does not feel over-done, as the interiors, visual merchandising and products have a sense of lightness to them. Even if you do not buy something, just looking at the pieces will be enough to soothe your eyes, as Sahni has treated this retail space like a gallery of art, design and style. Not even a year old, Vayu's success has given Sahni and Chang the confidence to think about opening other stores in the future (though to find a location with the splendour of Bikaner House will be difficult!).With their foray into design retailing, Sahni and Chang have set the style bar very high.