A European experience crafted for the Indian market is a tricky path to pursue, but Cecilia Morelli Parikh did just that and made it work. At her hugely popular designer concept store, Le Mill, in Colaba, she, along with co-founder Julie Leymarie, has created a space and a shopping experience unlike any other in the country. Featuring brands like Balenciaga, Dries Van Noten, Alexander McQueen and more along with Indian designers and jewellers, at Le Mill you’ll find a tight curation of international pieces you won’t have access to anywhere else in the country. The store is itself a delight – spread over 4,000 sq.ft, there are high ceilings, white walls, charming furniture, and a layout that allows visitors to peruse at leisure. Parikh is all about the details, so be it how a mannequin is dressed up or which coffee-table books are placed where, she is the voice of reason behind the brand.
A former buyer at Bergdorf Goodman, Parikh moved to Mumbai in 2007 with her husband Rohan, and Le Mill was born in 2011 out of her pure love for fashion and a desire to be part of India’s growing luxury retail industry. Along with Leymarie, Parikh worked to bring some of the best international designers and offbeat designs, and gave them a home in Mumbai. The fact that she had worked as a buyer at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, and as a bookings editor for Vogue India, added to her strengths – she knew what she loved and how to make it accessible to the Indian luxury buyer.
The store’s first outpost was an old rice mill in Mumbai’s Wadi Bunder, where art, design and fashion lived in harmony. Inspired by concept stores like Colette and 10 Corso Como, this Partition-era warehouse came with an in-store florist and an organic café – something that had never been seen or experienced in India before. It was the exclusivity and right selection that made customers fall in love with the store. “The good thing is that people knew our edit and our expertise in curation. We are instinctive about what we choose and that works in our favour,” says Parikh, dressed in her favourite Celine shirt and leather pants. “The key was to connect Europe with India, and connect fashion and art while reaping the design potential India comes with.”
The right space
Le Mill in that sense is more than just a store – it’s a concept that creates curiosity in the mind of the fashion obsessed. “People associate us with stylish look books, beautiful images and we only use the top photographers and models to bring our vision to life,” explains Parikh.
In 2015, the store moved to a more travel-friendly location, Colaba, near Mumbai’s Yacht Club. Bridging local designers with international ones and creating a space of repute was tougher but with their final move and location, the store started stocking designers like The Row, Erdem, McQueen, Peter Pilotto and Azzedine Alaïa, and with it, their following also increased. Today, Le Mill also stocks Indian jewellery – The Gem Palace has a showcase and there’s a mini-kiosk of sorts of the contemporary fine jewellery brand, The Line. What has changed about the brand over the years? “We started out as primarily a design space. The store now caters to more fashion clientele than just design. The perspective has shifted while our selection got better and our engagement through social media increased,” explains Parikh.
So how does Le Mill deal with competition from international e-commerce sites like Net-a-Porter and Mytheresa’s faster shipping and a larger selection? “We match European retail prices but with much less issues one has to deal with. When you buy from abroad, you have not touched the product, and have to wait for a week or more,” she says. And what are the lessons she has learnt while over all these years? “It’s so important to listen to your customer,” she says. As for the future of the store, there’s a very clear plan in place. “We want to add more relevant brands into the system and want to make sure Le Mill is part of the customer’s lifestyle in every way, and that means going online.”
Director & Producer: Nanki Jassal
Assistant to Director: Yohan Samuel Pissurlenker
Director of Photography: Omkar Potdar and Vaishnav Trivedi
Editor: Raoul Tandon
Hair & Makeup: Naina Tahilramani