Perched atop The Chanakya, a high-end indoor market adjacent to the architecturally rich Lutyens’ Delhi, Nicobar’s frond-filled interiors are an ode to Tropical Modernism. Muslin tunics and organic bamboo fibre knits swing from driftwood beams. Wood and brass spice boxes, earthy ceramics and clay kulhads for serving chai channel a rustic vibe. At in-store café NicoCaara, baristas whip up chai lattes while barkeeps pour sangria margaritas.
Launched in 2016 by Raul Rai and his wife Simran Lal, Nicobar delivers timeless silhouettes that work equally well on the beach and in the city. But through its in-store experiences, it does much more than that.
“In India, questioning lifestyle and the state of being was unheard of five or 10 years ago, but this drives how we think about our space, our design process and our story,” explains Rai. “The dot-com boom occurred 10 years ago [in India], and millennials are looking for new ways to think and create an impact. Our business model takes all this into account.”
The store layout is inspired by a haveli, a traditional Indian house arranged around a central garden. This design facilitates the movement of people as well as the myriad of cultural experiences on offer here. Shoppers picking up a linen pinstripe kurta(tunic) or organic cotton trousers may discover a Nico Talk, a monthly series covering topics such as mindful eating and recycling (the brand recently eliminated all plastic from its shipping and packaging). A recent pop-up here bringing together iconic motorcycle maker Royal Enfield, Goa-based start-up gin Greater Than and natural skincare line Ayca drew in nearly 1,200 people.
These touches underscore Nicobar’s commitment to bringing more value to retail. “Buying for buying’s sake isn’t satisfying and it’s not responsible,” Rai says. “Markets provide a natural arena for cultural discourse. Today, these conversations are deeper and cover fashion, wellness, entertainment, you name it. Our design vocabulary responds to this and takes it further.”