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Wise Buys
Text by Viseshika Sharma and Photographs by Ryan Martis
Published: Volume 21, Issue 8, August, 2013

Natty baubles. Sweet concoctions. Arty creations. These and more are amongst the diverse offerings that will be on show at Project Seven. Join Verve for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the planning that went into the exciting entrepreneurs’ exhibition by a bunch of Mumbai’s stylistas

We breeze into Zeba Kohli’s third-floor walk-up in Walkeshwar, on a day when ‘torrential’ is too mild a term to be describing the rain. The dining table is laden with trays of delectable goodies from Zeba’s Fantasie Fine Chocolates. “Have these water ganaches,” presses Zeba, “you’ve never tried something like this before.” She’s right, and after biting into the first of many delicious sweets, I turn to the busy scene in the rest of the room.

Zeba is neck-deep in preparations for Project Seven, the exhibition for entrepreneurs that she has brought together. “The name was inspired by the seven chakras,” explains our gracious hostess, when someone pipes up asking the question. “We were sitting around as a family and I wanted to name the exhibition around the number seven, and my older daughter suggested Project Seven – she said ‘Mom, it’s perfect and it sounds just so right.’”

As she speaks, several others buzz around, discussing their work with each other. Among these lovely ladies (and one gentleman) is Sabina Singh, Zeba’s extremely close best friend. They first met through Sabina’s husband, restaurateur AD Singh, can now finish each other’s sentences and have collaborated on several projects in the past, but this time around, it is a collection of jewellery. “We realised that when you go into a store, baubles have become so expensive. As mothers of daughters, we wanted to make something elegant that isn’t terribly expensive, that you can just wear instead of feeling like you are splurging on your own wedding,” explains Sabina. The duo’s label is called Sitara and features gorgeous jadau pieces, some showcasing peacocks, that Zeba is fascinated by. A sweeter, younger line is tentatively named Miya Mithoo and there is a particularly cute pair of parrot earrings that Sabina would love to set aside for her daughter.

As Zeba flits around, I catch up with a few more of the exhibitors. James Ferreira couldn’t be here today and Anjorie Alagh of House Proud is missing as well, but the brand is represented by her sister Sanvari Alagh-Nair. The others are busy interrogating her about the prices of her merchandise, which includes a fun knife block that she has brought into the planning session. House Proud is an e-commerce portal that seeks to bring options to those who look beyond the ordinary. Sanvari is thrilled to talk about the site’s success. “We obviously have a lot of orders from the metros, but we’ve also delivered to some offbeat places. The most uncommon would be Erode in Tamil Nadu and Aizawl in Mizoram – it took us a while to get to Aizawl because we hadn’t even worked out the logistics for that!” she says, with a laugh.

While we are talking, she is distracted by something that Anjali Malhotra has just pulled out. An eye-catching breakfast tray from the young designer’s home accessories line, 10 am, immediately initiates a conversation and the two ladies decide to explore business options. Largely self-taught, Anjali tells us more about her brand. Most of her products are customisable, allowing you to consider products for a wide range of ages, and even to focus on a recipient’s passions.

Then there is photographer, Salamat Husain, grandson of the inimitable MF Husain, who usually works on product, fashion and ad shoots, but for this exhibition he is pulling out travel photography from his various journeys. “Every day, on a vacation, I try to take three photos with a common theme or story. One of my favourites is a set that I’m calling ‘Meal Plans’, which is shot in East Africa. The first shot is of a monkey that had just stolen some bread from me, the second was of one of the kills – a lion just going at flesh, with huge flies buzzing around, and the last photo was of our lunch back at the resort, hanging from the tree like a pyramid,” he says as Sanvari and Anjali look through a sheaf of his photos.

I leave them to their perusal and walk over to where designer, Deepika Gehani and Bindu Zaveri, of the Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri family, are pulling out pieces from their collaborative collection B’jouel’D. “We found that when we wanted something classic and simple for people with our lifestyles, it was difficult to find exactly what we wanted,” says Deepika. “We’ve realised that our favourite pieces sell the best, and we don’t want you to take home something that we don't like ourselves,” continues Bindu. The ladies point out that they both own pieces of all the designs they are sporting today.

With all that I’ve seen here, I can hardly wait till the exhibition opens, to see more from Zeba and her carefully curated exhibitors, numbering many more than those mentioned here. An Art Lounge curated by Bina Aziz and a pop-up shop of Zarine Khan’s Fizaa are also among the many attractions.

Project Seven is on show on August 6 and 7, 2013, at Sunville Banquets, Dr Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai.





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