Bungalow Eight: Building a fashion and lifestyle brand from the ground up

Bringing the best of Indian style
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Story highlights

  • Maithili Ahluwalia is the founder of Bungalow Eight, a Mumbai fashion and design concept store
  • She had previously worked as a strategy consultant in New York
  • Her store counts stars like Madonna and Hilary Swank as customers

(CNN)In the heart of Mumbai's historic quarter, a luxury emporium stocked with the finest India-inspired fashion and furnishings is putting the country on the global design map.

The Bungalow Eight concept store has built a cult following since its inception in 2003, with its finely made kaftans and home décor attracting fans such as Madonna, Hilary Swank and Maggie Gyllenhaal, as well as Bollywood royalty.
Behind this success stands Maithili Ahluwalia, a former strategy consultant-turned-fashion-entrepreneur, who after a stint in a New York firm decided to return to her native Mumbai and follow her passion for design.
    "I was working in the corporate world for three years trying to impress my father... but I soon realized that it wasn't my calling," says Ahluwalia. With support from her family, she set up shop in the back of her parents' bungalow -- a fact that inspired the name of her business.
    Mixing global and local
    Ahluwalia, who was raised in Mumbai but went to school in Singapore and university in the U.S., wanted to blend her international sensibility with the best of India's design.
    "I encourage my customers when they buy a piece from Bungalow Eight to actually buy a certain way of looking at the world," she explains. "A way that encourages you to stick your neck out to be different, and to wear a piece of India proudly," she adds.
    Last year, the 37-year-old entrepreneur was included in the Business of Fashion 500, a list people who are shaping the global fashion industry. She quotes her mother, a jewelery designer, as a major influence on her style and life.
    "She taught me that fashion isn't just the clothes you wear, it's about a world view, the kinds of books you read, the kind of food you want to eat, and about choosing a certain way of living," she says.
    Ahluwalia doesn't regret the years she spent fine tuning commercial sense, and says they served her well when she set up her own enterprise: "I think it gave me critical business tools, and even though I don't think that I realized the value of them back then, I think today I really appreciate it."