Opposite Azad Maidan, and along the Cross Maidan, find the fashion quick-fix for Mumbai's low as well as the high-heeled. Such a fashion hub first thrived — especially during the 1960s and ‘70s — at Colaba, close to the Prince of Wales — now the CST — Museum. Even then it was called Fashion Street.
Dawn to dusk
Today, its offspring extends down the road facing Bombay Gymkhana. In a cluster of around 250 licensed shops, vending everything from clothes to shoes.
The best day to visit is a Sunday when the street plays host to a diverse crowd from collegians to hippies and tourists. The earlier in the day you visit, the better.
The wishes of a shopkeeper’s first customer — bauni, as they call it — is entertained with a bargain-friendly attitude. At some stalls, this goodwill extends to the last customer, late at night, selling wares by lantern light.
Earlier, the wares spilled on to the street but after the BMC intervened this issue was resolved by keeping half the pavement free. The shopkeepers, though, are a bit disgruntled. “Display karna allowed nahin hain," says storekeeper Anu, “Par agar hum display nahin karenge, who will buy the clothes?”
Two years ago, the corporation also stipulated that the space in front of each shop must remain clean. Perpetual defaulters were fined and others were given warnings. Not surprisingly, most shopkeepers pick up brooms and sweep the area in front of their stalls several times a day.
Spot checks are carried out by municipal authorities to prevent pavement encroachment. Karan, a shopkeeper, feels that such checks are a small price to pay to be a part of one of Mumbai’s most famous shopping destinations.
Faux versions of GAP, Adidas and Reebok are fast-sellers. Shopkeer Rajeev, however insists that these are “factory seconds..the defects are so minor that you can’t even see them.”
Export surplus and factory seconds are likely to have a missing button or crooked collar. That many are ‘fakes’ can also be detected even by the untrained eye. The prices, on the other hand, are dirt cheap and once in a while, a quality garment can be picked up for a piffling amount.
The shops have a fixed rate sign dangling at the entrance. “But bargaining is half the fun here,” says college student Nishi Doshi. The trick is to quote half the price mentioned by the shopkeeper. If the deal isn’t appealing, just move on. Shopkeepers usually call buyers back with a better price, and in case they don't one can find something in the next shop.
Besides clothes, Fashion Street is a glut of shoes, belts, stick-on hooks, artworks (!), unbreakable bubbles, wall hangings and even windchimes all on the same street. You want it, you mostly got it.