There was a time flea markets in the Capital were synonymous with browsing for Banana Republic T-shirts and Old Navy shorts in Sarojini Nagar. The collegian crowd loved to sport Calvin Klein rip-offs picked up from Janpath. With the mushrooming of malls in every neighbourhood, shops selling export-reject goods — shoes, clothes, deos and handbags — have proliferated in most neighbourhoods of the national capital region. "I need no longer trek to Sarojini to look for summery dresses that I wear or Bermuda shorts for my sons," says Smita Sharma Dabas, 33, a schoolteacher who stays in Rohini. "I pick up decent export rejects at very reasonable prices at Evergreen, which stocks the latest designs."
Rohini, in north-west Delhi, isn't the only sub-city which houses outlets that sell export-rejects which are lapped up by the with-it crowd. Down the Ring Road in Janakpuri's District Centre, the Craft Bazaar is a hit with teenagers who love its dainty earrings and Anarkali kurtas at prices that don't burn a hole in the pocket. "We have to keep pace with designs which are a hit with the campus crowd," says Sunil Gosain, who stocks trendy kurtis priced between Rs150-Rs450.Across the city in happening Gurgaon, the buyers may like to window shop at the ritzy malls looking at Lacoste T-shirts and Diesel denims, but they are not immune to the charms of value-for-money export-reject shops, where a good pair of denims can be procured for less than Rs2,000 and Converse shoe rip-offs for a princely Rs500. Sonal Chanana, 24, a fashion graduate, likes to scour the flea markets near Gurgaon's malls to spot trends in street fashion. "The export rejects often reflect what is popular in the fashion capitals of the world — that blingy bag which the hip like to sling on their shoulder or the peep-toes that are a rage in London or Milan," says Chanana.
Vasant Kunj's D3-D4 market is home to The Brand Express, an outlet that specialises in export-surplus apparel. A majority of his clientele, says owner Rajesh Dudeja, is from the middle-class and upper middle-class socio-economic segments. "We source our apparel from export houses in Chennai and Bangalore within India and even from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Cotton shirts from Sri Lanka have trendy designs and are good value for money," he claims. Irmin, who works with a play school, comes to the store for formal shirts and skinny jeans that she wears to work. "The shirts are branded and have a great fit and I don't have to shell out a bomb either."
Across the river from South Delhi, Laxmi Nagar (LN) near the wholesale hub of Gandhi Nagar in East Delhi is a hub of shopping activity. Aanchal Rajput, 25, is a regular weekend shopper at LN. "The range of kurtis and lehengas here is wide. Besides, the prices are far less than what I've paid at Janpath," she says.
Obviously, the best thing going for export-reject shops, particularly in upscale neighbourhoods such as Gurgaon, is the pricing. Fashion designer Jenjum Gadi, 27, who showcased Koga, his brand of textured creations, at the Wills India Fashion Week 2011, confesses he picked up a few pairs of comfortable unisex Palazzos, call them pajamas if you will, from export reject outlets in Gurgaon. "They cost me Rs400 on an average which is about one-tenth the price I would have had to shell out at the neighbourhood mall."
Isn't it time you acquired a bit of street cred at your friendly neighbourhood flea market?