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Revealing India's best buys

india Updated: May 01, 2010 19:00 IST
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

ShoppingIf there’s one thing we’ve become really good at lately, it’s shopping. We love it. It’s serious entertainment, rivalling cricket and movies. And while we do enjoy buying branded products in various malls, we also love the search for quaint, one-of-a-kind shops that provide us with things our friends and neighbours do not have. Unfortunately, quaint, one-of-a-kind shops tend to be scattered all over our extremely large country (it’s a whole sub-continent, for heaven’s sake), and most of us, when we travel, simply don’t have the time to go on a Great Store Hunt.

So we decided to simplify matters for everyone. We asked seven shopaholics to tell us where they go to when they’re looking for the best of anything in India.

From that perennial classic, silver jewellery, to the most stylish home products, from handmade shoes to clothes for men (always so difficult to shop for), from funky outfits by young designers to the best bargains, from the best skincare to street shopping, they told us all. Well, all that we could fit into these pages. So, without further ado, check out our shopaholics below, then prime your credit card, put your travel agent on standby, and check out some of the most exciting stores in the country.

Shy: Funky Monkey in Hauz Khas, Delhi, has lovely clothes but their USP is jerseys. They have knits, even for summer. White in Kolkata is an ensemble store that has everything from designer clothes to artifacts. Gaurav and Ritika in Shahpur Jat, Delhi, do beautiful chiffon cutouts on fabrics.

Aradhana: Taxxi in Khar, Mumbai, is my favourite. Another favourite is a Bangalore designer called Vidyasagar. His studio is an on-appointment space so clothes can be customised.

Shagun: Sacha’s in Panjim, Goa, does resort wear and is an interesting shop.

Roshni: Taxxi & Vitamin K (Khar) and Vinegar and Butter in Bandra straddle style and familiarity in the best way.

Reshmi: Nimboo Closet off Ulsoor Road, Bangalore, with funky belts, bandhini bags, vintage jewellery, and clothes by new and innovative designers.

Fiona: At Rasa, on Ashok Marg, Jaipur, designers Madhulika and Manish Tibrewal create contemporary and sophisticated block print textiles.

Shy: Dilli Haat in Delhi is the best one-stop-shop for all kinds of handicrafts. I get beaded and shell curtains, hammocks, lamps, and home artifacts from there. The dhurries are the best in the world.

Shagun: Mora Taara, Mumbai. This small store has interesting pieces.

Roshni: Cauvery in Bangalore is a state emporium with everything from incense and silver inlay work to great quality silk and 10-foot-high carved wooden elephants. The place also smells delicious.

Rimzim: Dilli Haat brings artisans and craftsmen from all over the country together at one place. Also the Cottage Emporium in Delhi.

Reshmi: Kamalini, the Crafts Council of Karnataka Store in Malleswaram, Bangalore. You’ll find wooden dolls and beautiful inlay work and even board games from olden days.

Fiona: Kamala The Craft Shop, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Delhi, has a beautifully curated collection of the best contemporary craft in India.

Shy: Fashion designer Rajesh Pratap’s store in Lodhi Colony, Delhi. It is like a hospital – it has an operation bed, nurse beds. And Manish Arora’s store in Crescent, Delhi. The walls have funky 3 D graphics. If you wear 3 D glasses, you will feel like you are floating.

Aradhana: Pylones at Phoenix Mills, Mumbai. [Also at Select Citywalk Mall, Saket, Delhi.] I also like Loose Ends in Bandra for its wacky products and Manish Arora’s Fish Fry stores which have wacky interiors, accessories and clothing.

Shagun: Loose Ends, Mumbai. Very funky and well priced.

Roshni: Happily Unmarried has become a bit of a cliche for this category, but with their Bhojpuri shot glasses and manhole cover coasters, they stay unrivalled. Available online and at their store in Goa. I also love Party Hunterz in Bandra, Mumbai. Their tricks, treats and costumes make you WANT to throw a party just to buy their stuff.

Rimzim: Happily Unmarried, a tiny shop in the back lanes of Khan Market, Delhi, with very quirky stuff ranging from stationery to T-shirts to tableware.

Reshmi: Levitate (100 Ft Boutique, Indiranagar, Bangalore) and Psybaba (Castle Street, Bangalore). Levitate stocks hand painted kettles, clocks with Goddess Lakshmi ticking away and keychains with autorickshaws dangling at the ends. Psybaba screams hippy with products like organic alcohol-free perfume and UV glow T-shirts.

Shy: Apart from Janpath and Sarojini Nagar in Delhi, I like the the Flea Market at Select Citywalk Mall, Saket, Delhi. There are kiosks with beautiful weaves, plants and even free puppies. I have picked up the most awesome leather corsets from Majnu Ka Tila in Delhi. Anjuna Beach, Goa, has eclectic stuff. And at Tibetan Market in Mussoorie, you get interesting accessories and watches.

Aradhana: Colaba Causeway. I always enjoy it!

Shagun: The flea market at Anjuna, Goa – you never know what you’ll find.

Roshni: I have heard much about the sort of shopping that is possible in McLeodganj. From curios to prayer flags to bags, clothes and books on Buddhism, you’ll get it all here.

Rimzim: Sarojini Nagar, Delhi, has everything from one-off samples to export surplus at affordable prices! Also wander the streets of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi for for vintage finds.

Reshmi: Commercial Street, Bangalore, though it requires dedicated foraging. Pop into Pooja Collections, Mysore Saree Udyog (for fabric and brocades), Elan Designs (evening wear) and Alankrita (antiques).

Fiona: The courtyard area in front of Hanuman Mandir, just off Connaught Place, Delhi, has many bangle and bindi stalls. Suhaag, Shop B17m is well regarded. Glass bangles are sold by the dozen. Bargain a bit and aim to spend between Rs 30 to Rs 50.

Shy: Dariba in Chandni Chowk, Delhi. Buy anklets, chokers and waist belts at any of the shops in this galli. Amrapali [countrywide] is just the place for silver jewellery – contemporary as well as old world. If you visit Mount Abu, make sure you check out the jewellery shops there.

Aradhana: I love shopping for silver in the markets of Kutch. Another find is Toda tribal silver jewellery from Ooty. Amrapali is another favourite.

Shagun: Suhani Pittie in Hyderabad is very contemporary with a style of its own.

Roshni: Johri Bazaar in Jaipur, because you can get best prices. You’ll get toe-rings fitted that you might not want to take off for years.


Reshmi:

In Bangalore, Commercial Street is silver jewellery heaven. Try Kusuma Harnath Jewellers and the small shops on the nearby Jeweller’s Street. For designer silver in Bangalore, try One G, in Indiranagar’s Defence Colony.

Fiona: Silverline, Bengali Market and Khan Market, Delhi. Famous for well-priced silver jewellery with semi-precious stones. Half of the fun is the searching through drawer upon drawer of treasures. Maneeka at Chameliwala Bazaar, Jaipur, for genuine old tribal silver jewellery and rare pieces, such as opium boxes and walking stick handles. I also found an old Indian version of a Swiss army knife.

Shy: Esprit and Allen Solly have great designs and fabric at decent prices.

Aradhana: Oshiwara and Chor Bazaar, Mumbai, for vintage stuff, and the export surplus stuff available in Sarojini Nagar and Janpath in Delhi, Hill Road in Mumbai, Commercial Street in Bangalore. Also enjoy Jew Town, the antique market in Kochi.

Fiona: Khadi Gramodyog Bhavans [countrywide] sell products made by rural communities across India. The Khadi range of ready-made clothes is very hip. Khadi fabrics and Kashmiri tweeds are a good buy.

Shy: Has to be Anokhi [countrywide]. You get summery men’s shirts in malmal for only Rs 600 up. Emporio Mall in Vasant Kunj, Delhi, has a variety of men’s brands like Armani and Dunhill. Study By Janak in Greater Kailash 1, Delhi, stocks the best bandgalas and Chinese collar jackets.

Aradhana: I love Rajesh Pratap Singh for men’s clothing.

Roshni: Krishna Mehta’s first Mumbai store in Colaba has excellent kurtas that can be toned down or peacock-ed to any degree. The Collective is bringing a whole bunch of international wear to Mumbai.

Rimzim: H2O Cue in Defence Colony, New Delhi, for amazingly well-tailored clothes for men.

Fiona: Raghavendra Rathore, Malviya Nagar, Delhi. This is THE place for a man to come to be fitted out for the classic five-day wedding, as the groom or as a guest!

Shy: Jute slip-ons from Kulu at Himachal Pradesh Emporium, Delhi, have a silk lining, beautiful craftsmanship and are also fashionably right. Fashion designer Astha Behl also makes handcrafted zipper boots of jute. John Bros. in Connaught Place, Delhi, make customised stilettos, boots and velvet ballerina shoes.

Aradhana: The handmade leather chappals of Tamil Nadu and jootis and chappals from the markets of Jaipur.

Shagun: Farzana Billimoria’s Mind2Sole brand (mind2sole.blogspot.com), and Zainali & Azra of Alpha Cube ( www.myspace.com/alphacube ).

Roshni: Adamis on Colaba Causeway, Mumbai, use the softest calfskin leather. Veruschka, available at multi-designer stores countrywide, make flamboyant and comfortable heels that are easily customised.

Rimzim: Janota in Goa for the quirkiest shoes one can find.

Reshmi: You’ll find trendy sandals by Blue Bean at 100 Ft Boutique, Marmalade and Mogra (at Leela Galeria), Bangalore. Anushka Mayne’s handpainted custom shoes have Godfather, Scarface and starry designs on canvas. You can find her on Facebook.

Shy: The Good Earth stores [countrywide] have the best porcelain and pottery. Their home linen is pure. You also get an interesting variety of trays. Oma, Select Citywalk, Delhi, has beautiful glass lanterns, table mats and paper napkins with vintage motifs. Amar Colony, behind LSR College in Delhi is a brilliant place for old-world furniture in new wood.

Aradhana: I like both Good Earth and Apartment 9 in Delhi very much!

Shagun: Casa Paradox in Delhi.

Roshni: Geethanjali in Pondicherry. There are four-poster beds, doorknobs, huge animal sculptures, dressers, pillars and freestanding doors from Madurai, Kozhikode, Rajasthan and Thanjavur.

Rimzim: Moon River in Defence Colony, New Delhi, also at the Courtyard, Colaba, Mumbai.

Reshmi: Mother Earth in Indiranagar, for that unique Bangalore creation, courtesy Industree – mats, baskets, boxes and other assorted stuff made of river grass, banana fibre, etc.

Fiona: Ohrange Factory by Wheaton Design, Malviya Industrial Area, Jaipur, the latest project of interior and furniture designers, Samiir Wheaton and his wife Bhawna, whose work is featured in the Taschen book, Indian Interiors. Samiir is most famous for his contemporary handmade furniture, mostly made from solid Burmese teak. Renowned artist Jaya Wheaton has painted a series of Lakshmi and Ganesh paintings, which are regarded as auspicious for new homes. The soft furnishings by acclaimed textile artist Gitto are superb and the handmade paper journals from Xylem are a personal favourite.

Rimzim: Azaad Bazaar in Bandra, Mumbai, is a one of its kind LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Transgender) store in Mumbai. Magick, Bandra, Mumbai, is the first and only Wicca and magic store in India.

Reshmi: Vimor in Victoria Layout, Bangalore. This saree shop has catered to celebs from Shabana Azmi to Vidya Balan. Given its discreet fame, Vimor’s warm attitude makes it unexpected.

Fiona: R. S. Books & Prints, South Extension II, Delhi. Sanjiv Jain is India’s most trusted and respected dealer in antiquarian and rare books. He has some marvellous first editions including Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. Maps, lithographs and photographs abound. People Tree at Connaught Place, Delhi, is a hub for socially aware artisans, activists, environmentalists and its product range reflects their work. The Rajasthan Trunk Co, Tripolia Bazaar, Jaipur. This 200-year-old shop was the winner of the first prize in trunk-making in 1959 and sells an excellent range for between Rs 200 and Rs 850. Specialty trunks with secret locks may cost Rs 2,000. Sanjhi – Paper Cutting Art, Baba Harish Chandra Marg, Jaipur. By appointment only. Sunita has turned to the ancient craft of Sanjhi, or paper cutting. A large work can take six months or more.

Shy: Khushi and CRY kiosks in malls like Select Citywalk, Delhi.

Aradhana: I love Mumbai’s annual Concern India fairs. Also the Kala Raksha store in Kutch.

Roshni: I love Kokan Bazaar in Shivaji Park, which stocks khichis, Konkani masalas and aam poli.

Rimzim: The Diwali fair at the Blind Relief Association, Lodhi Road, Delhi.

Reshmi: Desi in Basavanagudi, Bangalore, sells kurtas, sarees and dupattas with traditional Karnataka work like Kasuti embroidery.

Fiona: The Bamboo Store, Greater Kailash 1, Delhi, has 100 bamboo products ranging from home accessories and toys to charcoal, flooring and blinds.

Shy: Kama [countrywide] has extremely pure products.

Aradhana: The Khadi range of skincare [countrywide] and Gulnar at Dona Paula in Goa.

Shagun: Aura Vedic (auravedic.com). Not famous, but good quality.

Rimzim: Skincare products at Good Earth stores.

Reshmi: The Ally Matthan collection by Ahalya Matthan, Bangalore’s very own perfumer. Retails at Raintree and Sanctuary, Bangalore.

Fiona: Suparna Trikha’s Spalon, Nizamuddin East, Delhi, has ayurvedic oils, delicious smelling scrubs, fruit shampoos and other beauty products.

Shy: Silver artefacts from Frazer and Haws and FCML, Delhi, for their glasses, decanters, et al.

Aradhana: I end up gifting from my own store, Dhoop, considering that I am the one who sources everything for the store.


Shagun:

The Wishing Tree at Marine Drive, Mumbai.

Reshmi: Cinnamon on Lavelle Road and Raintree, opposite the Windsor Manor, Bangalore. The mix of antique furniture, home décor stuff, accessories and clothes make both good for gift-hunting.

Fiona: Kashmir Loom Company, Nizamuddin East, Delhi. The finest shawls made in India, suppliers to Browns, Bergdorf, Hermés and Takashimaya. Prices range from Rs 1,500 to Rs 3 lakh.

Fiona: Kin Fabrics, Station Road, Jaipur. Kitty, now in her seventies, is regarded as the mother of block-printing in Jaipur. She now mainly does export orders, but there is a simple stock room where you can pull out treasures for bargain prices.
Kalpana, Jain Hostel Road, Sanganer, Rajasthan. Mr Ram Prashad Saini, the owner of Kalpana papers, began working in the paper business at 13 and started his own business in 1992. Kalpana produces some of the finest papers in India, including seed paper (Rs 22 per sheet) which is designed so that when planted the flowers will grow.


‘I so want a 47th pair of shoes’

For the longest time, Indians have been ‘classic shoppers’ – buying only things they need, based on rational thinking. But over the last decade or so, people have turned into ‘romantic shoppers’ – buying with their heart, because it’s trendy, cool or they need some cheering up.

There are many reasons behind this change. Many more households have multiple incomes. The young are earning better, at times more than their parents. With more women working, there is financial freedom. ‘Retail therapy’ is affordable, guilt-free and essential.
Our shopping baskets have expanded. In the early ’90s, we spent 80 per cent of our money across seven to eight products and services. Today we spend it across 19. There are more avenues to spend as well – new stores, brands and ranges across product categories. Take fashion accessories (bags, shoes, timewear, fashion jewellery...) – a new segment to gain focus in the last decade.

Brands and marketers are also addressing the consumer’s latent needs and lifestyles through product development and constant communication to get the consumers to spend more. These could be new technology or models, or healthier variants of beverages and snacks or the shoe designed specially for morning walks. While there could be an element of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ for some, most consumers are buying as a means to allow them to indulge themselves.

Shopping is also one of the three most popular means of out-of-home entertainment for a family – the other two being eating out and watching films. With all three options coming together under one roof in malls in major cities, they have become destinations for ‘time poor’ families to spend time together and still do their own things.

Lastly, we are adding millions of new consumers every day. What’s visible today in the larger cities would make even bigger inroads into the smaller cities and towns – we are just scratching the surface of consumerism in India.

Saloni Nangia, vice president and head, retail & consumer products, Technopak Advisors

‘There is an education in window shopping’

Until three years ago, my daily uniform was badly coordinated blue jeans, a T-shirt, flat open sandals and large overstuffed bag. Then Time Out Mumbai hired me to handle the food and shopping sections. Me and shopping?

Well, if you call it shopping. What I was really doing was going into newly opened stores and checking out the merchandise, layout, service, prices, changing rooms. That’s when, like Becky Bloomwood said in Confessions of a Shopaholic, “When I looked into shop windows, I saw another world”.

Earlier, I could not shop alone. I wanted a second opinion and a 32nd one. Now I can provide both the second and 32nd opinion for other people. I can state with authority which lamp will look good in a friend’s living room, I can even suggest a bulb for it. Kitchen taps, orange jeans, fabric board games, banana flowers, fluorescent make-up, hand-painted steel glasses, tasselled purple suede boots – they are all available if you know where to look. There is an education in window-shopping for store reviews. It refines taste, increases speed, improves focus and helps you fill gaps in party conversation.

What you buy expresses who you are. Sometimes shopping tells you who you are as well. Try looking at merchandise when you are angry, happy, rebellious, bored. Different things appeal to you.

Three years after shopping, or at least window-shopping, became my job, I can stride into stores, compare prices, understand trends, and see where the market for something, say headbands or headphones, is going. But while I am now an addicted window-shopper, I still find it hard to shop by myself. However, somehow no one dares to shop for me anymore.

Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi recently edited the food and shopping sections at Time Out Mumbai. She is now studying at The French Culinary Institute, New York.

‘Why are there only 327 malls in this city?’

There’s one piece of psychological wisdom that many people find heartening: “Shopping in moderate amounts can act as a therapeutic activity to cope with life’s tensions.” Shopping often acts as a catharsis or a mood-lifting phenomenon. Buying things is a mood-uplifting experience.

But the key here is the word ‘moderation’. Some researchers imply that there is a similarity between physical addiction to chemicals such as alcohol and heroin, and psychological dependence involved in activities like compulsive shopping, gambling, sex or work.

This is because these behaviour activities may produce beta-endorphins in the brain, which makes the person feel ‘high.’ If a person continues to engage in the activity to achieve this euphoria, he/she becomes addicted to his/her own brain chemicals.
Compulsive shoppers can’t resist buying unneeded products. They are elated when they shop, but feel guilty when they return home and scrutinise their big bags. This may become a vicious cycle.

About eight per cent of people in the US are affected by Compulsive Shopping Disorder (CSD). Most are women. In India, CSD is on the rise. Women who do not experience fulfillment in intimate relationships tend to become compulsive shoppers because shopping diverts the mind, gives them a sense of power, helps them develop an interest in the outer world and gives them a feeling of personal worth.

If your need to shop becomes an uncontrollable urge, it’s time to check your subconscious and identify the hidden psychological need that shopping satisfies.

Dr Rakhi Anand, consultant psychologist, Indraprastha Apollo hospital, Delhi.

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