Girl's guide to shopping



Years ago when I first announced I was heading to India, people were a bit bewildered.


“Are you going there to find yourself?” they’d ask dramatically.


“No” I’d reply with a cheeky grin, “I’m going there to shop and eat”.





Ten years later I’m back in India and I’ve got a few more things on my itinerary, but I still find myself drawn the kaleidoscope of silk saris that mesmerised me the first time I visited India. Nowhere can you find a more elegantly dressed group of women than in India, no matter what socio-economic background they come from. There’s a sense of self-respect and pride that comes through in the woman dress and present themselves, and I can’t help but admire the women each time I visit.




But how do you go about getting your shop on in India? Luckily, I had Kaveri, my funky Indian guide to take me shopping. As quick as a whip and with a funky east meets west style (thick rimmed trendy-nerdy black glasses, fitted & embellished sleeveless top, blue jeans and converse), we hit Commercial Street, Bangalore’s main shopping hub, to see what they had to offer.




Buying clothes here is a four-step process. First, we head into a material store. Here, metre-long oblong shaped swathes of fabric are neatly stacked from the spotless floor. Material is cheap- little more than a pound or two a metre, with the price rising depending on quality and how well you bargain. Attentive workers whisk the fabrics out and cut and fold purchases in tight parcels.




After picking the fabric, you then head to the trim store. Here, threads and garlands of thick embroidered trim are sold, some shimmering with silver and gold like Christmas tinsel; others with silk threads or pom poms; some thin whispers of plain silk, next to curls of brightly coloured ribbons, and flaming streamers, all hanging from the rafters on thick wired loops like suspended tickertape.




We walk up a dodgy alley, and Kaveri points out the small omens perched above the locked doorways, until we find her favourite tailor. Three men sit sewing on old black singer sewing machines in a space the size of a dining table, a pair of scissors and looms of thread next to them, finished garments suspended on coat hangers around the walls.




The tailor looks up at Kaveri and smiles, greeting her by name and ordering tea for us all to drink. He’s made her clothes for years. Seeing me eyeing off a big 60 litre bucket filled with white liquid, sliced chilli’s, onion and coriander by the wall, he immediately sends his son to fetch the yogurt seller, who is delivering cups further down the way. Despite our protests, he insists on buying us a cup of the yogurt drink, while he offers us small plastic stools to sit on.




It’s there that we watch the final step in the process- the embroidery and embellishment. We watch as the man in the small stall opposite bends over a piece of material stretched across a loom. His head down low, he picks out a vibrant a pattern in the material, building on it to create a paisley pattern sketched out in front of him. I watch, mesmerised at the level of skill and attention to detail the young man shows, something lost to the disposable fashion shown at retailers like Primark and H&M.



Of course, Bangalore is well known in India for it’s new megamalls, with ready-to wear western retailers like Diesel and even Louis Vuitton setting up shop with air-conditioning and food courts and all the modern trims. Still, I’d much rather sit in the alleyway near commercial street sipping my yogurt drink while my clothes are tailored for me while I wait.  It’s just a bit more fun.

Shaney stayed at The Paul Hotel Bangalore, courtesy of Small Luxury Hotels: