There is a simple reason the Moghuls, and later the British, lusted after India: Its fabulous wealth and treasures - from emeralds the size of eggs to sumptuously embroidered fabrics.
It has been a while since India was the workshop of the world, and much has been heavily tarnished by its equally exceptional poverty. Its post-Raj socialist fling instilled an insular attitude towards quality - shoddy goods presented as the price of independence.
Although quality remains erratic, production a problem and packaging idiosyncratic, things are changing, and it won't be long before the "Made in India" label is once again sought after.
The country's craft heritage is celebrated in Delhi's shops. In fashion, a new generation - led by designers such as Manish Arora and Rajesh Pratap Singh - is setting out to prove that chic doesn't come cheap, the tradition can be modernized and, in Arora's case, that bold colors are nothing to fear.
Among my favorite is Sunder Nagar Market, where old and established shops co-exist happily with glitzy, high-end boutiques and department stores. One can buy anything from seasonal handicrafts to designer clothes.
Backed by the Delhi Zoo, the Sunder Nagar enclave contains some of the city's lungsâ€”small parks, the nicest of which are behind the main market in a pleasant residential neighborhood. The main market has art and antiques dealers, a wonderful tea shop, and is home to Matthews' Sweets, famous for its confections. Street-side, sit-down cafes offer vegetarian snacks.
One of my favorites in the city. Apart from couture, Ravissant is a seamless blend of the unorthodox with the traditional. Extremely chic, wearable from Saint Tropez to Sardinia, passing through Rio de Janeiro and Saint Bath. It's basic cut, high contrasts and fine craftsmanship are a distinct feature of its collections. Today, Ravissant is a name to reckon with in fashion capitals across the world.
What I like about them is that in 1984, they went beyond fine dressing to fine living, the perfect tailored concept to a lifestyle brand. By introducing a range of designer furnishings, made painstakingly from materials from its very own looms in India.
Today, Ravissant houses an enviably extensive range of intricatedly hand-embroidery bed and table linens, furnishings and furnishing fabrics in silk jacquards, damask and linen.
An amazing sterling silver collection is on display with enamel work. The manager told me that the finest Dutch, German and Swiss silversmiths were flown in for starters with modern crafting techniques giving way to age-old methods, creating a collection unique in styling and design. Their jewelry has a Bucellati touch of inspiration to die for. 29, Sundar Nagar Market , New Delhi -Ph: +91 11 2435 2629 /+91 11 2435 2729
Rajesh Pratap Singh
Easy to miss, if only because the sculptural wall of lockers in the entrance suggests a post office rather than a boutique, the interior of Rajesh Pratap Singh's all-white store manages to create maximum impact without overshadowing his clothes.
A wheeled operating table straight from the great world war, complete with surgical light overhead, bears some kind of highlights; the rest are simply arranged on stretchers and rails. Singh designs for both men and women, and eschews the lucrative wedding-sari trade, a stage of many Indian designers.
The ambiance may not shout 'hospitality', but there is nothing clinical about these clothes, which are elegant and beautifully tailored. The emphasis is firmly on the cut, drape and texture rather than the color which is - for the most part - a palette of monochromes and muted tones. / 9, Lodi Colony Main Market, New Delhi 11003/+91 32 624722/+91 24638788 -
This incredible hidden shop in Sunder Nagar is a must for the those are passionate about old textiles, shawls, and tribal art. Their collection of enameled traditional Mughal style jewelery is absolutely impressive. The intricate jewelery items are crafted with great finesse and designed by Ramji Bharany and Mahesh Bharany's, who like their father and grandfather have a great flair for jewelery, art and curios.
Founded by Mr. R.K. Bharany, and launched in 1900s, the house of Bharany is a treasure-trove for every art lover, connoisseur and critic in the world. It presents a wide variety of Indian art ranging from jewelery to royal textiles and curios referred to as "The Grand Old Man from Amritsar" by famous Indian art critic Mr. Karl Khandalavala. This family-run enterprise is today in its third generation.
R.K. Bharany acquired art objects and textiles extensively. As a result, he was referred to in almost all art books by eminent art historians such as A.K. Coomaraswamy, M.S. Randhawa and K.J. Khandalavala. He had the eye of an aesthetic, keen interest and inborn passion for collecting old textiles. A gold medal was awarded for his unique collection at an exhibition held in Calcutta in 1906.
His son C.L. Bharany inherited his father's intuition and passion for collecting arts, though in wider varieties. His valued art pieces were often borrowed from this personal collection by the Government of India to be displayed at different Festivals of India held in Paris, London, Russia, Washington DC, San Francisco (U.S.A) and Japan.
C.L. Bharany has a great passion for collecting a wider variety of arts: wooden artifacts, tribal art pieces, a variety of textiles, shawls, and robes (Chogas). Additionally, being a connoisseur of art, Mr. Bharany is a renowned author as well, having written several books on Indian art, poetry, philosophy, mythology and novels. He has also written, produced and directed plays. / 14, Sunder Nagar Market New Delhi-11003/Ph +91 2435 8528/+91 11 2435 3957 /E-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Susy Menkes of the New York Times wrote the following about Manish Arora after a 2008 Haute Couture show in Paris:
"It was mad, it was in the actual sense of the words a fashion circus. But with his show of Indian color embroidery and decoration, as if seen through the larger-than life movie cameras of Bollywood...
...Manish Arora is building a reputation for vivid colors, optimistic design, and making use of India's extraordinary handwork."
The shop is in a very quiet and hip neighborhood in Delhi called Lodi Colony. When you enter it is guaranteed to put a smile on even the weariest face. The impression you get is the aftermath of an explosion in a sweets shop.
Powerful pinks, oranges, lilacs, turquoise and blues interlace with vintage furniture in a language that only Manish can speak. Pop icons of Indian culture and a Victorian flowered flair melt harmoniously with richly embroidered Mikey Mouse and Lichestein. Opt-Art is on the menu and Miss Geentanjali, the store manager, wonders how many more photos I intend to shoot.
I am a little embarrassed. I try on a georgette cap-sleeved top in a bright fuchsia and several luxurious, 30000-rupee outfits, inspect the sunglasses and the Mac make up line - all designed by the artist - and still attempt to shoot the activities simultaneously with my camera.
Miss Geetanjali is right, it's crazy, but fortunately I am backed by Miss Meesha, Manish Arora's personal assistant and press manager at the Three Clothing head office in Noida. Prices for ourfits vary from 18000 to 30000 rupees./ 3,Main Market,Lodhi Colony, New Delhi-110003/ Ph: +91 11 246 38878 /+91 11 246 38898/ E-mail: email@example.com
This is the place to go if you need charming, colorful crystal knobs for the drawers of your powder room chest. You can be sure your friends and guests will notice, and you'll be able to tell them nonchalantly, "Oh those? I got them in Delhi." They are the dream of every savvy interior designer. Moreover, they look very expensive and you can bargain them down to the price of 35 rupees each!
In the same small antique shop that looks more like Ali Baba's tavern filled with copper, brass art ware and handicrafts, you can find glamorous, authentic vintage posters from exotic Bollywood films that you can easily take home and have framed for the price of 500 rupees each.
The Moroccan-Turkish style lanterns are my favourite. They are colorful, romantic and extremely cheap. They come in different sizes from 200 to 500 each. / 34, Sunder Nagar Market, New Delhi- 11 0003/ Ph +91 11 41 50 7221 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sage by Gita Chopra
At the luxurious, recently-opened Emporio - a high-end local and international brand shopping mall (by the way, one of the most impressive I have ever seen) - a very good, long-time friend and soul sister just inaugurated a luxury boutique brand called Sage. Bed linens, cushions and handmade quilts are elegantly displayed on elegant lacquered shelves.
It's pure haute couture for the home. Beds of intricate handcrafted silk flower marvels are applied onto the surface of elaborate, quilted bed covers. Colors are delicate and sober and match one another in subtle tones of plums and light greys, dark reds and oranges. Burgandy placemats and matching embroidered table napkins are what you should take home in your suitcase.
Guitta has been delivering goods for Ralph Lauren, Anthropologie, and several other international brands. On my visit to the store she confided to me she's planning within the next six months to introduce some furniture designed by her daughter Aisha and another designer's hip lighting fixtures. /302- Emporio-Nelson Mandala Marg Vasant Kunj-New Delhi 110022 /Ph +91 11 4606 0972/73
Lovely ceramics from Italy, black and white desktop accessories, glittering cushions in Swarovski crystals and other sparkling materials, vinyl furniture in a Disco look, modernist floor lamps with a touch of Hindi flair, this small hidden shop of interiors in Lodhi Colony Market is a must!
The Delhi flagship also has a store in New York City, which means you can easily make your choices and, depending on where you live, the goods will be delivered to you in time. /Flat no. 55 A,Middle Lane- Khan Market- New Delhi,110003/ Ph 011 435 288335/36/38 - E-mail; Khanmktstore@address.home.com
Wow! This has been a very long day, shopping like a mad in Delhi. I wish you all the same fun.
Sources: Wallpaper city guide: Delhi