A Compact Guide to Shopping in India

Get a Rajasthani royal look | @NaganathChiluvera/Unsplash
Get a Rajasthani royal look | @NaganathChiluvera/Unsplash
Photo of Harleen Kalsi
31 August 2017

India is like a colossal shopping mall for anyone who loves to shop. Designers think of it as a fabrics and textiles library and consumers consider it a sartorial Narnia. There is something for everybody here, and the truth is that if a location in this country is not a fashion hub that’s because it is big on food. Here’s how and where you should shop your heart out in India.

Create your own fashion statement

There are two types of people who shop. The first kind will run toward the mall or the most expensive vintage showrooms and the second will do anything to find a bargain. You need to choose your style and learn to play mix-match. Unlike the streets of Harajuku in Japan or California’s Beverly Hills, Indian street style is a marriage between traditions and modern expression.

Haggling is an art but in India, it is a sport

This statement is directed towards those with a small budget but a genius sense of style. India is all about haggling and why not? The street shops here are full of fashion and style-statements if you show some determination. Don’t let the touts fool you, say a price and stick to it. If you are a foreigner, they’ll be very slick with prices and that’s why interacting with locals shopping nearby might be a huge plus.

Region-wise breakdown of the best destinations to shop

North India

You won’t need a magnifying glass to hunt down the best buys in North India. Starting with Kashmir’s exotic Pashmina shawls to Himachal’s illustrious Kullu shawls or Tibetan influence on artifacts and clothes to Punjab’s celebrated phulkaris and Shahi patialas, the quest doesn’t end here. Delhi then takes the baton with the chic artsy galleries of designers passing it on to Rajasthan. Rajasthan is where the more-is-more concept will steal your heart as it takes the meaning of luxury to a whole new level. Another distinguished must-buy is the world famous Benarasi sari from Varanasi.

Get a Rajasthani royal look | @NaganathChiluvera/Unsplash

West India

Here’s what you need to know about this region of India – when it comes to fashion and shopping, Gujarat, Mumbai, and Goa encourage super chill style statements. Gujarat comes with a surprisingly fresh package of colourful bandhinis, embroidered jutis and tribal vests and corsets. Mumbai has always been one step ahead of reinventing the boring trends into something new. Its streets are the runways of India, so go crazy. Heading down to Goa, the neo-hippie territory is all about sarongs and swimwear.

Kolhapuri Chappal | @IgorOsyannykov/Unsplash

South India

Honestly, one paragraph is not enough to explain how beautiful and vast fashion really is in this region. South India will make you go traditional with India’s extensive textile wealth. Take a southern tour of the weaves of your dreams. From the typical cotton Kerala sari to the classic Kanchipuram silk of Tamil Nadu and from Karnataka’s Mysore crepe to Ikat of Andhra, if you’re a sucker for saris then these weaves are a total steal.

Kanchipuram silk on display | @wikipedia

East India

Kolkata and Odisha make the perfect destinations in this region for sartorial indulgence. Weave dreamers, you’re in for a treat when it comes to Odia and Bengali saris. Your best buys here are Khandua, Jamdani and Tant weave. Unlike the Benarasi and the Kanchipuram weave, the starting rate of these saris won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

Weaving a Jamdani | @masudAnanda / Flickr

North East India

Another region in India with an extensive inventory of shopping destinations, here you need to use those eagle eye shopping skills and haggling powers. Watch out for those exquisite Assamese silk weaves, Nagaland’s shawls, Shillong’s street fashion, and traditional Arunachali weaves.

Beautiful Naga shawls | @rubygoes/Flickr

Central India

The heart of India is not only known for abundant wildlife and glorious architecture but it is also a shopper’s paradise. Hunt for dreamy tassel-ended Maheshwari saris, Chanderi saris, and Bhopal’s zari-work jutis. While travelling the historic small towns, you might want to explore the gem that is Madhya Pradesh as a unique closet full of surprises.

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