Once again, Delhi didn’t disappoint and this time I branched out and visited a wider variety of shops, markets, including the inimitable Dilli Haat where you can buy fantastic handmade carpets, leather sandals, pashmina, ceramics and clothes as well as some less desirable ‘souveniers’. I stayed in the Shangri La on Ashoka Road this time which I can recommend for location and ambience.
My guide while shopping was the terrific Love Delhi guidebook by Fiona Caulfield who has steered me well for two years now with her insider knowledge of both Delhi and Jaipur. Her tastes seem uncannily close to mine so whether it an ayurvedic massage, a restaurant , a boutique or a reliable driver, I can trust her judgment. She also has an excellent Love Jaipur in the same series which is a 'must' for anyone wanting to get the inside story on great the shopping and eating experiences in this fascinating city
The Street Life by Street Kids walk, organized by the Salaam Balaak Trust, was another of her recommendations as a ’must do’ in Delhi. By chance I was the only participant for my early morning walk so I got a really personal insight into the lives of the many abandoned, lost and runaway children who end up on the streets in Delhi. While its shocking and upsetting to learn the circumstances behind many of the children’s current lives, it was great to witness at first hand this organization’s work helping to give these street children choices and opportunities to experience some of the joys of childhood.
I also paid a visit to D. Minsen and Co in Connaught Place who handmake the most fabulous leather riding boots. I spent a long time deliberating over a beautiful pair of handmade, brown polo boots (I do ride horses but I don’t play polo…however for these I might start!). I did purchase a gorgeous pair of short leather boots that are equally at home on horseback or in town.
Of course I was primarily there for work so I had several long days with suppliers going over the finer details of the 2015 garments. There is always much negotiation between initial drawings and the finished article centered around choosing fabrics, hand embroidery techniques, wastage, pricing, timescales and the like.
The last day was spent so long in discussions that it was only thanks to the skill of my fabulous driver Amit that I made my flight to Jaipur. A two hour scramble across the city because of roadworks and closed ‘VIP lanes’, which literally bring the city to a standstill to let dignitaries through, saw me arrive at my departure gate with just minutes to spare - my ears ringing from the horn blasts and my nerves jangling. Hairy driving is pretty commonplace in India but this 'chase' took it to a new level and Amit was NOT going to be defeated.
Jaipur seems almost village-like after Delhi although it’s a relatively large city. It is pretty easy to get your bearings after just one visit and this time I felt I knew it well. I stayed again in the Diggi Palace Hotel which is a great retreat after the heat, noise and hectic pace of the city, so long as you do not mind the relatively ‘laid back’ style of service and a firm mattress. Personally, all I want to do after a hectic, hot and dusty day is chill out in the quiet, candlelit garden there, so I love it.
My lasting impression from the Jaipur leg of this trip is of a day spent with a prospective new supplier who showed me the most incredible hospitality. After collecting me at my hotel, we shared morning coffee and treats in her home followed by a visit to meet all the artisans involved in producing her lovely fabrics, from paint masters to print masters. I was then treated to a delicious lunch and dropped to my next meeting. Thank you so much PV.
I met so many interesting people again on this trip and it never ceases to amaze me the number and variety of super-skilled workers in the textile and jewellery industry based in and around Jaipur. The weather was kind throughout with daytime temperatures of 36 degrees, which sounds high but wearing traditional Indian dress of leggings and cool cotton kurta meant I stayed cool. The hot climate also offers a great opportunity to road-test my own samples for wearability and style.
With lots to do in so little time, a good driver is paramount. This time my thanks go to the redoubtable auto-rickshaw driver KK who works outside the Diggi, both for his speedy driving skills and his little black book of contacts.
I also made a new friend in the lovely Cristiane Cerf, a Brazilian lady currently living in Milan, who is in a similar line of business to me but on a rather larger scale. We shared late night chats on the balcony of the Diggi about our respective supplier meetings, comparing notes on who was reliable to work with and, more importantly, who was not! She has been travelling there for many years and has a personal yogi come to the hotel early each morning for rooftop stretching sessions. Next time Cristiane…
It is always so stimulating to visit India and once again I got so much inspiration from the sights and colours around me. I’m currently loving all the new geometric block prints that I saw as well and sampling some more ‘Aztec’ inspired embellishment so expect these to feature prominently next season in La Mandarine’s range.
We have some exciting new dresses, sarongs and bags coming into stock in December for those lucky enough to be heading away for some winter sun. The complete new range should be online next March, so please don’t forget to come back and take a look. xx