Monday, April 18, 2011

How to Shop for Textiles in India

Like everything else in India, shopping for quality textiles was full of simultaneous beauty and anguish.  Sure, the markets, the streets, the sidewalks, and every other inch of available space was crammed with "handmade," yet strikingly similar (identical?) pashminas, sarongs, blankets, sheets, wall hangings and duvet covers, but to get to the good stuff, you had to go to a store. Not just any store. A "textile factory."

We've visited such places all over the world, and the process is as similar as the "unique" designs themselves.

1.  Visit a model "workshop" to learn about various textile techniques, but really to prove to you that the stuff you are about to see is handmade.  Also, note the OSHA compliance and general happiness of these non-child laborers.

These guys were thrilled to be embroidering away in a windowless basement.
[DSM: Actually, the air down there was cleaner and easier to breathe than the streets outside]

They were working on a groom's jacket.  It was really quite beautiful.

2.  Flip through the large scrapbook you are handed.  It will be full of articles featuring your textile factory as the place to buy textiles in India.  You may even learn about how "we export to ABC Carpets!," or "Richard Gere was just here last year and he bought 100 cashmere blankets for his B&B in northern Westchester!"

Marty & Popsy's garage. 
A tiny section of the antiques shop that Richard Gere recently visited.

3.  Take a seat on a low couch, sip your glass of chai, and watch in excitement as your textile man proceeds to present you with dozens of different bed cover/blanket/pashmina/scarf/pillowcase options.  Your excitement turns to anxiety as the pile grows larger and larger.  Freeze in fear when he informs you that each pattern is available in at least ten colors.  How could you ever decide?

Try as I might, the only difference I can feel between an 80/20 cashmere blend and a 60/40 cashmere blend is in my wallet.
4.  In a panic, decide that since you want to buy everything, you can't possibly buy anything.  Walk away wringing your hands and talking about leaving.  You may not realize it at the time, but this embarrassing breakdown actually provides your spouse with some good negotiating leverage.

Emotions run high during step 4.
5.  Once a price has been agreed upon, allow yourself to be talked down from the ledge. Then have fun picking out what you want!

At this point, your textile man will start mentioning all of the other things he can show you.  Repeat steps 3-5.

6.  Seal the deal with a handshake!  Enjoy your new purchases, at least until you realize that the bedspread you just bought will require that you repaint your bedroom.  Steadfastly refuse to think about it for at least another six months.

Tough negotiations between two dark men.


  1. How are you going to get all this stuff home? I know - put it on the "slow boat," and then you also won't have to think about it for at least another six months!

  2. I'll be heading to India this December and I can't wait to see myself in this situation! Thanks for sharing ;)


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