– there’s no one place in India, where you can source from…depending on the type of fabric, you may have to travel to different parts of the country (e.g. block printing might be only easily available in Sanganer and other areas around Jaipur)
– the fabric we had in mind was for making women’s purses and bags, and for that, it appeared that Mumbai and Surat should be the ideal places to shop at – Mumbai for the consolidated market with tons of variety, and Surat is where the fabric factories are (that is where it is manufactured)
– the markets we had shortlisted were the Mangaldas Market, Multi Jetha market, shops around Musafirkhana, Swadeshi market, Hind Mata market in Dadar, and Gandhi market
A walk through the crowded lanes of Mangaldas market
A walk through the crowded lanes of Mangaldas Market
The shopkeepers proactively, and often loudly, invite you to have a look, and often try to guess, quite accurately I must admit, what you might be there to shop. Here we learnt that we would have to pick up the fabric separately, and then ask ‘somebody else’ to do the embroidery and other work we wanted to get done. It’s not like they would offer you on a platter all they have, and we can pick and chose, which was a bit of disappointment. We sampled various fabrics, from raw real silk (costing upwards of Rs 850 per meter), to the Chinese silk (the non-real one, starting from Rs 140 per meter!), the velvets and various other pre-embroidered stuff. While we found what we wanted, it was one piece here, one design there…nothing worth getting too excited about or placing bulk order from one supplier.
What a disappointment! The friend of mine had been sourcing fabrics from HK and China and she is used to having a large mall-like building, with lots and lots (read hundreds!) of air-conditioned shops, all selling fabrics of myriad colours, designs, and textures and you get what you want, in that mall, literally ‘on a platter’.
We were then led by an agent-like but harmless-looking person to another shop – a large air-conditioned one this time, called ‘Velkan’ or something like that. Again, the owner was very helpful and clear about what is available and what can be done – at a further cost and time. He also offered to take us to the mill-depot which opens at 2 pm to see ‘all’ the designs. We learnt that, while the mills might actually be in Gujarat or elsewhere, there is a ‘depot’ nearby where all mills’ agents would show up to showcase their designs and products and these shop owners (who are wholesalers themselves) would visit these depots to place their orders and pick deliveries of the previously ordered stuff.
After a quick tete-a-tete and a cool water break, we headed, through smelly sweltering gullies towards Kalbadevi for the Mulji Jetha market. It is a short walk through shabby by lanes but the market itself is very well laid out – with wider lanes, not too crowded, better quality shops (read glass fronted, air conditioned). While we were looking around, we were attracted by what one particular shop had on their storefront – exactly what we were looking for! Though the design as not clearly Indian, it had the right texture and print that would be suitable for our purpose. We walked into this shop – GR Fashions – and were amazed by the variety of clothes and prints they had on offer. All neatly arranged in rows after rows of swatches in clear plastic sheets, we finally had found our Mecca! With the permission of the manager there, we took enough photos and many swatches (which the owner was only too kind to share with us), finally glad that the trip, and the sweat, was worth it!
Definitely a place coming back to explore much more. We concluded that one day was too short to explore all that we had in mind…we probably did 20% of what we had set out to achieve…but were happy that we got what we wanted, with a promise to return for more, soon! But will not leave before having a Gujarati thali at Chetana Restaurant at Kala Ghoda – after all we have earned it!