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Where to find the best shopping in Bombay and Delhi

An employee adjust products inside a store at the Emporio mall in Delhi.


Few of us who visit can help bringing back a little something – or a shipping container of somethings – from India. But finding the perfect keepsake can take a fair amount of serendipity, and a lot of haggling. Unless, that is, you're sent in the right direction. Delhi and Bombay (the locals would never call it Mumbai) offer more than the incense-veiled markets your guidebooks tell you about. Take this as a nudge.


Bombay Electric You won't find a sari here – unless it's torn to shreds and reattached with safety pins – but Bombay's most cutting-edge concept store doesn't eschew tradition entirely. It supports designers who take millennium-old handicrafts in modern directions, such as purses handwoven in Varanasi with trendy colour-block patterns. You'll also find Ali Baba pants in silver lamé, and scarves dip-dyed in neon. Slim, sexy men's shirts come in natural indigo from the villages. Prices are unnaturally reasonable. 1 Reay House, Best Marg, Colaba; 91-22-2287-6276;

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Central Cottage Industries You're travelling to India? Prove it. Bring home a Punjabi rug, marble elephant, filigree tray or brocade bag made by a local craftsperson and not – they promise – a factory in China. There are no great surprises here: You'll find most of the wares familiar if you've visited one of Bombay's dozen or so craft markets. The difference is in the quality, the hassle-free vibe and the prices, which can climb upward from $15 for a gold-leaf vase into the thousands for the guarantee of authenticity. 34 Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Marg, Colaba; 91-22-2285-0754;

Le Mill Ask any Indian for a hot tip and invariably they'll recommend something Western. So it's no surprise Le Mill – a curated lifestyle boutique with an emphasis on European brands – is a hub of social activity. Young professionals come for the chic café but stick around to browse Scandinavian furniture, Parisian jewellery and London fashion, accessorized with homegrown scarves and homewares. Surrounded by shanties, the old rice mill sets up a poignant disparity that's a metaphor for modern Bombay. 17-25 Nandlal Jani Road, Wadi Bunder East; 91-22-2374-2415;

Bungalow Eight Relics from estate sales around Bombay and beyond enjoy a second coming in this voluminous three-storey townhouse with some serious patina (chipped plaster, pocked concrete) of its own. There's vintage crockery stuffed into century-old teak armoires and exquisite linens on wrought-iron beds, plus an exclusive fashion line that is "Indian inspired," without all the gilt. The leather slip-ons are a delightfully contemporary take on those slouchy sandals less savvy tourists bring back from dusty markets. 17 Arthur Bunder Road, Colaba; 91-22-2281-9880;

D. Popli & Sons Mysterious as a bank vault, with a wall of tiny drawers to slide open and rummage through. This family-run jeweller specializes in silver, so you're sure to find some deals (like a $20 charm bracelet that retails for $150 back home). There's also an enchanting collection of gem-encrusted cocktail rings, Bakelite bangles and, in the back office, velvet-lined trays of art deco brooches and replica Victoriana. Battery Street, Colaba; 91-22-2202-1694


Kotwara A successful filmmaker and scion of the Raja of Kotwara, Muzaffar Ali married his muse Meera and returned to his native Lucknow to found a label with the help of village embroiderers. The couple now run a boutique in the DLF Emporio mall, stocked with their contemporary take on the kurta, salwar kameez, anarkali and sherwani (deftly embellished women's tunics and men's coats). The palette changes each season; last summer the entire collection was white. 2nd floor, DLF Emporio, Vasant Kunj; 91-11-4669-5871

Manish Arora Fish Fry Arora's cute-as-a-button tailoring has long since expanded abroad (you can find his designs at the Bay in Toronto and La Maison Simons in Quebec City) but with Western fashion embracing colour in earnest, now is his moment in the sun. Find his deliciously vibrant dresses, bags and shirts (fearless men may apply) at this store in the newly refurbished Lodhi Colony market. The boutique stocks his lower-priced Fish Fry line, but you can find his runway fashions across India. Shop No.3, Main Market, Lodhi Colony; 91-11-2463-8878;

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Abraham & Thakore What does le tout Delhi wear to ring in a new bistro or gallery? Abraham & Thakore, whose designs are dramatically avant-garde, yet tasteful enough for tea at the Oberoi. This being India, there's a lot of red in the palette, but also this season's purple, with staples in monochrome. Hit the boutique after a visit to Kotwara (above), at the outrageously well-heeled DLF Emporio, a temple of mid- to high-end Indian design. DLF Emporio Mall, Vasant Kunj; 91-11-4606-0995;

Nur In the midst of the city's leafy diplomatic core, a former air force base has been converted into a lush outdoor plaza for ladies who lunch. They decorate with the jaunty linens and lacquered-wood antiques at Nur, the retail arm of textile designers Noorjehan. Everything here is virtuously eco-friendly, handcrafted from recycled fabrics and, most importantly, keeps up with the design of the times. Not all homeware purveyors in this corner of conservative Delhi can say the same. 23SantushtiShopping Complex; 91-11-2611-2971;

Raghavendra Rathore A Rajasthani aristocrat, "Ragu" knows how the smart set wants to look: somewhere between Wall Street and the silky grandeur you see on Bollywood red carpets. In response he's applied his masterful (Parsons-trained) tailoring to slim-cut suits with a touch of Indian flair – be it a long coat, high collar or sheen to the fabric. But the draw here is his fresh slant on jodhpurs, cut in leather and denim. They're genuine article, though better suited to film premiers than to riding. Shop no. 28, first floor, Khan Market; 91-11-4330-2233;

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