The Pleasures of Shopping at Jayalakshmi

The elegant way that Indian women dress is often a surprise to the casually dressed westerner. Whether she is dressed traditionally in a saree or salwar kameez, she is always matched to perfection with a carefully selected saree blouse and petticoat, matching shoes, purse, jewelry and make up. This attention to her wardrobe is on a daily basis and not just for going to a party. Retailers that cater to women clean up.

I was stunned by the opulent setting of the three floors of the store, Jayalakshmi in Ernakulam, Kerala. Though it includes a men’s wear dept, the highlight is the saree shoppers.

 Saree Shopping


Saree Shopping

Although this is a women’s world, the men play an essential role here and  feel welcome. They stand behind the women, watching (the price tags!) and nodding their approval.

Women Seated with Standing Husbands

Women Seated with Standing Husbands

The opulence of this store hits you like a tsunami from the first minute you walk into the elegant foyer. You don’t know where to look first. You are hit over the head with color coming at you in every direction.

 The Foyer


The Foyer

Gorgeous silk sarees hang gracefully from every conceivable angle. The bright colors cheer you up, inspire you. You know from the minute that you walk in the door there will be treasures to behold here. Jayalakshmi even has its own musical theme song that plays subtly in the background. It is a lilting melody like a butterfly landing on a flower, not noticeable but haunting if you do catch a glimpse of it.

White Mannequins

White Mannequins

Most Indian women are decisive shoppers but when shopping for an expensive saree, they want to see everything before they finalize their choice. In India, the sarees are not on view the way goods are merchandised in the west. Usually the buyer has an idea of the color and type of fabric that she would like. For example, she will tell the saleswoman that she wants to see sarees in pink that are silk chiffon. Then, one by one the saleswoman will show her pink sarees in chiffon. On a busy day, there will be piles of sarees all over the selling platform. Often there are employees whose only job is to fold!

Some of the husbands prefer to leave their wives while they view some fifty or more sarees. All around the store there are sofas with newspapers for the men, tired women and bored children to relax on. Servers come around with complimentary tea.

While the Women Shop

While the Women Shop

Paying for all these purchases is a lengthy process. There are many lines to stand in. The women take their turn enjoying a cup of tea under the watchful eye of the store’s founder.

 A Final Cup


A Final Cup

 

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About ninagrandiose

I am based in NYC but travel regularly to India and Mexico. Both of these countries feel like home. In India I scour the country in search of fabulous textiles to incorporate into my clothing designs. I sit back and let the ambiance and wonder of India seep into my consciousness so I can be inspired to write about what India is for me. I bring a limited number of people to India on exclusive and intimate tours of my favorite hangouts. In Mexico I take in the natural beauty that surrounds me and dance the night away. I constantly give thanks for all this and am pleased to share it all with you.
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5 Responses to The Pleasures of Shopping at Jayalakshmi

  1. Pingback: The Pleasures of Shopping at Jayalakshmi | Ninagrandiose's Blog: Bombay Point

  2. josna says:

    Wow! I am overwhelmed just looking at your photos! Gorgeous—and I like the idea of relaxing on a couch and drinking tea while someone else does the shopping—but almost sickening in its over-the-top opulence (yes, that was exactly the right word). What happened to the little hole-in-the-wall single-owner sari shops? I can only imagine what the prices are like. But then, there are those special occasions like weddings that require the purchase of several silk sarees, and perhaps this store would offer a one-stop solution. ; I hadn’t heard of it before, but it must be an institution. As always, you capture the essence of a place with your insightful photos and spare but to-the-point accompanying narrative.

    • ninagrandiose says:

      The local hole in the wall sari store still exists, especially in small towns but is an endangered species, I’m afraid. So many changes like this one creeps in and before we know it, a way of being or shopping perishes. Thank you for your comment, Josna.

  3. Such an enjoyable post. It’s really fascinating and really interesting how shopping can be such a delight for the eye and the soul. I hate going shopping Western style myself, but this looks like great fun, although I am sure I would have ended up in that sofa if my wife were to look at that fifty something sarees. You captured the spirit, the energy and the atmosphere really nicely in these pictures.

    • ninagrandiose says:

      Thanks, Otto. Shopping in India has to be the most fun place that I know. Whether it is in a fancy departmental store…I love that term that they use in India… or an outdoor market…always lots of color, fabulous people, great goods and lots of photo opps too! No time for sitting on the sofa!

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