Me : "well, you know, my trip gets so hectic with work and meeting friends, there's hardly time to plan... "
"So what do you do then on weekends?"
Me: "ah well... just exploring neighbourhoods... and walking around... and well, (sheepishly) shopping!"
Ok -I confess! It has been all about shopping and shopping, that I have hardly bothered even thinking about stepping outside and exploring new places. I have been to New York twice, and both times, it has been like a trip to the Mecca of fashion. I am almost possessed to make sure I have seen, tried, shopped (where I can) and window shopped all that I can. Well, shopping is another flavor to experience a city by. And definitely, shopping in New York has been an experience.
The city is all about brands -Gucci, Prada, Dolce Gabana, Ralph Lauren, and their slightly smaller cousins - Kenneth Cole, Nine west, Aldo, Sephora, Ann Taylor. I am not a brand conscious person myself, and pride myself on several (actually I should say mostly) "brand-less" great "buys". But there is that kick to be able to indulge in an expensive brand without worrying about the economics. Once in a while, instead of looking at the price tag and walking away, you want to say "what the hell, I like it, I want it, so I am going to get it". I love it! (Of course, this didn't apply to Saks or the ralph lauren's where I ended up doing what any sel-respecting shopper would do - take an "I've been to Saks" photo!)
Yes! We can't stop shopping.
And most importantly, I just love the variety available in terms, of sizes, cuts, fits... it is amazing what they can do to a simple white blouse! And the idea that my size falls into a more "average" range and the fact that I can find a beautiful fit in almost any shop I walk into most often makes up for the relatively expensive price tags.
A Ralph Lauren window display in West Village
There is shopping. Then there is this window shopping. Window shopping is a lot more fun, simply because there is no pressure to find something immediately. And of course, the real twist is that you should leave room for the chance that you may actually buy something. Setting out with a clear mindset of "not to buy" could be a damper. Anyways, so while there was shopping, there was also window shopping.
Random window displays in West Village
On one weekend in my last trip, I was in West Village. The idea was to window shop and explore the neighbourhood. I kept getting drawn into these quaint boutiques dealing in body oils and perfumes and the likes. Just losing yourself in the heady mix of fragrance in these places is amazing. And the shop attendants, donned in aprons introduce you into an unknown world of self indulgence as if they themselves were the creators of each of these concoctions.
The last one I entered was Sabon. Dim-lit, and designed with an antique touch, lined with bottles of body lotions, bathing salts and hand made soap. As soon as I entered, the person in charge asked me if I wanted a hand wash? They were offering free samples of bathing salt for a hand wash. I was then offered an array of flavors to choose from. He explains "oh, that is the patchoulli vanilla lavender, my personal favorite. I usually don't prefer vanilla myself. But just a touch of lavender balances the sweetness", "smell this, don't you love it?", "and this just has a subtle nutmeggy fragrance", and then proceeds to paint a picture of how each would work wonders. The hand wash was followed with matching lotions and of course flattery on how soft my hands now felt. I almost swooned at the indulgent sales pitch I had, and yes, there is a vanilla lavender body creme sitting on my dresser.
Just as much as this self-pandering variety of shopping can be an experience, so can hunting in smaller localities and tucked-in-a-corner-shop be. Last year, I checked out a sunday market right in the middle of 7th av. With stalls selling crepes, kashmiri carpets, the best of Dolce Gabana handbags for $20 and bohemeian jewellery, it almost reminded me of the fairs (the annual shilparamam sale in Hyderabad, the Linking road or Colaba Causeway market in Mumbai, Panthean road/Beasant Nagar beach Chennai for the best cotton there is and pondy bazaar in Chennai) back in India. And of course, there was also an half a day escapade to China Town, for hand bags and stone studded rings that we ended up falling in love with.
The sunday market on 7th Av
Now back at home, even as I advise my friend on where she can order stuff from or ask her brother to pick it up for her, I check myself. I realize it isn't all about just buying and owning things. The best of shopping is going through the whole process of checking out the array of options, mentally building images of what you want, letting the object of desire call out to you and grow on you, and ultimately allowing yourself to be seduced into the buy.
A flower that caught my eye, West Village