Custom shopping, by appointment only

In a shopaholic’s world, sweet dreams end with the bagging of one-of-a-kind products, far far removed from cookie-cutter buys off the shelves of glitzy department stores. But with labelled luxe as commonplace now as Mc-Donald’s golden arches, the search for bespoke brilliance tends to get boring. Which is where the city’s creative circuit steps in.

Armed with tons of talent, the exponents of exclusivity make sure you get noticed in a crowd. They’re a varied lot—skilled to fashion every fancy, be it a cuppa or a clutch, spices, shoes or sheer lingerie. Their imagination knows no vertical limit. Operating largely out of inconspicuous hole-in-the-wall stalls, they barely advertise—yet clients keep flocking, bringing with them new converts to the fold. Proving again that there’s no such thing as owning too much of a good thing.

Shivani Chandhok
Bagged and tagged

Shivani Chandhok
Shivani Chandhok
Her bags are packed, and she’s ready to go. An apparel designer who gave up creating clothes because “too many people were doing it,” Shivani Chandhok is one busy bag lady. Dishing out one ornamental piece at a time.

Her party bags are typically made of silk, satin, tissue or brocade, prettified with beads and sequins or exquisite dabka work.
Be it western or Indian clothes, creations by Chandhok’s nine-year-old outfit, Threads are sure to add shimmer and shine to any wardrobe.

“The festive and wedding seasons are my busiest time, with clients wanting me to match the embroidery on their clothes with their bags and, sometimes, even shoes,” says Chandhok, who also supplies to exporters as well as boutiques around town.

Her bags cost between Rs 850 and Rs 3,000. Chandhok can be contacted at 9810470077.


Mister Bean

Keshav Dev
Keshav Dev
For anyone who has had too much homogenised coffee from souldeadening, branded national chains, there’s salvation in a quiet corner of Lodhi Colony, which blends your brew just the way you like it.

You don’t need to search too hard to find Devan’s coffee and tea store; just follow your nose, like we did.

Named after Vasudevan, a Coffee Board employee and coffee enthusiast who set up the store in 1962, the store—now run by his son Keshav Dev—sources coffee beans from Karnataka, roasts them everyday at the workshop and blends them to suit the taste of each customer.

“We cater to serious coffee drinkers for whom the taste of the morning cuppa sets the mood for the day,” says Dev, who stocks 10 blends of coffee and supplies to hotels and embassies across town. Prices are between Rs 210 and Rs 280 a kg.

Hira Lal Brothers

Bras tacks

Vipin Wadhwa of Hira Lal Brothers
Vipin Wadhwa of Hira Lal Brothers
It’s a pity that Vipin Wadhwa of Hira Lal Brothers on Janpath will never get to participate in a Miss India contest. Because no one knows more than him about inner beauty. You see, his family has been custom-making lingerie for more than 50 years.
“When we started out in 1950, the underwire for bras came from bicycle spokes,” laughs Wadhwa. The wedding season sees his cup of cheer running over with an average of 10 to 15 orders a day for customised innerwear.

His designs cover a lot of ground—from bust sizes of 28 to 52 and cup sizes up to G. “Bras costing up to Rs 1,500 in malls can be made here for Rs 250,” says Wadhwa. G-whiz.

John Brothers

Shoeing off

Yep of John Brothers
Yep of John Brothers
Call it a sole survivor. In an age of global brands and assembly-line manufacturing, John Brothers’ custom designed, hand-made shoes are a welcome anachronism.

True, the store in Connaught Place is minuscule and unimaginatively laid out but its offerings are anything but. Ask designer Rohit Bal who gets all his Fashion Week shoes handcrafted here.

Says Bal of owner Jude Yep: “He has a sound knowledge of design and understands exactly what I want.”

Yep’s eyes shine with pride as he tells us how his team of eight workmen, all trained by him, can create shoes with a sketch or photograph for reference.

Started in 1938 by Yep’s father, John Brothers also custom-makes bags and belts, but it’s feet that make Yep’s heart beat.

Suggest expansion and he shrugs it off with “I’d never sacrifice quality for quantity”. He has a point. John Bros’ shoes aren’t cheap but they do outlive the dreams that dream them up. That’s what they call a shoo-in.

Kishan Lal Store

Garam Dharam

Krishan Lal Masala store
Krishan Lal Masala store
If you consider homemade food incomplete without freshly ground masalas, take a trip down the spice trail at INA market.

Long known as a must-stop for all things culinary, this market has an assortment of stores whose spices, customised to your taste, promise to make every meal memorable.

We spotted Krishan Lal Masala store, run by Kamal and his brother Bharat Sharma, which specialises in Kashmiri spices.

“People come here for tandoori and barbecue recipes. We make flavour spices according to customers’ demands,” says Kamal, whose garam masalas cost between Rs 300 and Rs 600 a kg.

Adds A.S. Qureshi, former Taj Palace chef: “I’ve often found the masalas that our suppliers couldn’t procure, at INA market. The variety is mindboggling.” We couldn’t agree more.

Bina Musical Stores

Music box

Bina Musical Store owners
Bina Musical Store owners
On any given day, sounds of musical instruments being tuned float down the staircase of this five-decade-plus store owned by Avtar Singh and his sons J.P. and Daljit Singh.

This cramped but charming store in Nai Sarak (with branches in Lajpat Nagar and Daryaganj) specialises in harmoniums.

“For handcrafted orders, people want teak bodies and bigger sizes. Some want 48 keys instead of the usual 39 to 42 and four sets of reeds in place of two or three, for more volume. Some even want their names carved at the back,” says Daljit.

Prices are between Rs 4,000 and Rs 30,000.

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