One of the biggest things for me about Champinx is the importance of the origin of each item. I work hard to sell is ethically sourced fashion and furnishings and I try to meet with the producers or at least interrogate the sellers for the truth!
It was my first buying trip, and we landed in Jodphur, Rajasthan on a scorching hot afternoon in August (leaving those sizzling London temperatures behind us, too!). It was risky to book tickets during the monsoon season, but now that I have my own business, I am chasing the bargains and ticket prices are traditionally lower at that time of year.
I was accompanied on this trip by my somewhat reluctant brother, who I dragged along for moral support and to help me make the many buying decisions I was going to be facing. Each time I asked if he was enjoying himself, I was met with the same vacant expression, but it was good to have him there, for moral support if nothing else.
The first market I had earmarked was Sardar Market, which we reached by rickshaw (of course). The market was filled with every colour, small and sound imaginable. Fruits, snacks, bangles and everything in-between. Close your eyes and imagine an authentic Indian market, and yes… that!
It’s so easy to get distracted in these environments – in my case it’s always by food, so I allowed myself a massive samosa – and even though cashmere, silk and woollen textiles were on my shopping list, I was soon sucked into haggling over some exquisite handmade earrings.
Rule number one: Stick to your shopping list. Rule number two: Watch out for free-flowing open gutters. Rule number three: It’s always the small, unassuming, backwater shop or stall that holds the best treasure. At such a shop we stumbled across (narrowly avoiding the gutter), the handicrafts had a thick layer of dust on them, and I rather reluctantly asked to see their textiles. And so we were led to the third floor of the building, along narrow stairways and corridors on a questionable gradient. I had wanted to take a video of this incredible building, but I was worried that my clumsy legs, Samosa-filled tummy and the uneven floor would mean I would take a tumble.
Eventually we reached an open space with an abundance of scarves, bedspreads and no viscose to be seen! I mention this because I have a passion for pure, non-synthetic products, which are handmade. While viscose is not truly synthetic, neither does it have the pure quality of my beloved cashmere, wool and silk.
I was blown away by what we saw – it was almost too good to be true! When I asked the shopkeeper about their origin he told me that they had workshops in the various villages around Rajasthan, where mostly women hand-loomed these beautiful pieces. I quizzed him by asking the names of the villages, ages of the women and approximate number of women per workshop, wages and so on. I never trust exactly what I am told about manufacturing, and once again, I have to be sure about the origin of all of Champinx’s products. Feeling completely satisfied with the answers I was given, I started my order. But my brother wasn’t happy, and leant to whisper: “LIES!” in my ear.
With that sinking feeling, I told the shopkeeper that I needed some air and I asked my brother to wait while they retrieved some patchwork cushions for us to inspect. As I stepped outside, I saw two local women deep in conversation. I (rather rudely) stared at them from behind my phone, and took a photograph. They stared right back at me, so I decided to bite the bullet and head over for a chat. After exchanging pleasantries, they set about corroborating the facts given to me about the workshops by the shopkeeper. I was very happy to hear that the shopkeeper was telling me the truth and that the shop had been employing and helping women around the region for years. I enjoyed chatting to the women for some time before heading back into the shop…
I continued to place my order. First we picked the silk and cashmere blended, wool and cashmere blended and 100% cashmere scarves. I had to stop myself from buying every single piece – every pattern appeared to be entirely unique and they were so beautiful. Each scarf jumped out at me as something different and the large, reversible silk and cashmere bedspreads (I use mine as a throw on the sofa) were probably my favourites. Both my brother and I fell for the classy, comfy wool and cashmere blend blankets – even my brother bought one for his sofa back home.
So that was that – a huge chuck of my savings spent, it was a successful trip. As we walked back to our rickshaw pick-up point, we revelled in the organised chaos yet unique allure of the Sardar Market. We will be back!