Sunday, December 20, 2009

Indian Craft Fair = Pharmaceutical Trade Show

(From left to right): Metallic leggings;l white-stone bracelet; white stone set, peacock bangle, square bangles; bronze beaded clutch

True story.  But I have to walk you through my day first before explaining why Indian “exhibitions” (craft fairs) are equivalent to events like the CPhI.

Instead of going to work, I took the day off at my father’s insistence.  I slept in, watched a freshly downloaded episode of The Good Wife (my latest obsession), and got ready and headed to the Novotel with my aunt for a girls’ day.

The Novotel is the newest (and in my opinion, the nicest) hotel in Hyderabad.  We lunched at La Cantina, noshing on enchiladas and a dish I like to call Mexican chole (further proving my theory that Indian-Mexican is one of the most genius culinary fusions EVER).  We went to the spa, getting an oil head massage and facial (for me) and hair color/cut/style (for my aunt), all costing half of my regular hair appointment.

Fully blissed out and relaxed, we walk over to the adjoining convention center to check out the exhibition.  Two seconds in, my relaxation was replaced with agitation, calm replaced by frantic, and in possession of no fewer than 5 business cards.

What the what?

The exhibition was in the largest room in the Hyderabad International Convention Center, with 8 rows laid in front of us filled with jewelry, housewares, clothing, accessories, and handicraft vendors.  We started from the first row, passing the overcrowded and tacky merchandise stalls.  Finally stopping at one, we examine paste-jeweled bangles in search of a gift for my aunt’s neighbor.  After several minutes of deliberation and several more of negotiation, we leave with a amber-stoned bangle and the business card of the Mumbai-based vendor, who promises “anything you want, madam, I will make.”

Pushing our way through the crowd and grimacing at some truly awful bedspreads and saris, we find ourselves at a stall with some truly beautiful evening bags.  Clutches, bracelet-style bags, and satchels, all beautifully embroidered with flowers, mirrors, and beads had my aunt and I acting like 2 kids in a candy store.  Chatting up the vendor (who manufactures all the bags in Mumbai) we select a blue silk clutch embroidered with flowers and a gold mirrored bangle-handled bag for my aunt and a bronze beaded clutch for me.  His card in hand (with his bags in mind for potential wedding gifts for my hypothetical nuptials), we move on…

…to ANOTHER jewelry stall.  This time, for us.  Peacock-headed hinge bracelets are apparently the hot accessory in India right now, and I wanted to score myself one.  This particular stall had a beautifully painted and jeweled one.  They also had three great square bangles (with circle wrist-holes) that caught my eye.  My aunt was on a statement pendant hunt, and selected a beautiful white-stoned one with matching earrings (and bought me her second favorite one from the shop).  More negotiating, more card exchanging, and we left with some fun pieces (forgetting the fact that we had been to our family jeweler two days before and put a pair of blue topaz-diamond earrings on hold…but I digress).

Passing stalls, walking up and down the rows, our energy began to fade and the glitter of paste stones and embroidered fabrics started to mesh together.  We finally made our way to the last stand, where glittery cubic-zirconia bangles (that looked pretty damn authentic) caught my aunt’s eye.  As she tried on the sparkling bangles, I began chatting up the stall owner (this one from Jaipur) and lazily trying on the bracelets and earrings arrayed on his table.  Ending up with a sparking zircon bracelet for my aunt and a white stone bracelet for me (and his card), we peeked down the rest of the row, decided against checking out the rest of the stalls, and began making our way to the exit.

Almost home free, I was suddenly distracted by shiny spandex lying on a table.  Could it be?  Have metallic leggings hit India?  Indeed they did, and within two minutes I snapped up pairs of gold and brown metallic leggings (for a total of 15 bucks, beat THAT American Apparel) and the card of the Mumbai-based proprieter, who promised to put me in touch with her NJ-based reseller and provide the same price I had received.

So, while the merchandise was far more fun than a pharmaceutical trade show, I left mentally drained (due to bargaining), hands full of swag, countless business cards with heaps of follow-up e-mails to write, and aching feet.

If anyone is interested in any of the merch shown in the picture above, let me know and I’ll be happy to put you in touch with the vendors.


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