Remember when shopping was special and not a hassle or merely a computer transaction? My earliest memories of shopping jaunts with my mother were considered special occasions. We dressed up to go to boutiques on Madison Avenue (even Indian Walk for new school shoes). Shopping expeditions always included a victory lunch so we could gloat over our spoils and review those shoes or dresses we had left behind but still haunted us and discuss whether to return.
When I was older and could go on my own or with friends, shopping was a guaranteed way to cheer up after a break-up or a bad day at work, and an ideal opportunity to bond. It involved the prowl, the ferreting out of something unusual and the attainment of some item that could enrich your look and your life. But in recent years, the fun seems to have disappeared. Big brands have pushed out small boutiques. Department stores carry more and more of the same things that you have already seen in magazines or online, so there's no novelty by the time you discover them on the rack. The internet allows us to search smarter (comparing prices and styles) at our computer and with the click of a button, so efficient transactions don't involve human interaction--a far cry from celebrating with lunch.
A few years ago, I noticed that I found the thrill of shopping only when I did so on the road. I would uncover treasures in the markets of small towns in Peru or Brazil or in the bazaar in Cairo or Marrakech or in little boutiques in Asia or Europe, where artisans were making one-of-a-kind accessories or fashion or objects. Last summer, I decided to introduce some of these artisans--many of whom are working with women's groups and small communities to build sustainable workshops in impoverished communities--to friends at a one-day souk (or bazaar sponsored by my travel company Indagare). Friends came together. They called other friends and told them to come. The thrill of discovery, the excitement of finding one-of-a-kind pieces and the fun of learning about places through the products, such as Maasai beading or Cambodian silk weaving, charged the atmosphere with energy. As one woman donned a suede skirt with hundreds of ostrich feathers that swayed like an avian ruffle, all the other shoppers looked on with envy. (There was only one and she had snatched it up.) When another woman clenched a cuff made from a jungle leaf dipped in gold onto her wrist, the vendor immediately sold the remaining three more. People lingered and chatted and commented on others' purchases. The community spirit bubbled, and so it has as at the other Indagare souks we have put on. This week, we are hosting one in Southampton with vendors from Kenya, Rwanda, Marrakech, the Philippines, Colombia, India, Lebanon and more, and I am certain the magic of shopping will be there again. Read how to shop the Indagare souk.
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