On my first trip to India seven years ago, I followed the first-timer's tourist trail, wandering through temples, meandering in markets, and sneaking samosas at every corner stall. Soon I discovered that the riches weren't just in the sights, but in the stores: mirrored embroideries, plush pashminas, colonial cane chaises, darling stone deities, and Hindu handicrafts. Unfortunately, take-home trinkets were banned from my backpack, which didn't allow for anything bulkier than a Bollywood CD.
Five years later, forsaking my earthly possessions (it seemed like a good idea at the time), I moved to southern India to study yoga. After months spent sans makeup and Manolos, I found myself dreaming of saris and silks, of sleeping beneath lavish bedspreads, and of wrapping myself in candy-colored wools. And so I decided to avoid the predictable (and polluted) big cities, and instead followed the buzz of stylish friends from London and New York who raved about Goa, Pondicherry, and Cochin, where the posh like to play and local crafts are as plentiful as curry. Shop-hopping in these exotic seaside retreats, I discovered many addresses worth every rupee.
This former hippie hub has fast become a glamorous getaway, and a welcome crop of fashion and lifestyle shops now dot the coast. Anjuna's famous flea market on Wednesdays and the newer Saturday Night Market in Arpora are still great for hunting and gathering Indian goodies at rock-bottom prices.
WENDELL RODRICKS You can find this fashion guru's spare casual wear scattered in stores all over his home state. At his new shop, open this month, you'll have access to Rodricks's finest. Monochromatic bias-cut evening gowns (Issey Miyake meets the subcontinent) and gauzy tunics float from suspended cable wire to lure a design-savvy set. House No. 158, opposite Francesco Luis Gomes garden, Campal, Panjim; 91-832/223-8177.
SANGOLDA Claudia and Hari Ajwani, who run the chic hotel Nilaya in nearby Arpora, sell truly stunning interior pieces. Choose from Ladakhi pashminas, Rajasthani mirrored-and-embroidered cushion covers, rosewood cupboards from Gujarat, and secondhand Sindhi quilts. E-26 Chogm Rd., opposite Mac de Deus Chapel, Sangolda; 91-832/240-9309.
CAMELOT This style sanctuary—filled with a hip, Indo-international mix of furniture and clothing—has all the flair of a shelter-magazine spread. The country furniture, kitschy southern Indian prints, and wool and linen throws are handpicked by architect Arjun Mangaldas. One-of-a-kind scarves and saucy swimwear, from Abraham & Thakore and Indian-born New York designer Alpana Bawa, practically fly out of the store. 139 Fondvem, Ribandar; 91-832/313-0072.
JANOTA Shoe designer Edwin Pinto peddles his fairy tale- worthy footwear—slippers with turned-up toes, mules in silk or jute, gladiator-style and leaf- or snake-design sandals—from a shop next to the Saturday Night Market, as well as from his bare-bones workshop, where four artisans hand-carve his quirky, geometric-shaped soles. Aldeia Aurino, near Damian de Goa, Porvorim; 91-832/241-2129.
CASA GOA Cezar Pinto's charming blue-and-white house in wild Calangute, a beach town north of Panjim, is decked with homey details from every inch of the state. The displays include an array of Goan treasures from mid-19th-century rosewood chests and cane chaises to precious porcelain dishes and painted terra-cotta tiles, all with an Indo-Portuguese bent. Cobravado, Calangute, Bardez; 91-832/228-1048.
MALINI RAMANI Delhi fashion darling Malini Ramani made Goa her second home a few years back. Her seaside flagship is splashed with shades of Miami Beach and stocked with her"rock-star-meets-Bollywood-babe"line. Ramani's camouflage-print tube tops emblazoned with paisleys, embroidered backless jumpsuits, and sequined dresses are de rigueur for the rich and risqué. Opposite St. Anthony's Chapel, Calangute; 91-832/227-5305.
MANTHAN The 15 rooms at this turn-of-the-century manor in South Goa are fully outfitted with clay vessels in the kitchen, colorful cotton and silk shams in the bedroom, carpets and semi-precious stone deities in the living areas. Tiny souvenirs include shell-studded vases, paintings from local artists, and handmade paper. Near Holy Trinity Church, Benaulim; 91-832/277-1659.
SOSA'S This jewel box of a shop, on the banks of the Mandovi River in Panjim's Latin Quarter, is jammed with jute handbags printed with the images of Hindu goddesses and limited-edition ensembles from established designers such as Sanskar by Sonam Dubal and fresh faces like men's wear designer Sandip Mahajan. E-245 Rua de Ourem, Panjim; 91-832/228-063.
'Malini Ramani's shop is the Fred Segal of Goa. I find the most wonderful glittery kurtas in fluorescent chiffons there'
Sarah Giles, British accessories designer