NEW DELHI: A buzzing café next to a silent 14th century tomb . A century-old haveli just a few feet away from a brightly lit boutique with the best in high fashion on offer. And young fashion designers looking for embroidery material in a narrow lane with a buffalo being milked at the other end. These seemingly disparate worlds, separated by centuries, coexist and merge in absolute harmony in south Delhi’s Shahpur Jat , an urban village that is now a fashion hub .
One of the oldest villages of the city, Shahpur Jat is home to potters, painters, designers, boutiques, NGOs, historical tombs, cafes and many more. Abutting the ruins of Alauddin Khilji’s medieval Siri Fort, this urban village has transformed into a popular high-fashion retail area that melds the traditional with the modern.
“I came here more than 50 years ago after my marriage. Back then, the village was surrounded by fields and we grew cauliflowers, which were sold across the city,” says Risalo Devi, in her seventies, sitting outside her two-storey house. It was during the 1982 Asiad when the villagers sold their land that residential areas, sporting facilities and auditoriums came up. “These shops came up in the past two decades, and a village that was once chiefly known for cauliflowers is now known for fashion. This has brought prosperity to the villagers but everyone has become so busy now,” she rues.
While the boutiques and designer stores have transformed this once sleepy village, the village too has lent its quaint charm to the fashion destination. “It is still very much a village. While there are boutiques on the ground floor, you will find people sitting on muddhas on the upper floors,” says Priyanka Pandey, a designer at the ‘I Am Design’ store. “These two very different worlds live in complete harmony,” she says. Kajal Verma, another designer, recalls that she has been frequenting Shahpur Jat for more than decade as she can source all materials according to her budget from one place, which also houses a large number of skilled artisans.
While Shahpur Jat’s evocatively named narrow lanes — Dada Jungi House lane, Fashion Street, Gora Street — are lined with boutiques offering designer and ethnic wear, the village also houses a number of shops selling accessories, jewellery and embroidery items and is home to hundreds of skilled artisans belonging to West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh etc. In fact, don’t be surprised if you find shops offering mobile phones, affordable food and haircuts with signboards in Bengali. Shahpur Jat is a melting pot in more ways than one.
Delhi Tourism, in association with Delhi government, has organised the second edition of ‘Shahpur Jat Autumn Festival’. The two-day festival, which was inaugurated on Saturday, features heritage walks, fashion shows, folk dances, painting, calligraphy, storytelling, recycling workshops and live band performances.
“This year, the festival is showcasing the traditional through folk music, dance performances, poets and stand-up comedians with that tangy Haryanvi flavour and fashion through stalls set up by local designers with professional fashion shows showcasing their exquisite designs. Fashion rounds featuring the moustache twirling taus along with their granddaughters will also be seen at the mega fashion show,” explains Greater Kailash MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj, under whose stewardship the first edition of the festival was held last year.
On Sunday, the festival will highlight works of Shahpur Jat designers at a fashion show, followed by the mega finale – a musical concert by Bollywood singer Monali Thakur. Sunday morning will witness a heritage walk by INTACH and there will be a history and market walk by India City Walks in the evening.