Before Zara, Forever 21, and H&M opened up their stores in Delhi - Sarojini Nagar was my go-to place to get clothes from Zara, Forever 21 and H&M. The favourite dress in my closet is a black one from Topshop - it's in a gorgeous woollen fabric and fits me perfectly. It makes me feel like a million bucks but I bought it for Rs. 700, from Sarojini Nagar (or as it is lovingly known, ‘Saroj’). Even at that price tag, it is probably one of the most expensive fashion items you’d find in that market. In fact, I got yelled at by my best friend for not bargaining more.
So, I couldn’t help but wonder, where do the bhaiyas get their stock from?
A couple of calls to my friends in the garment industry, and I had the answers. All the stacks and racks of clothes you see at Sarojini is ‘export surplus’. Yes, you’ve probably already heard that term before. There are over a hundred factories in and around Delhi, have been contracted by your favourite global brands to make clothes. Think Gap, Primark, Mango, Adidas, Zara, H&M and Forever 21.
The high street labels survive thanks to the exporters in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. The labour here is cheap, hence, so is that cute dress you spot in the market.
When a garment exporter gets an order, to be on the safe side, they produce 3% more products. And before a shipment is sent to a brand, there is an inspection that takes place. The inspectors check for minute details - is the zipper in place, is the print in the same shade that was promised? Even a slight issue and they have a reason to cancel the order.
The salesmen at Sarojini, pick up the stock from the exporters in bulk. So if they’re telling you that they’ll sell you a shirt for Rs. 400, then they probably picked it up for Rs. 100-150, from an exporter.