Fashion Chennai

Not only is Chennai the fourth largest city in India, but an up-and-coming fashion and innovative design center. Don't believe me? With such names as Etalage, Hi-Style, and even Sperm (yes, you read that correctly) and hidden gems found throughout the city, it's hard to doubt Chennai's evolving style status.
Talks of developing a new mega-plaza complex in N'Bakkam only affirms what both brand names and smaller labels already knew- that this thriving Southern city is a perfect niche market.
The traditional coexists seamlessly with the modern; western-style dresses are beaded with intricate Indian patterns and sewn beautifully, large brands such as FabIndia retail salwar kameez sets in non-conventional patterns, such as polka-dots, and are flatteringly cut to fit a woman's form. This seeming paradox can be viewed best in the heart of the city- where every passer-by dons a different look. One girl could be wearing cool Levis with a breezy tunic, and the next could be glowing in a bright sari. This kind of individual style radiates on the streets, but is only now beginning to emerge.
Western influence, in the form of advertisements, the presence of classics such as Levi's and Nike, and tourists, aid in the development of the new attitude. This influence can best be experienced in Bollywood films, which add some heat to this trend with leading ladies sporting more cleavage and body hugging looks. In North America, it's all about original style. Mixing and matching vintage finds with designer stuff to create a distinct look is the norm. But Chennaites seem to favour two distinct looks: the flawless and elegant, or the newly developing diversion from this- which involves Western cuts and more skin. This can be demonstrated even by walking into Spencer Plaza and finding "party tops", clingy bright numbers with rips, rivets, and splashy text.
At the same time, you can't just walk into any store in the city and get exactly what you saw in the latest Vogue. Fit, look, and color are key to being in style, which is why walking into any tailor's shop will not yield the best results. Trailblazers such as Silkworm and Etalage can take custom orders and tailor-make the garment for an individual, with enough fashion insight and information to know exactly what "bubble hem", "asymmetrical cut", or "slouchy" implies. Having a global perspective gives companies like this an edge, and spearhead Chennai's growing label as "fashion hot spot".
So is it Western influence or a natural progression to more drama, a la Bombay, that is leading Chennai down this more edgy and Western road? Whatever the answer, the sexy modern look is only heating up.


Grande lattee, Extra Foam

Even as far away from home as India, Western coffee culture is still ingrained in my mind. It shows itself everyday- regardless of how hippy-chic I have become. I could denounce shaving my legs before I denounce that perfect steaming cup of rich goodness.

It's a case-in-point everyday; I want to write an article- where do I go? I can't possibly write at the flat because, even on the off chance that no one is home to distract me with fun, the area is constantly a mess. Concentration is impossible when, every two minutes, you glance up to glare at the pineapple stained wall (don't ask) or drift off, devising new methods of removing that 20-day-old juice stain on the floor. For a person whose mother is studying hygiene, and sharing very specific knowledge with everyone in the immediate family, the dirt is too much to bear.
Brainstorming outside seems ideal: the sunshine, open area, and greenery should foster creativity, right? Maybe if you lived in the countryside, and not in the city where the constant heat, pollution, and noise will slowly drive anyone insane. You crave a relaxed atmosphere.

So where can one go to escape and create, a place to focus? The answer is quite simple to me, really; a coffee shop! Not only can I score more caffeine than is humanly necessary to keep an active mind, but it's also air-conditioned. And clean.

More specifically, it's a structured ambient place where I can be constantly inspired to buckle down and get something done, newspaper work or otherwise.

Chennai can be seen as a haven for this type of culture. It's surprising to know that Starbucks hasn't dug it's corporate paws into the cafe-rich Chennai, especially in Nungambakkam, which houses the most popular and established cafes.

So whether you feel like a quick drink to keep you going, a relaxing atmosphere to ponder life in, or a place with a beat for a good time, look no further because this is the guide to the best cafes in town.

Oxford Book Store- Upstairs Cafe
ground floor of Apeejay House on Haddows Road
This light, free space features wood floors and excellent light to read by. Search the internet for 25 rs an hour or check out their great menu of items, which include Western, as well as Indian favorites. A great place to go to get some work done!


15 Old No 9,Khader Nawaz Khan Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai, 600034 - 044 42317690
The hottest spot to go for a good time with friends. The low seating on sofas, in a rickshaw (yes, you read that correctly), and on ornate benches creates a conversational and relaxed mood while the music varies from Top 40 to ambient to rock. Smoke some shisha, drink a latte, or eat some fabulous dessert. You can even enjoy a full meal here, as well. Anything goes in a place where so many young people come together, so don't be surprised if you catch the eye of a cutey in a seat near-by.

Truly a gem. The lush gardens and tranquil standing water give way to an open courtyard enclosed in it's own mini-jungle. Posh and serene, this place can transform you into a creative poet, avid reader, or just a person needing a break. At night, the faerie lights are turned on and the young crowd can be seen in clusters at tables, mingling and catching up. It's entirely a smoking area, whether that is a good or bad thing. The prices are higher here than most cafes, but you always get what you pay for and here, you get only the best coffee, tea, and light fare.

Coffee Day and Hot Breads Bakery
23/124,Ispahani Centre, Nungambakkam High Road, Chennai, 600034 - 044 42070620
A relaxed, informal atmosphere where you can sit in chairs and lounge, reading the local paper available. It's reasonably priced, the desserts are delish, and the drinks are very creative. The staff are very friendly, funny. A cookie iced latte will leave you with a satisfied tummy and a sugar rush like no other! A cow bell hangs above the door- don't forget to ring it if you've had a good time!

Casa Piccola
Ok, so this isn't technically a cafe- it's a European resto loung and patio. But if the breeze is good on a particular day and you don't mind a limited coffee/ tea menu, then head up to the patio, complete with leather bean-bag chair, white washed walls, and low seated sofas. Watch the clouds drift by, the palm trees sway, and listen to the music. Be warned, though, since the tunes can range from mild ambient to hard core rap in the span of 10 minutes!

Barista Coffee Pub
Nungambakkam High Road 28205408
Save the best for last! This cafe is the epitome of what Western coffee houses are, most of all Starbucks. It has both sofas and chairs to accommodate lone travelers or groups of people. You can get items to go with ease, or have a proper sit-down. The food is light and snack-y, with the main focus on quality of coffee. There is a noticeable casual cool vibe. Come here on a hot day top cool off and get your chill on.