Bali beyond the basic
The girls are clad in a uniform of floaty tunics and kaftans, strappy sandals and big sunglasses, each arm jangling with bangles and glossy paper shopping bags.
I run into them at three boutiques in a row and at each stop, someone's pulling out a gorgeous gauzy shirt or new belt to show the rest of the gang.
They're on a serious boutique hop, riding the pure, glistening wave of the retail high.
It's not Rodeo Drive, it's not Milan: it's Bali.
Seminyak, to be precise.
Balinese shopping isn't all Bintang singlets and dyed sarongs guaranteed to turn your laundry cerise.
The chic enclave of Seminyak is a United Nations of designers lured by sun, sand and a culture that breathes beautiful design.
If you're expecting cheap Billabong surfwear, forget about it. You don't go to Bali to buy the big international brands: they're imported, so they'll be expensive.
Once you've jumped that mental hurdle, then you can start to explore the real treasures of Balinese shopping: handmade clothes made with a level of detail and finishing for a price you'd never pay at home.
Additional tailoring is also fast, cheap and most boutiques can organise it for you overnight.
Seminyak's boutiques gather in clusters on Jalan Laksmana and in Jalan Raya Seminyak, and you'll see a number of names crop up on both, including Magali Pascal for beautiful lacework (177X Jl Laksmana), and the Brazilians, Lily Jean (102 X Jl Laksmana) and Lulu Yasmine, for sexy and standout statement pieces (100 Jl Laksmana).
Australian designer Penny Pinkster's Mist boutique is a favourite for those after soft, yielding kaftans in a subdued palette (42 Jl Raya Seminyak), Namu will kit you out, from totally covetable lunching ensembles to killer cocktail kit (234X Jl Petitenget) and pick up your saucy nix at niconico intimo (12 Jl Raya Seminyak).
Shop fashion with a conscience at Puravida, owned by two Italian sisters, which produces all its bright, easy-wearing cotton and jersey clothes locally, and supports Eco Bali ventures (38b Jl Raya Seminyak).
It also pays its staff fair wages with healthcare, as does Buddha Wear, which also locally manufactures gorgeous jerseys. Hot tip: nip upstairs to riffle through Buddha Wear's bargain racks if you're on a tight budget (15X Jl Laksmana). Low-key Jamila is a must-stop for the basics (tees, leggings) in black, white and grey, at very reasonable prices, with alterations done in-house (49 Jl Raya Seminyak).
Bargain hunters will love the boutique clearance shops: try Animale for end-of-season flats, sandals and costume jewellery that won't fall apart after the first hour (31 Jl Raya Seminyak). Steer clear of the overpriced kaftans and tatty fashion in Seminyak market opposite Seminyak square.
Men, all is not forgotten: French designer Jacque Ruc's Animale does more tailored, pared-back men's fashion suitable for Australia's sober streets, while Susanna Perini's super-chic Biasa is a hot stop for deconstructed layering for both men and women and also has an artspace for contemporary Indonesian artists (36 Jl Raya Seminyak).
You can snap up cheap, emergency sunglasses, big earrings and your shell jewellery in the stalls at the front of Seminyak Square. Hit Aura for handmade, customised leather goods (21X Jl Laksmana) while Tasmaniac has a cult following for its, er, high-quality, less original handbags (501 Jl Raya Seminyak).
Another little pocket of fabulousness is Jalan Kunti, not far from the intersection of Laksmana and Raya Seminyak. Think of it as "the Paris end of Seminyak".
Here, the beautiful people cool down with cocktails at Word of Mouth's cafe in between cruising its deeply gorgeous homewares and fashion (9 Jl Kunti).
Then, it's a few short steps down to the beautiful interiors of Sydney designer Natasha Welsh's Allegra for floaty, girly statement frocks: beware, they're cut small, so strapping lasses should steer clear to avoid changing-room angst (6 Jl Kunti). Homewares hunters are in paradise in Bali, and not just lovers of the omnipresent Buddha statues.
Jalan Kerobokan is the place to buy lighting. Rice paper, woven branches, statement chandeliers: choose your taste point. Jump in a taxi and kerb-crawl, then hit The White Peacock for super-colourful throws and cushions, located obligingly opposite the Grocer & Grind for good coffee or nearby Petitenget for a luxe lunch and cocktail option.
Carga is chockers full of gorgeous homewares and trinkets (886 Jl Petitenget), and an absolute must-visit is Horn Emporium, by Anita Horn, whose unerring eye will steer you into unchartered territory (100X Jl Petitenget).
For homewares with an ethical bent, make for indi vie, in the Made's Warung complex, which stocks the cutest little dolls made by Bali's street kids, under a not-for-profit charity (Jl Raya Seminyak).
They're also sold at Press Ban cafe, one of the few places you'll find nuevo-retro and vintage fashion (50 Jl Laksmana). Put Kody Ko on the list for knockout artworks (C002 Jl Kayu Cendana).
Seminyak takes its after-shop care seriously: it knows how to reward and rejuvenate the jaded shopper, with a foot massage at Jari Menari (47 Raya Basangkasa) followed by sunset cocktails at Ku De Ta (dress up), La Plancha (dress down) or Potato Head Beach Club (dress however you want, except Bintang T-shirts) to celebrate a job well done.
Belinda Jackson was a guest of Space Villas.
Staying there Seminyak is heaving with accommodation, from budget to break-the-bank. Try Space Villas, No. 8 Jl Drupadi, Seminyak. +62 361 731100, spaceatbali.com.
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Sydney Morning Herald