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We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."

Padma Lakshmi is on-the-go again. The television host, chef and best-selling author jumped on the phone with Fashionista as she made her way to the airport, first thing in the morning, for yet another one of her travels. 

"I am literally on the road eight months of the year," says Lakshmi, after emerging into from the Holland Tunnel into full cell service (and full-on multi-tasking).

Adding to another of her multi-hyphenate titles — model/fashion icon — Lakshmi returns to Madewell's "What Are You Made Of" Spring 2022 campaign. Alongside fellow culinary creatives and cultural change-makers Sohla El-Waylly and Antoni Porowski, the author of "Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet" shares delicious, self-expressive and easy-to-make recipes, like her "Clouds of Cardamom and Cashew Cookies" from the book. The three also model a capsule of their spring favorites. Lakshmi appears in one of her wardrobe staples.

"I wear a lot of jumpsuits," she says. "I've had probably 25 jumpsuits of every kind: cashmere, denim, cotton, fancy ones. I wore one when I presented at the Global Citizen [Live in 2021, below]. I've had an Alexander McQueen for 10 years that I wear a lot. The Madewell one is a loose, relaxed fit — you see me in the campaign rollerskating [in it]."

Padma Lakshmi in a Saint Laurent jumpsuit at Global Citizen Live in New York City in 2021.

Padma Lakshmi in a Saint Laurent jumpsuit at Global Citizen Live in New York City in 2021.

The three-time Emmy nominated "Top Chef" host also headlines her own Hulu docuseries, "Taste the Nation," in which she's been known to wear a jumpsuit. It explores the rich history, stories and people behind the food culture of immigrant communities, which continues to shape American cuisine. Laskhmi also uses her expansive, worldwide platforms for activism: She's an ACLU ambassador for immigration and women's rights, and champions global income equality as a UN Goodwill Ambassador. (Even down to a grassroots level, she makes a difference — hey, Liza, remember when we went to "Padma Hosts Another Comedy Show" in 2019 to benefit the National Network of Abortion Funds? This was a year after Lakshmi organized her first comedy showcase to amplify women, queer and BIPOC comedians and raise funds for the Movement Voter Project. )

As Lakshmi traverses the globe for work, humanitarian efforts and cultural immersion, she's also thinking back to one of her early jobs: fashion. 

"I'd love to design a capsule collection of travel [pieces], where we have a couple of jumpsuits, a couple of tops, a couple of sweater dresses and some slinky things," she says.

Ahead, Lakshmi shares how she plans her wardrobe for cooking and entertaining (but no shoes in the house!), what she packs for her continuous travels and where she loves to shop around the world.

Lakshmi for the Madewell Spring 2022 'What Are You Made Of' campaign.

Lakshmi for the Madewell Spring 2022 'What Are You Made Of' campaign.

"Over the last decade, my sense of style has gone through a 'purification.' That's the best way I can say it. I've gotten rid of a lot of the things that I just felt weren't me anymore, and every so often that happens. There was a point in my life when I'd wear a lot of very beautiful, extravagant floral dresses and maxi dresses — things with a lot of stuff. But it just doesn't seem to suit who I am today. So I gave them away to my younger cousins, or just got rid of them and gave them to younger women. I don't even think it has to do with age, it just has to do a clarification of who I am as I get older. 

"I've gotten a lot more pared-down and focused. I do like high-waisted jeans. They fit my body because most of my length is in my legs. I have a 36-inch inseam, so I need a lot of high-waisted flared jeans [to wear with] a T-shirt. I grew up in the '70s — whatever the style is at the time of your mother, it imprints on you, and that's definitely the case for me.

"When I'm cooking, I wear anything, from what I've worn to the gym to cotton tank dresses, because, no matter what you do — even when you wear an apron — your clothes still smell of food. At home, I don't really wear an apron. I just wear these very simple cotton dresses that are often just very long tank tops, and then just throw them in the washer after I cook. I prefer to be barefoot and in some kind of simple cotton dress, or, again, just jeans and a T-shirt. Always machine-washable clothes.

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"If I'm entertaining,  I cook 75% of the meal before anyone gets there, and then I leave little things to the last minute, like tempering spices. I always design a menu where a lot of the things can be mostly made ahead, and then there are one or two items that just have to be finished off. I also want to involve my guests in cooking. I make sure that the table is set, the flowers are nicely raised, the wine is chilling, and then I go and I have a shower. Because I just don't want to answer the door smelling like food — with my hair greasy — and all frazzled.

Lakshmi for the Madewell Spring 2022 'What Are You Made Of' campaign.

Lakshmi for the Madewell Spring 2022 'What Are You Made Of' campaign.

"I come out of the shower, I put my perfume on, a little makeup and tousle my hair. I may even have the first glass of wine before anybody gets there, so that I'm relaxed — because, regardless of what you cook, if you're relaxed and you're in a good, happy disposition and mood, that's infectious, and all of your guests will also feel that. There's nothing worse than arriving and the host doesn't have anything done and she's nervous, and that makes you nervous and feel like you're almost imposing, even though she's invited you. That's the way I entertain. But I am a shoeless house. We're Indian, so we don't allow shoes in the house. So I'm usually barefoot, regardless of what I'm wearing in my home.

"I put on a nice dress or whatever — usually, a sweater dress because they still give you a nice hourglass shape, but they're cozy and warm. I'm a very informal, relaxed person. I love sweater dresses because I travel so much. I'm on the road at least half a year. A sweater dress is great because you can just throw in your suitcase and when you put it on, it stretches out and you don't need to iron it.

"I've been very, very fortunate to be able to roam the globe as I have, so my house and my fashion, obviously, are a reflection of that. I've only been there once — I'd like to go back — but I love Istanbul. Istanbul was fabulous. The souks in Istanbul have so many interesting fabrics and little glass tea sets and jewelry. I've got purses and gold necklaces there. I love Morocco. I bought this beautiful pottery from Colombia called 'tierra negra,' which makes lentils taste so delicious. I've also pilfered little things from the 'Top Chef' set over the years, like the Donabe [Japanese clay pot] that was used for 'Restaurant Wars.' I just like hunting and gathering things: seeds and twigs and spices, from all over the world, like from Seychelles and Fiji. I was speaking at a literary festival in Bhutan and I brought back all of these gorgeous mushrooms and Sichuan peppercorns from the market there. I never knew how many mushrooms there could be in Bhutan. That was beautiful.

"I love Paris. There's no place like Paris to shop, if you know where you're going — and I do. I know the Paris flea market like the back of my hand. Most of my house is either decorated with Eastern things, from India and Bali, or Paris from the Belle Epoque. Like, my chandeliers are Baguès. It was very complicated, but I wound up buying this velvet fabric there to reupholster my big couch. 

"I have Bakelite jewelry from the '60s that I got in Paris as well. I have a Bakelite necklace from the Paris flea market and it's beautiful. It's burgundy beads with a little girl on the bottom with big gold rings. I love that piece. 

"When I was in New Orleans, I found, in some forgotten case at a thrift store, this rose-gold, long chain pendant. I think they thought it wasn't real — and did I, but I loved it and I bought it. And, after all these years, and all the water it's been in, just jumping in the ocean at the last moment, we realized that it's actually real gold!

"When I was filming 'Taste the Nation,' I was just in my old Indian neighborhood of Jackson Heights and we went into Krishna Jewelers, and I loved these hoops. They're the gold hoops I wear in every episode [below], unless I'm wearing just my diamond studs. I don't carry a lot of jewelry with me when I'm working on 'Taste the Nation' — just my hoops, the two necklaces I always have, my watch and maybe diamond studs to change, if the earrings look too much.

Lakshmi, wears her gold hoops and necklaces, in 'Taste the Nation' season two, episode three, 'Mojo-ho Christmas,' in which she celebrates Miami's Cuban community.

Lakshmi, wears her gold hoops and necklaces, in 'Taste the Nation' season two, episode three, 'Mojo-ho Christmas,' in which she celebrates Miami's Cuban community.

"I'm a military operation when it comes to packing. I've been a model since I was 21, but I've been traveling since I was four years old. I always pack one pair of skinny jeans, one pair of flared jeans and one pair of jeans I can wear without heels. Then, depending on the weather, I try to pick two or three colors of sweater dresses that will go with everything, so I can minimize how many pairs of shoes [I pack], or one slinky black dress and one sun dress for daytime. I take two cashmere sweaters, a bunch of T-shirts and tank tops. I take one brown belt and one black belt; one nice skinny one and one a little wider. I take my sneakers and my jump rope, so I always will be able to exercise, no matter where I am. And I take two cashmere shawls — one light, one heavy — one bathing suit, one pareo, one light jacket, one cardigan sweater and a few silk blouses. And a pair of leather pants, if it's cold. I always carry one heel, one ankle boots, one sandal and one sneaker.

"I even carry a little Ganesh [elephant-headed Hindu god, who's the patron saint of writers and travelers], with a little mini packet of incense. I always leave sticks of incense strewn at the bottom because I'll use them to freshen the hotel room. I always carry a couple of sarongs. I like to spread them on the furniture because you don't know who's been sitting on that. Sometimes, I'll throw it over a lamp to give me some ambience. When you travel a lot — and I've traveled so much, whether it was four months in Cuba for my first movie or four days for some little thing I'm doing — I always like to make my hotel rooms feel special. I have my little system, and I love it. It's comforting to me."

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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