Annabel Lee's two well-located stores sell elegant, hand-embroidered women's fashions, slippers, purses, and household accessories in delicate fabrics and unfussy colors. The Chinese styles and leitmotifssuch as lotus flowers, dragons, and snuff bottlesallude to 19th-century Shanghai backstreets, though the product quality and consumer appeal is unquestionably 21st-century. The store eloquently portrays how traditional Chinese culture was transformed, but not necessarily destroyed, by the introduction of Western culture in the late 19th century.
Open daily 10 am to 10 pm.
The bespoke tradition continues in Hong Kong—especially for menswear and accessories—and the cost for custom pieces is very reasonable. Unfortunately for women, finding a tailor to make custom dresses and other womenswear is very tricky; most women's clothing requires several fittings over a period of weeks, and prices for well-made women's fashions are also much higher than for men's.
Ascot Chang, the local doyen of men's shirtmakers, now has four branches in Hong Kong, two in Shanghai, and one each in Los Angeles and New York. The International Finance Center store is conveniently close to the stock exchange and investment bank offices, perfect for a clientele that tends to buy its monogrammed bespoke shirts by the dozen. The shirts take just a few days to make, and prices begin at about $65. Ascot Chang also ships worldwide.
Super-popular with the young set, Colorful Workshop sells meticulously hand-painted and embellished canvas shoes and caps made to order in about a week, for around $70 a pop. On most days, one of the artistic sisters who own the store and do the painting is likely to be behind the counter. They keep afternoon and evening hours only; usually, the shop opens at about 3 p.m. and stays open until 11.
Mayer Shoes, which turns out custom men's and women's shoes and boots of every imaginable design, counts a series of former colonial governors, local tycoons, and foreign big shots (like Henry Kissinger) as loyal customers. The cobblers here are true wizards: If you bring in a photo of a pair of pumps or lace-ups you like, they can re-create them in just a few days. There's a good stock of fine leathers and exotic skins to choose from, in a full spectrum of colors; the fancier materials can be pricey. A pair of loafers in, say, alligator will set you back about $900.
Like your Louboutins but want them in other hues too? It's worth hauling your entire shoe collection to the cobblers at Liii Liii, who stock an extensive range of leather and exotic skins. Those in the know will recognize some of Hong Kong's bold-faced names nipping in to augment their designer-filled closets with these perfect copies. Custom orders can take three days but you can always have your new shoes shipped home.
Set free your inner Suzie Wong by purchasing a made-to-measure cheongsam or similar traditional Chinese garb at Linva Tailoring. Bring your own fabric or choose from Mr. Leung's colorful collection of quality silks in traditional shades. Expect to wait four days from initial fitting to follow-up, then another two to three weeks to complete the transformation, with shipping available worldwide.
Upper Lascar Row
For lovers of kitsch, Cat Street Market sells Cultural Revolution memorabilia: "Little Red Book"s, Mao alarm clocks, ceramic Red Guard statuettes, and badges of the Chairman at his most egotistical.
Luxury-brand addicts and those who aspire to be draped in their wares have long flocked to Hong Kong's Central District. But trendsetters are increasingly turning their stilettos around and heading east on the island to Causeway Bay (ten minutes by taxi), toward the new center for stylish bargains. A haven for Japanese fashion followers, Delay No Mall displays and plays with the cutting edge over three ever-changing floors. Expect to find clothing from designers like Bangkok-based Greyhound plus accessories that range from frothy cappuccinos to glitzy diamonds. The nascent talents behind this concept store are the same crew that brought quirky kitchen items and wacky wallets to Hong Kong at irreverent homewares shop G.O.D. Across the street, megastore Muji has a seemingly endless array of well-designed (and well-priced) sportswear, Japanese stationery, and household items from luggage to bath products, plus prepackaged Asian treats like sweet potato chips and colorful marshmallows. The boutiques of Paterson Street have hard-to-find Japanese clothing labels such as Tsumori Chisato and Vert Dense. Nearby, some 160 shops sell trendy clothes in the four-floor Island Beverly Center mall. More of the same plus better known youth-oriented brands can also be found next door among the equally intimate spaces inside Fashion Island.
Shoppers come from all over Asia—and the world—to take advantage of Hong Kong's legendary discount shops and outlets. Here are our favorites:
Clothing labels including Charles Jourdan, Brooks Brothers, Polo, and Kenneth Cole are reduced by up to 80 percent at this flagship Dickson Warehouse. There's another branch at Olympia Plaza (243–255 King's Rd., North Point; 852-2907-1068; www.dicksoncyber.com).
Fa Yuen Street
A slew of factory outlets lines Fa Yuen Street in Mongkok; you can bargain-hunt for items by Nicole Farhi, Ralph Lauren, Emanuel Ungaro, Calvin Klein, Jigsaw, and Banana Republic—all discounted up to 90 percent.
This glamorous department store stocks items by opulent designers like Martin Margiela, Comme des Garçons, Armani, YSL, and Costume National. Prices start at 50 percent of the original cost.
Lo Wu Commercial City
Stuffed to the gills with designer-copy shops, this locally famous mall is a perfect day trip for die-hard shopaholics. Ask your hotel to arrange for a visa (it takes about two days), and transport (by train, it's about about an hour from Central). All the big labels are represented, but prices vary dramatically, so shop around. Goods are divided into A, B, and C grades, depending on the standard of reproduction; A grades are the best and usually kept hidden; customers must ask to see them. Bring Hong Kong dollars, as there are no ATMs, and credit cards are not accepted.
Brand-savvy treasure hunters forgo the glitzy boutiques of Central and head over the Peak to Ap Lei Chau on the island's south side. Space is the place for last season's Prada, Miu Miu, and Helmut Lang. Bring plenty of patience and stamina to rummage through racks and stacks of these three ultradesirable labels. Long lines are proof of the fabulous finds.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 7 pm, Sundays noon to 6 pm.
The drab exterior of this warehouse on the island's industrial south side belies its designer-filled interior. Take the elevator straight up to the 21st floor, where Hong Kong's retail queen Joyce Ma regularly refills the Joyce Warehouse (852-2814-8313) with overstock from clothes that started their days on the floor of her Central megaboutique. Four flights up, Lane Crawford Warehouse (25th floor; 852-2118-3403) offers equally enticing designer frocks and shoes for brand-savvy men and women, plus a few fabulous homewares scattered into the mix.
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 10 am to 7 pm.
Leighton Centre, Sharp Street East
Tel: 852 2890 5555
Started by a local architect, the GOD "lifestyle store" aims to be Hong Kong's version of IKEA. It stocks just about everything for the hip young city dweller oufitting his or her nest: modern, reasonably priced, cheerful-looking furniture; bed and bath linens; kitchenware; light fixtures; clothing. The designs tend to be urban-inspired; some of the most popular products—t-shirts, sheets and pillows, tote bags, chairs, and couches—are screened with prints of tenement housing and local-style mailboxes. In Cantonese, the brand's name sounds like the slang for "to live well." There are three stores, including the Causeway Bay flagship.
Elissa Cohen's number can be found on the speed dial of Hong Kong's top concierges and ladies who lunch. You can make an appointment to design your own indulgent Hong Kong souvenir or browse her selection of South Sea pearls and diamond-encrusted baubles at her shop on Hankow Road.
India-reared English rose Sandra d'Auriol redefines the tagline "Made in Hong Kong" by scouring village markets throughout China for antique jade and silver carvings that she works into timeless one-of-a-kind designs. The Asprey-trained artisan incorporates precious stones in distinctly modern cuts to complement the antique elements.
Granddaughter of the former chairman of Communist China's National People's Congress, fine jeweler Bao Bao Wan seeks inspiration for her eponymous line of 18-karat gold, diamond, and semiprecious stone jewelry from a decidedly more romantic Orient. Imperial Chinese sloping pavilions covered in white diamonds make whimsical earrings, while yellow diamond butterflies alight upon an 18-karat gold ring carved to resemble bamboo. Though widely covered in the Western fashion press, these original pieces are not yet available outside Hong Kong.
Laitai Flower Market, 9 Maizidian Xilu
Tel: 86 10 8454 0387
China is known for its porcelain, and designer Karolina Lehman carries on the tradition by giving her painted tableware a vibrant modern twist. Her eye-catching patterns—swirling goldfish, colorful birds and flowers, or traditional blue-and-white motifs—adorn plates, dishes, ashtrays, candlesticks, and even lamps that can be wired for American currents.
207 Fumin Lu
Tel: 86 21 5403 3551
Linda Johnson's shop in the French Concession is tastefully arranged with vintage posters, antique Qing dynasty cabinets, and altar tables mixed with contemporary clothes (look for designer Jooi's dainty evening bags). Prices are high for these Cultural Revolution relics, but everything is so beautifully displayed that you'll find yourself whipping out the credit card for your very own white porcelain Mao bust, although it's unlikely he would have approved of the $10,000 price tag. For those not looking to spend quite so much, perhaps the kitschy fakes at Dongtai Lu Antique Market are a better bet.
China's most celebrated shopping street, Nanjing Lu sweeps across the city center through the heart of the French Concession. Although many retailers have been replaced by luxury shops (or steel and glass office buildings), there's still faded colonial charm in the few 1920s-era buildings that dot the bustling road. Don't miss the vast Shanghai No. 1 Department Store, known as Dai Sun when it opened in 1934. Today it is packed with crowds and brightly packaged, slightly tacky Chinese goods, including clothing, electronics, and cosmetics (800–830 Nanjing Dong Lu; 86-21-6322-3344). In contrast, at the western end of the street, the shiny Plaza 66 houses a bevy of luxury brands, among them Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Hermès. An enormous atrium lights the mall's interior, while a pianist soothes nerves jangled by too much spending (1266 Nanjing Xi Lu; 86-21-6279-0910; www.plaza66.com
While large swaths of Beijing's historic hutong districts were razed and replaced with sky malls, this small neighborhood near the Drum Tower has somehow survived the destruction. What started as a quiet row of houses renovated into shops and cafés has rapidly gentrified into a hip area of boutiques, small hotels, and restaurants. Perusing the artsy stores is a pleasure day or night. Start at Grifted for tongue-in-cheek modern reworkings of Cultural Revolution slogans painted onto furniture, accessories, and clothing. Then head to Plastered for brash T-shirts and streetwear. Finally, look for the small wall plate for La Mu, which sells beautiful leather-bound stationery and leather jewelry. For a break from the shopping, Xiaoxin's Cafe at no. 103 serves fresh-brewed coffee and home-baked muffins.
Sexy, chic, and casual female Argentinean fashions in two stores that showcase the collections of ten hot Buenos Aires designers: Benedit Bis, Cecilia Gadea, Cora Groppo, Ffiocca, Massone Pini Qüerio, Olive, Pe, Pesqueira, Vero Ivaldi, and Vicki Otero. The beautifully cut, limited-edition garments, purses, and accessories seek to offer new interpretations of Argentina's European immigrant traditions, indigenous arts, and Latin sensibilities. This is the first time this concept has been tried anywhere in the world, and Pampa already has two Shanghai stores, with a third planned.
Open Wednesdays through Mondays 11 am to 8 pm.
Tel: 86 10 6775 2405
If you only go shopping once in Beijing, take a trip to this colorful outdoor bazaar. Also known as the "Dirt Market," (the name comes from the long-ago days when vendors spread their wares on the ground), it's best on the weekends, when densely packed rows of stalls stock all kinds of antique (and antique-looking) curios. There's everything from Communist-kitsch items (Little Red Books, propaganda posters, and pastel-colored statues of Mao), to faded silk qipao dresses, to heavily embroidered "minority textiles"—fabrics made by minority tribal women from China's southern provinces of Guizhou and Yunnan. Savvy bargain hunters know to come on weekends, when there are the most vendors, and to arrive at the crack of dawn for the best prices.
30 Sanlitun Beilu
Tel: 86 10 6416 4423
Designer Gu Lin can make anyone feel regal with her sumptuously embroidered garments. Inspired by imperial designs, her silk and satin jackets and dresses are richly hand-embroidered with dragons, phoenixes, and flowers. Of course, all that painstaking needlework comes at a price. A plain tea jacket costs about $100, while ornate gowns run into the thousands, and unlike most Beijing shops, there is little bargaining at this intimate boutique.
29 Di'anmen Xidajie
Tel: 86 10 8404 4505
Kite-flying has been a Chinese pastime for centuries, and the Liu family has catered to kite fans for three generations. Their tiny store is filled with colorful, traditional handmade kites, each a delicate creation of bamboo and paper that's painted by hand. Some are simply designed, while others take weeks to complete; among the selections are kites shaped like dragonflies, sleek turtles, and long-finned goldfish.
8 Century Avenue
Tel: 86 21 6311 5588
Younger sibling to the Hong Kong original—and also designed by Cesar Pelli—this glass-clad twin-towered mall, office, and retail complex also houses the Ritz-Carlton Pudong. The classiest plaza east of the Huangpu River, it is targeted directly at Shanghai's bejeweled brand mavens, so expect glitzy Hermès, Gucci, Prada, Cartier, Tiffany, and an Apple Store. For purchasing respite, there's a second-floor branch of Shanghai's in-demand patisserie and coffee house chain Baker & Spice.—Gary Bowerman
12 Pedder Street
Tel: 852 2525 7333
The brainchild of flamboyant local designer David Tang, Shanghai Tang (which now has London and New York branches) sells upscale traditionally designed Chinese clothing with a modern spin. Examples include cheongsams (traditional, formal long dresses) in acid-bright hues and Mao jackets cut from the finest silk. There are also accessories like Chinese lamps with jewel-colored shades, modern ceramics, and Chairman Mao watches.
1 Ritan Beilu
Tel: 86 10 8561 3712
An old-world aura hangs over this small shop, which continues a two-generation tradition of jewelry-making begun in the 1930s. Designer Hu Songlin uses fragments of antique porcelain—taken from vases and plates smashed during the cultural revolution—and transforms them into stunning bijoux, all at reasonable prices. Unique pendants and delicate drop earrings feature painted Qing dynasty beauties or a traditional pattern of blue and white. But it's the shop's namesake shard boxes—charming containers with lids that feature insets of rare china—that are the real showpieces here.
8 Xiushui Dongjie (at Jianguomenwai Dajie)
Stiffen your bargaining spine for a visit to Beijing's indoor Silk Market, which, despite its name, is known for knockoffs, not silk. Five floors of stalls will accommodate all your faux-designer needs, with a dizzying array of men's and women's bags, shoes, and clothes. Though recent crackdowns on bogus brand names have made vendors cautious, display a hint of interest and the goods (fake Vuitton luggage, knocked-off-the-runway Chloé, Fauxlex watches) will come tumbling out of the cupboards. But this market is not for the faint of heart: The cramped floors crawl with stall owners screaming "Gucci! Prada!" and the first price quoted can be nearly as high as the real thing at Barneys. Be prepared for heated and relentless bargaining that will generally end with you paying more than you wanted to. The best deals are on the top floor, where you can score made-to-order prescription glasses for a steal.
227 Yongjia Lu
Tel: 86 21 6433 8283
Opened by Florence Samson, a French former luxury-brand executive, this stylish tea emporium sells a vast range of Chinese, Asian, and New World teas. Housed in a lovingly restored three-floor French Concession town house, Song Fang features wooden floors and brightly painted 1920s Chinese tea and biscuit tins on the shelves. Tea connoisseurs will find everything from Fujianese oolong to Yunnanese blends and Indian Assam, all stored in aqua-blue pots with Chinese tea-pickers on the logo. There's also a cozy upstairs tearoom.
Open daily 10 am to 7 pm.
Located on the southeastern side of Hong Kong Island, this bargain-stocked waterfront promenade is well known to every taxi driver. Look for supple bed linens at Tong's Sheets and Linens or add some colorful Chinese peasant paintings to your walls from Cottage Gallery. Cashmere aficionados load up on the cuddly stuff at Fook Tak Ho and China Town, while women can bring a touch of Hong Kong to their closets with a traditional silk cheongsam from Lotus Village.
Open daily 9 am to 6 pm.
Shanghai's fashion-savvy head to this ever-expanding warren of renovated lane houses, a treasure trove of tiny clothing and jewelry boutiques, to find their best threads and accessories. La Vie offers a hodgepodge of local and Hong Kong designers. Helen Lee has made a splash with her unstructured styles and sassy T-shirts at Insh. Look for striking Jooi handbags and home accessories, Tibetan rugs by Torana Carpets, and handpainted Asianera porcelain at a new eco-retail collective called Nest. Shirt Flag's tees, hats, and canvas bags emblazoned with red stars, hammers, sickles, and other Cultural Revolution graphics have developed a cult status among Shanghai's cool kids. Finally, dress up your dining table with ceramics from the Pottery Workshop, which features tableware, vases, and other objects designed by local ceramicists.
A Shangri-la for tea lovers, this enormous indoor market has 600-odd shops that seem to sell all the tea in China. Stroll among the stalls and learn about the different leaveseach province has its own specialty, from Anhui's gentle green tea, to Hangzhou's fragrant longjin dragon well, to Yunnan's pu'er tea, which is aged over decades like fine wine. There's little English spoken here, but vendors are eager to offer samples and advice. An array of tea accoutrements is also on offereverything to make the perfect pot.
Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
This is the liveliest night market in Hong Kong, with 400 stalls selling clothes, CDs, and fake designer watches. When the superficiality of shopping kicks in, you can seek the real purpose of life from fortune-telling birds and face-readers. Impromptu screeches of Cantonese opera are a regular feature, and if you're hungry, a nutritious bowl of snake soup should fill the gap. Visit between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., but be careful about venturing beyond the main parts of the market—some of the surrounding neighborhoods can be unsafe.
The cobblestone streets of Xintiandi, a preserved neighborhood–turned–outdoor mall, are lined with upscale restaurants, bars, and, above all, an abundance of chic stores. The development revamped old stone shikumen town houses, the abundance of expats and Western-style eateries can sometimes make Xintiandi feel like suburban California. Ground yourself with a stop at the on-site minimuseum, which portrays life in a typical shikumen house during the early 20th century. After selecting a souvenir or two from the gift store, head to Shanghai Tang for a wide assortment of China chic, including qipao dresses in bright modern palettes and melamine plates with pop-art renderings of iconic Chinese images. You'll find chinoiserie and unique porcelain sets at Simply Life, which does dishes in swirls of imperial yellow or with painted peonies. For dainty silk accessories and slick pajamas, try Annabel Lee.
58 Gongti Beilu
Tel: 86 10 6415 1726
Create your own body-skimming qipao (cheongsam) dress at this indoor market, where tailors and fabric vendors occupy the third floor. Choose from a rainbow of silks and flip through the stylebooks to find your perfect China-girl look. A made-to-order gown can take just 24 hours and cost as little as 200 yuan ($25)—though Beijing lacks a tailoring tradition, so don't expect perfection. The other four floors offer an enormous selection of faux designer wear, everything from shoes to shawls to sunglasses, all purveyed by vendors who will bargain fiercely.
Bund 18, 2nd floor
18 Zhongshan Dongyi Lu
Tel: 86 21 6323 8688
Younik, in the Renaissance-pillared Bund 18 building, is a polished second-floor boutique selling ready-to-wear clothes by Korean brand Shion by Choichangho and swish jewelry by fellow Koreans Nouveautes and Taean. Look also for the colorful men's cravats by Nouveautes; assorted bags, purses, and accessories by Shanghai Trio; and modern Scandinavian glassware by Swedish duo Barbro Wesslander and Pia Amsell.
Open daily from 10 am to 10 pm.
For a genuine slice of Hong Kong life, visit this market, where hundreds of songbirds tweet in elaborate mahogany cages while stall managers feed them grasshoppers and nectar with chopsticks. (Take the MTR train to Prince Edward station, exit Prince Edward Road West, walk east for 10 minutes.)