Hong Kong Shopping
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)