It’s hard to imagine that only a dozen years ago Friendship stores were the main shopping option for visitors. Today, virtually every luxury label in the world has a branch here; they don’t seem to be selling much yet, but everyone from Cartier to Zegna wants to build brand recognition with Chinese consumers. Their wares are not a good deal for Western visitors, however, because a luxury levy makes them up to 30 percent more expensive than they would be elsewhere. Instead, you should buy what is made here. Here are the neighborhoods to hit.
Xintiandi, which means new heaven and earth, is a nine-acre neighborhood of restored brick houses that serves as a Chinese version of South Street Seaport or Faneuil Hall. Its fabricated sense of history disguises what’s essentially an outdoor mall. It’s well done, though, with chic restaurants and shops housed in traditional sikhumen houses. My favorite boutiques follow: Annabel Lee for very pretty purses and silk and linen blouses. Layefe Home (No. 12) for stylish housewares on the ground floor and fashion on the second. Shanghai Trio is the atelier of a French expat who pairs European standards with Asian textiles to create unusual bags and scarves.
Just outside Xintiandi but nearby is a branch of Blue Shanghai White, which sells hand-painted china from the ancient capital of Jingdezhen. The Ming-style wooden furniture and trays incorporating porcelain tiles are very attractive. Other notable shops in the area: Rouge Baiser, where a French designer has enlisted local artisans to create her beautiful embroidered linens and children’s clothes. There’s a Gallic delicacy and sophistication to the styles but the palette is vibrant. Old China Hand Reading Room is a café carrying a great selection of books on old Shanghai and a pleasant place to linger. Owned by an expat with a great eye, Madame Mao’s Dowry showcases wonderful antique Chinese furniture, Mao memorabilia, like Mao statues from the ’60s, and modern silk and embroidered clothing and purses by local designers. The assortment is very seductive.
Taikang Lu is a burgeoning shopping area with lots of small boutiques mixed in with artists’ galleries and ad agencies. Take a taxi to 200 Taikang Rd., where an alley contains a number of interesting shops, selling everything from embroidered linen to silks and cashmere knits. A good stop is Layefe, which sells home furnishings and fashion. Farther along, La Vie showcases the clothes of a number of local designers but doesn’t seem to keep regular hours. In the courtyard, which has an outdoor café, be sure to check out Woo Scarf & Shawl, which specializes in embroidered scarves and shawls at very good prices. Take a break at Kommune or Bell.
Two shops of note just off the Bund are Suzhou Cobblers, for beautifully embroidered silk shoes and purses, and Blue Shanghai White (17 Fuzhou Rd), described in the Xintiandi section, which sells hand-painted china from the ancient capital of Jingdezhen. Have high tea or cocktails at the Peninsula after your shopping spree.
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