Blanc de Chine
Internationally known Blanc de Chine is a much more subtle and subdued take on high-end Chinese fashion than the colorful and glamorous Shanghai Tang. Blanc de Chine’s design philosophy is based on creating beautiful silk clothes that are timeless, “so ancient yet so modern.” Founded in 1986, the company was the first in Asia to draw on traditional Chinese styles like the Qi Pao and Mien O for a contemporary look. There are men’s and women’s collections as well as home products and accessories, all of which use wonderful quality silks and cottons in mainly neutral colors. Think Chinese Armani and you get the idea.
BYPAC Pearls & Cashmere
Chang & Biorck
Chang & Biorck could be described as China’s version of Marimekko. The Swedish designers behind the brand are inspired by Asian art and architecture and use Chinese materials such as silk, bone china, lacquer ware and Mongolian wool, but their items have a distinctly Scandinavian energy.
This chic showroom (there are three in Beijing) of contemporary furniture in the 798 Art District also sells sleek house wares and has a tea shop.
Yes, it old-fashioned and, yes, the service is poor and, yes, the layout of goods is last century. The main reason to go there is for a one-stop-shop look at what is available in the capital city. The state-owned emporium has it all—porcelain, jade, carpets, furniture—at prices that are nonnegotiable. Have a gander, decide what suits your taste, and then head to a specialist store that can offer friendlier service and better prices.
Hong Qiao Pearl Market
A multistory mall that has just one main featured product—pearls—of differing color quality. Treat it a visit as a fun exercise rather than a serious pearl-buying expedition. The pearls are presented in hundreds of ways, and those with Chinese-style designs and motifs make smashing souvenirs or gifts, regardless of their provenance or quality. This is New China in action, where the state and a free market collide. The stallholders appear to be entrepreneurs, instead of state employees, judging by the way they persuasively approach shoppers with well-honed spiels, in the kind of stilted textbook English that is so pervasive in China. Still, all you need to be an effective entrepreneur is a decent sales pitch and the ability to convert from renminbi (it translates as “people’s money”) to dollars in a flash. Some of the individual-stall jewelry designs are funky, while the upper-level stores are swankier places for more serious pearl connoisseurs. Along the sides of the cavernous floor are closed-in stalls selling memorabilia and knickknacks.
Lost and Found
Opened by an American expat, Lost and Found is a lifestyle shop with a vintage sensibility that sells furniture and clothing. The former noodle shop has been transformed into a light and airy boutique that feels historic and modern at the same time. There are wonderful eclectic treasures here.
Lu Lu Cheung
Lu Lu Cheung opened her first boutique in Hong Kong in 1992 and has since emerged as one of Asia’s most respected women’s clothing designers. Her designs are sexy and trendy; some consider her a Chinese version of Theory. This is the branch at Sanlitun Village North.
Panjiayuan Antiques Market
Only in modern-day China would you find a huge bust of Mao Zedong parked next to the Buddha. It is a conundrum how Mao has managed to maintain his halo, at home and abroad, even having his portrait hanging over the Forbidden City, while other 20th- century dictators such as Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot are reviled. The market is a hodgepodge of stuff, none of it particularly valuable, ranging from giant stone and marble statues to copies of Mao’s Little Red Book and pretty much everything in between. There is also a furniture section, with a few stores advanced enough to offer shipping services. Unfortunately, on the market fringes are hawkers selling beautiful animal pelts—tiger skins and the like—from endangered species. China is supposedly clamping down on such nefarious activities, but like the copyright pirates, they seem to operate with impunity.
Drawing on the Chinese tradition of tailoring, Pye has created a temple to the well-fitted shirt. You will find beautiful feminine renditions on the button down but also draped cotton tees in dozens of luscious colors.
Qianmen Carpet Co.
The store stocks a wide selection of China’s finest rugs, from classical designs to ethnic variations from Tibet and Xinjiang, both antique and more contemporary. Ironically, local Chinese tend to favor modern European designs in their homes, while tourists like the Old China style.
This art gallery-like boutique sells some of the most stylish fashion in Beijing. The label’s found Kathrin von Rechenberg studied and worked in Paris with such haute couture ateliers as Jacques Fath, Louis Scherrere, Christian Dior and Chanel before coming to Beijing. She was originally lured to the Chinese capital by its rare tea silk, or “black laquered gauze” fabric in 2000 and has since established herself as one of the country’s most elegant designers. Her designs, which also come in velvet silk and wool, are notable for their graphic lines, subtle draping and layering and simplicity.
Sanlitun Village North
This shopping complex is an expansion of the first open-air mall in Beijing. Many international architects have been involved in creating spaces here, including Kengo Kuma and Frank Gehry. Among the international luxury labels that have opened here are Balenciaga, Lanvin and Alexander Wang. The lower levels are devoted to up-and-coming Chinese designers.
The team behind Shanghai Trio, which opened more than a decade ago in Shanghai, prides itself on merging global know-how (members come from Paris, Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo) with Chinese traditions and a commitment to social responsibility. Their beautiful products include silk pillows and bags, delicate cotton linens and stylish fashions. This Beijing outpost opened in May 2010.
An offshoot of the Shanghai-based original, Spin Ceramics sells innovative and contemporary hand-crafted tableware, ceramics and art. It’s a great place to go for lovely, inexpensive ceramics and gifts.
Tea lovers will be in heaven on this street of tea stalls where you will find hundreds of teas. Remember that green tea is best in summer and black tea in winter. Beijingers would never order green tea in winter as it is considered a cooling beverage.
Founded by American Charlene Wang, Tranquil Tuesdays not only sells Chinese tea but also beautiful teaware from its shop located in one of Beijing’s old hutongs. Wang has created a shop, which is part business, part social enterprise: it is staffed by women, many of whom are underprivileged migrant workers or have troubled pasts. Tranquil Tuesdays also aims to support local craftsman. The store has exclusive teaware collections designed by artists based in Jingdezhen, China’s ancient porcelain-crafting capital.
This minimalist boutique may be hard to find, but it’s worth the effort. Owned by a young couple, the collection features modern takes on traditional Chinese tea equipment and clothing. There is also a store in Shanghai.