Shanghai is a shopping paradise. There are markets for everything from pearls to crickets, antiques to fake designer bags. For clothing hoarders such as myself, one can find American brands such as GAP, high end international labels, vintage boutiques sporting looks from Japan, and the ever popular local designers such as Annabel Lee (which has the most divine silk scarves) and Shanghai Tang. And I would be remiss not to mention the ever frequent cabbage shops, known as such because their merchandise “fell off a truck”. At these boutiques, I've gotten bargains on factory rejects and overruns of Marc Jacobs and Phillip Lim dresses for a mere fraction of their US retail price.
But for someone looking for something a little more unique (or those with hips wider than the average Chinese woman), a visit to the South Bund Fabric Market is a requirement. Here, you can literally have anything made.
Three floors of nearly identical stalls fill the large building, selling a dizzying array of men's suits and women's wrap dresses. From there, your task to is simply pick which tailor you want to make your attire. Once you have settled on who will make your apparel, you can either provide a drawing or photo of what you would like or choose from one of their samples. Fabric choice is next, followed by thread color, buttons, lining, and fit. Your measurements are taken, you haggle over the price, and once you have given the tailor a deposit, you have an agonizing week wait until you can pick up your garments.
Since then, we have commissioned crisp cotton button downs and a beautifully tailored sports coat for Matthew while I walked out with a killer blue blazer, which is a dead ringer for the one I was coveting at JCrew. Of course, mine cost about a third of the price and fits me perfectly.
The only bad thing about the fabric market? The way my bank account is starting to look after a few too many trips there.