By Mary Kwang
WHEN friends visit Shanghai, I like to take them to shopping venues not highlighted in typical travel brochures.
The first destination on the itinerary - and usually on day one of a Shanghai stay - is the four-storey Shiliupu Cloth Market, where tailoring services are available. The idea is to give the tailors as much time as possible to complete one's orders, including leeway for any alterations.
Indeed, on one trip to the market, I met a Singaporean with a suitcase in tow. To save as much time as possible, she had made a beeline for Shiliupu on arrival at the Pudong International Airport!
While the tailors generally take a week to complete an order, they do entertain rush jobs - often at no extra charge - and can deliver the made-to-measure garments within two days, if not overnight.
|One of the several garment wholesale buildings on Qipu Road. (Photo: Mary Kwang)
But it is advisable not to push one's luck.
At the market, the range of fabrics sold is dazzling - denim, linen, cotton, georgette, organza, silk, brocade and so on. One can also find traditional blue calico and bright peasant cloth with huge flower prints. Generally, the offerings change with the season.
In winter, there are more wool, suede and velvet, while in summer, cotton is more common.
Each stall in the mart is managed by the cloth seller with a tailor standing by. One suffers less grief over the finished product if the tailor receives instructions directly from the customer rather than from the cloth seller.
There is a fascinating range of garments that are custom-made.
My friends order Zhongshan suits or Chanel-type jackets. A few bring along the latest designs from fashion magazines or an old favourite dress or skirt for the tailor to copy.
The skills of the tailors - most hail from outside of Shanghai - vary, and most times, the tailor collects the orders and then gets the clothes sewn by a team of workers in a small sweatshop in the lanes around Yuyuan. The results are best when the tailor is handed an old garment to replicate.
Bargaining is expected. A cotton blouse costs between 90 yuan (S$20) and 120 yuan, depending on the design. The price of a cheongsam or qipao is at least 300 yuan, depending on the fabric. A cashmere jacket costs about 350 yuan. The prices cover the costs of the material (zips and buttons included) and tailoring.
A stone's throw away is the Shanghai South Bund Textile Market, which is similar to Shiliupu.
Most of the businesses in these two places relocated in 2006 from the open-air Dongjiadu Fabric Market, which was cleared for urban renewal.
For friends who prefer ready-to-wear clothes, I take them to Qipu Road, which is Shanghai's wholesale garment district. A taxi ride from Shiliupu costs no more than 15 yuan.
There are several multi-storey buildings in the area which centres on the Qipu Road and Henan Road junction. This is where boutique owners or retailers elsewhere in the city, such as those along Ruijin Road or Changle Road, obtain their stocks.
The wholesalers offer garments for men, women, children and babies, and the range includes jeans, blouses, jackets and underwear.
Here, one can also pick up shoes, belts, bags, hats, caps, and all sorts of fashion accessories and even bed linen.
|Tailoring services are available at the four-storey Shiliupu Cloth Market. (Photo: Mary Kwang)
The area is crowded and chaotic every day and one has to be vigilant about pickpockets.
Despite the seeming mayhem, wholesalers in each building are grouped in sections according to the merchandise they sell.
For instance, a particular floor is designated only for shoe outlets while another floor is for Tshirts and sweatshirts. This helps the buyer zero in on the things he or she wants. It also makes price comparison more convenient.
Almost all the outlets entertain retail customers - more so now that the Chinese economy is slowing. Bargaining is allowed.
Naturally, the greater the quantity one buys the bigger the discounts.
In Shanghai, a person shops for clothes that define him or her. Cab drivers in the city will tell you that local yuppies shop along Huaihai Road, the city's equivalent of Paris' Champs-Elysees while working- class Shanghainese head for Qipu Road.
Provincial tourists who come to Shanghai are taken to the wellknown Nanjing East Road, which offers cheaper merchandise. The true-blue Shanghainese will not be found there, nor at the South Bund or Shiliupu markets. While most foreigners are enthralled by the offerings at these cloth markets, the average Shanghainese has not even heard of either place!
This article was first published in The Straits Times Special. It is produced by the Special Projects Unit, Marketing Division, SPH.