Beijing Shopping Guide: Luxury Labels, Mall Couture and Hutong Boutiques

Though Beijing lacks the uber-chic shopping districts of Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul, its fashion scene is racing ahead at light speed. Over the past decade, luxury labels have poured into China’s cities, but, recently, many local designers—2007 Woolmark Prize winner Qiu Hao, for example—have started to steal their share of the spotlight.

There are upmarket megamalls scattered about Beijing’s center (inside the Second Ring Road) forming the heart of luxury shopping in the city. Meanwhile, many five-star hotels have high end brands inside them. The Peninsula Hotel (8 Goldfish Lane, Wangfujing), for example, has a shopping arcade that includes some of the city’s first Prada, Gucci, Tiffany’s and Bulgari boutiques.

Oriental Plaza Shopping Mall (1 Dongchang’an Jie), one of Asias’s biggest malls, has a mind-boggling array of stores—some up to international style standards, some not. The real delight is in discovering fierce local labels, as well as the occasional twist on foreign labels for the Chinese market. For nearly ten years, Shanghai-based NE Tiger has helmed the cult of couture in China with its breathtaking gowns, embroidered silk dresses and unpredictable interpretations of traditional Chinese fashions.

Beijing’s “mall couture” only begins at Oriental Plaza. The city’s newest upmarket megamall, Shin Kong Place (87 Jianguo Lu) in the Central Business District, houses the majority of the city’s luxury labels—from the largest Gucci flagship store in all of Asia to a host of other international labels including Aigner, Ferragamo, Marc Jacobs and Prada. Nearby, Beijing’s first luxury mall, the China World Shopping Mall (1 Jianguomenwai), includes shops for Armani, Berluti, Cartier, Hermès, Dunhill, Fendi and Louis Vuitton. One of the truly great local boutiques, Mushi, is at the nearby Twin Towers Mall, where Beijing-based French designer Caroline Deleens displays sexy silk dresses and blouses with short billowy bell sleeves.

Hong Kong-based retailer Lane Crawford’s 80,000-square foot flagship store in the Season’s Place Mall (2 Jinchengfang Jie) eloquently summarizes contemporary luxury fashion in China with a broad selection of foreign and local labels, including Givenchy, Prada, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen. Also, Lane Crawford’s Beijing store is finally generating the international buzz it deserves, thanks to a 12-page insert in March’s Vogue and an exhibition on contemporary fashion at Beijing’s Today Art Museum. In the same sprawling establishment, one of our favorite shopping destinations in the city is I.T (also in World Trade Shopping Center), which houses labels such as Lanvin, Dior Homme, Jil Sander and DSquared2, and, adjacent to the store, are freestanding Commes des Garçons’ and Martin Margiela stores.

Looking beyond Beijing’s labyrinth of high-end shopping centers, we discover Nanluoguxiang, a classical brick hutong (alleyway), where Beijing’s hippest congregate in bars, restaurants and small boutiques. Sammy Ye’s linen and silk clothing at Cana (26 Nanluoguxiang) and the intricately embroidered cashmere and silk scarves at Woo (110-1 Nanluoguxiang) are two of the street’s highlights. Plastered T-Shirts’ (61 Nanluoguxiang) wry plays on Beijing icons—from the city’s ubiquitous barbershop-brothels to the fading vestiges of Mao culture—also merits a peek.

And, finally, no shopping trip in Beijing is ever complete without a stop by either the Silk Street (8 Xiushui Dongjie) or Yashow (58 Gongti Beilu) markets, where we find both strings of black cultured pearls, knockoffs of Louis Vuitton and Prada purses as well as cashmere scarves for less than $15. Both markets include tailors that can match any suit design brought to them for as little as $100. We particularly recommend Tailor Ma on the third floor of Yashow.

For information on other Beijing essentials, check out our Top 08 of 08.08.08.

—Blake Stone-Banks

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