Giant on the move
Beijing shopping surprises
I love to shop – I’m not afraid to admit it. And I passionately believe you can never have too many T-shirts, shoes or bags (and that you should never underestimate the power of a good moisturiser either).
One of the great joys of living in China, and especially in Beijing, is the shopping.
Sure, it’s not as sophisticated as Hong Kong or as off-beat as Taipei, and very few places in Asia can trump Bangkok, but China’s smokey capital has its charms when it comes to a bit of retail therapy.
So here is a personal list of my favourite top 5 shopping destinations in Beijing, in reverse order to keep everyone in suspense.
5) Spin. Pottery’s not sexy, right? Wrong. The master craftmen (and women) behind this store sure know how to whip up a storm with the clay. Simple, clean and understated is the order of the day. And it’s not too expensive. Word on the street is a certain well-kown European fashion designer liked the shop so much he snapped up 20,000 sets of plates during a winter swirl through the city.
4) The cashmere sweater place. Nobody really seems to know what it’s called, but it’s quite well located near the new Dengshikou subway stop. Simply take in a jumper, hat or other top you want copied, pick a colour, and they will produce a copy for you in softest cashmere. It’s very adictive. “I can’t wear anything that’s not cashmere these days,” another cashmere junkie remarked to me recently. And it’s quite understandable. Not cheap, but then luxury never is.
3) This recommendation isn’t one shop, but the part of Beijing’s famous Panjiayuan, or antique market, where they sell old books. I can spend hours here, picking out hidden little gems printed in China’s Communist heyday. This includes glossy hardback coffee table books, sometimes with English text, on China’s provinces. The two books I’m most proud of finding, and have given me the most pleasure, are a book on the remote and rather mysterious province of Qinghai, and another entitled “New China Builds”, full of the brutalist and minimalist architecture that marked the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
2) I don’t know what this store is called either. All I know is that it is at the Nali mall in Sanlitun, next to Alameda restaurant. But what I do know is they sell the most gorgeous belts covered with traditional Chinese floral and animal designs. My mother disapproves, so obviously I wear the belts all the time. But you can also get funky scarves, socks and bags.
1) Plastered. As the owner of a fine collection of T-shirts (I think I have close to 200 now) I’m somewhat obsessed by this place. Retro-Communist-cool designs from the 1970s and 1980s reinterpreted for the new millenium, and printed on T-shirts. My own little piece of heaven. According to the owner, I am one of only two people who bought the most unpopular design ever — the word “Sharon” printed in black felt onto a pink T-shirt. And now I can’t find it, it having been swallowed into my closet.
Pictures by Claro Cortes IV