Until recently, China’s retail world was populated exclusively by cookie-cutter shopping malls and high-street brands unfamiliar to anyone outside the Middle Kingdom. The past five years, however, have seen something of a revolution in Chinese retail, with a new world of Western-style department stores and multi-brand boutiques popping up everywhere from Shanghai to the country’s heartland. Offering an increasingly discerning Chinese consumer niche local and international fashion labels, these boutiques are the best the country has to offer.
Stocking exclusively independent local designer brands in its Shanghai and Beijing stores, Dong Liang is on the radar of every local fashionista interested in keeping their finger on the pulse of cutting edge Chinese design.
Its well-curated selection includes collections from established designers, such as Uma Wang – who has made a name for herself by showing her ethereal silks and all-consuming knits in Milan for a number of years – as well as Ban Xiao Xue, a former International Woolmark Prize finalist.
New names to watch popping up at Dong Liang include the Shanghai-based Angel Chen and Hiuman, as well as Comme Moi, a label founded by former model Lv Yan in 2013 that has made a name for itself with sleek silhouettes and luxurious textured wool outerwear.
184 Fumin Road, Jing’an, Shanghai
BRAND NEW CHINA
Magazine publisher and television personality Hong Huang founded her Brand New China boutique in Beijing to support China’s fledgling design scene. Chinese designers have traditionally struggled to gain a foothold in their homeland due to the residual taint of “Made in China” being synonymous with cheap and mass produced apparel, but Brand New China, or BNC as it is often called, has done much to promote the best of Chinese design, featuring more than 100 local fashion, accessory and lifestyle designers.
At BNC’s Beijing store in the heart of international luxury brand territory in Sanlitun District, you will find the likes of CJ Yao, whose clothes seem to embody the modern, urban Chinese woman, Chictopia’s playful experiments with prints and silhouettes and Fake Natoo, with its artistic and eco-friendly vibe.
NLG-09a, B1 Sanlitun Village North, 11 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang district, Beijing
Xinlelu is named after a famous Shanghai shopping strip, but its first incarnation was as a purely e-commerce operation, before bricks and mortar was added to the mix in recent years. Stocking a mix of local and international niche designer brands, the most striking thing about Xinlelu is its laser-like focus on the needs of its small but growing demographic of young, modern Shanghai women who want to look overtly cool and fashion-forward, though not overly trendy and never like they are trying too hard.
The customers here are looking for new brands they can grow with over time, and looking to discover a timeless modern style not easily accessible in Mainland China. Great local Shanghai-based accessory labels such as Redesigns and Josie Chen are stocked here, alongside Asian brands such as Aijek, Hong Kong’s House of V, and many more.
414 Shaanxi Bei Lu, Beijing Xi Lu, Jingan district, Shanghai
A highlight of Shenzhen’s retail scene, Little Thing is both a boutique and a beautifully put together magazine, both featuring a unique quirky, colourful, youthful and yet somehow elevated aesthetic.
Not only would it be difficult to find a store with this kind of simultaneously old-timey and truly modern feel in the rest of mainland China, it would be difficult to find a contemporary for Little Things anywhere in the world, with cute monster plush toys, fairytale-inspired illustrations and designs with an over-the-top element their forte. Brands include Unlogical Poem bags, Japanese label Matriochka, the fun patterns and crochet of CeliaB and the overtly feminine, floral and lacy designs of local brand MICartsy.
Xiangshan E St, Shenzhen, Guangdong
Located in Xintiandi, Shanghai’s fashion capital, Alter is one of the financial capital’s original multi-brand boutiques. The Xintiandi flagship not only includes a designer showroom, as well as its Cube Café and the Rolling Acid design label.
One need only have a passing acquaintance with the personal style of founder Sonja Long to get a read of Alter’s aesthetic, which waxes distinctly avant-garde cool girl – distinctly fashionable, with a great helping of nonchalance.
Though Sonja previously worked at Prada and Versace, she found her true calling in bringing good style and quality to an emerging class of fashionable consumers.
Brands here include MSGM, Karen Walker, Seoul’s YOHANIX and PushBUTTON, and local leather specialists Missy Skins.
L116, First Floor, Xintiandi Style, 245 Madang Lu, near Fuxing Lu, Huangpu district, Shanghai
This concept store for independent fashion, design and publishing was born in Shanghai, but now has locations in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu. As well as being the first to bring a number of brands – including Anntian, Daniel Palillo, Bless and Henrik Vibskov – to China, Triple Major has a well known and respected own label, which is available at concept stores around the world.
Whether it’s through shapes, themes or prints, Triple Major branded clothes have a definitively playful element and appeal to a rising generation of individuals in China’s most fashionable cities.
No.1, 25 Shaoxing Lu, Huangpu District, Shanghai; 26 Yang Mei Zhu Xiejie, Beijing; 13 S. Sishengci St, Jinjiang District, Chengdu
Multi-brand boutique Le Lutin has been a player on Shanghai’s fashion scene since way back in 2009. Founders Gloria and Diana – both the product of international lifestyles and a diverse work history in varied creative industries – have made it their mission to bring the best of world fashion to Shanghai’s well-heeled ladies. These are women with a taste for the finer things in life and an international mindset.
Local designer eyewear brand CHairEYES and footwear brand Bing Xu sit alongside international jewellery brand Eddie Borgo, Australian designer Ellery and celebrity favourite, Rosie Assoulin.
Unit 104+204, 88 Tongren Road, Shanghai
DRESSING FOR FUN
Though it’s not as well known as a fashion capital as Beijing or Shanghai, Chengdu, China’s most important southwestern city, has been making inroads in recent years. Dressing For Fun, which was launched four years ago, is the product of that development.
The store’s Chinese name “Shua Shan” translates to “playing with clothes” in the region’s local dialect and that is exactly what founder Xiao Ai would like his customers to do – look beyond major international designer labels and have some fun choosing from an interesting selection of niche brands, from whimsical Chinese designer Momo Wang, young international brands such as Marques Almeida and Ann-Sofie Back.
24 Ganhuaishu St, Jinjiang, Chengdu