(Pictured Above: Carol Chyau and Marie So of Shokay) By Rebecca Kanthor An international city in its past and present, Shanghai’s architecture and style has so many design influences from around the world and China that your eyes will keep busy trying to catch them all. It’s a design-oriented city, but you have to keep your eyes peeled and think like a local sometimes in order to find and appreciate it. If you don’t mind bargaining and hunting about, there’s a chance you’ll find crafter’s heaven. These are some of my favorite haunts.
South Bund Neighborhood
Wholesale Notions Market (Shanghai Tan Shang Xia) Address: Renmin Lu 388 Hours: Daily, 8:30am – 5:30pm Neighborhood: South Bund, Xin Bei Men Bargaining?: Yes Beware, this place is addictive, but oh so fun. Ribbons, buttons, hooks, thread, sewing supplies, felt, glitter, pom-poms, and other craft notions are available at the tiny stalls in this five-story wholesale market. The first two floors deal strictly with notions, while the upper floors sell bags and belts. Just wandering around is fascinating, but it can be difficult to say leave empty handed. The surrounding neighborhood also has many shops at street level selling lace, fabric, buckles, and beads. Ribbon Shop (Zhejiang Sanding Weaving Group) Address: 399 RenMin Lu Stall M-11 Phone: +8621 63288900 Hours: Daily, 8:30am – 5:30 pm Web site: http://www.ribbon.com.cn Neighborhood: South Bund, Xin Bei Men Bargaining?: Slight discounts offered You’ll find plenty of ribbons inside wholesale notions market, but if you’re looking for quality assurance, Jojo Wei’s shop across the street might be a better choice. She stocks hundreds of spools of ribbons, all from one of China’s largest ribbon manufacturers. The ribbons are certified Oeko-Tex Standard 100, meeting European standards for health and safety. Jojo speaks fluent English, is super friendly, and has been selling ribbons since 2001, following her dad in the family business. YuYuan Garden Markets Address: 225 Fuyou Lu Hours: Daily, 8:30am – 5pm Neighborhood: South Bund, Yuyuan Bargaining?: Yes There’s actually no single Yu Garden Market. The neighborhood has several malls, with several floors in each. You never know what you might find here: From rubber bands, to mahjong tiles, to Chinese New Year and Christmas decorations, these markets have all the small craft materials you didn’t know you were looking for, at cheap prices. Be prepared though, this is not relaxing retail therapy. Narrow aisles and crowds can induce crankiness. Shiliupu Fabric Market (Shiliupu Mianliao Cheng) Address: 168 Dongmen Lu at Zhonghua Lu Hours: Daily, 9am – 5pm Neighborhood: South Bund Bargaining?: Yes This huge 4-floor fabric market is an all-in-one shopping experience. Browse fabrics, design clothes with a tailor, pick out notions, and then order outfits made just for you. Rummaging through fabrics as diverse as faux fur, cashmere, silk, and linen is a bit overwhelming, but once you let yourself go, you can have a lot of fun. Check out Stall Number 286 for novelty fabrics made for export, 216 for polka dots of all sorts, and 237 (among others) for traditional Chinese silk brocade fabric with some wild designs. If you’re looking for even better deals on fabrics, you might try just wandering around in the surrounding area, as some street stalls sell fabric for even better prices. Suzhou Cobblers Address: Rm 101, 17 Fuzhou Lu, near Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu Phone: +8621 632 7087 Hours: Daily, 10am – 6.30pm Web site: http://www.suzhou-cobblers.com Neighborhood: South Bund Bargaining?: No This tiny hole-in-the-wall is bursting with intricately hand-embroidered and brightly colored slipper shoes, toys, and bags. The quality is high, and the prices aren’t cheap, but even if you’re not buying, it’s worth visiting just to appreciate the fine handiwork. Sit down and rest: Hu Xin Ting Teahouse at Yuyuan Garden Address: 257 Yuyuan Road Phone: +8621 63736950 Hours: 8:30am – 10pm Neighborhood: South Bund, Yuyuan Bargaining?: No Sure it’s touristy and crowded, but it’s also a welcome excuse to sit down and enjoy a traditional Chinese atmosphere. Sip your tea and nibble on complimentary snacks while looking out at a pretty pond filled with goldfish and the Yuyuan Garden beyond.
Former French Concession
Shokay Address: #9, Lane 274 Taikang Road near Ruijin Er Lu Phone: +8621 54660907 Hours: 10am – 6:30pm Web site: http://www.shokay.com Neighborhood: Tianzifang, Taikang Lu Bargaining?: No In a trendy arts district cum old neighborhood where long-time residents mingle with Shanghai’s hipsters and artist’s studios share space with laundry hung out to dry, this shop is a rare breed, a socially responsible brand started as a business school project by founders Carol Chyau and Marie So. The shop showcases cuddle-worthy soft Tibetan yak wool spun into yarns and knitted by locals into stylish patterns. Balls of the yarn are also on sale in several colors. Knitting Corner Address: 161 Anfu Lu, 3rd floor, above Everything But the Cafe Phone: +86 13701693720 Hours: By appointment, for now Neighborhood: Former French Concession Bargaining?: No Opened by makeup artist and knitter Liu Ning, this cozy little yarn shop is located in a sloped roof attic space – the perfect haven to knit up a sweater in stormy weather. Located above an equally tiny café in a narrow lane house, the newly opened shop has a lot of potential (if you can get up the narrow rickety staircase). Beyond yarn and needles, Liu Ning also sells her handmade creations: knit sweaters and handbags and crocheted jewelry. Life Experience Paper Address: 849 Julu Lu, near Fumin Lu Phone: +86 13818865907 Hours: Noon – 7pm Web site: http://www.paper-life.com Neighborhood: Former French Concession Bargaining?: No Graphic designer Tao Jie (whose English name is Brave Nut!) and her husband opened up their shop in 2009 and have been steadily selling unique paper lanterns since then. They provide plugs for most international circuits as well so you don’t have to worry about a converter. Some of their more unique designs are standup lanterns shaped like light bulbs, Terracotta Warriors, mummies, and the Oscar award. They also sell folding hanging lanterns of various sizes and designs. Occasionally Brave Nut hosts lantern decorating classes. Idle Beats Address: former French Concession, various locations Contact: email@example.com Web site: http://idlebeats.com/ When she’s not working her day job as a graphic designer, local printmaker Nini Sum runs an occasional printmaking workshop in the offices of Neocha, a creative consultancy. Visitors can learn how to make screen prints and chill out to music at her open studios. Nini also designs posters for bands, and DJs and sells her prints at local shows. Her designs are edgy, sometimes spooky, and really cool-looking. Mayumi Sato Address: 169 Anfu Lu, Phone: +8621 5403-3903 Hours: Noon – 8pm Web site: http://www.mayumisato.com Bargaining?: No Japanese designer Mayumi Soto’s shop on Anfu Lu stocks clothes, jewelry, and bags so stylish you’ll want whatever she’s selling. From the look of the dresses and accessories in stock, she is a fan of pretty little pom poms and polka dots. Her use of silks, vintage kimonos, and colorful cottons just puts a smile on my face whenever I pass by her window. Even when it’s closed the shop brightens up the street, as Mayumi commissioned Popil, a local artist, to paint a mural for the rolldown gate. This street and the intersecting Wukang Lu are good for a nice afternoon stroll, with plenty of window shopping at independent designers’ shops. Sit down and rest: As good for people watching as they are for their drinks and baked goods, these two cafés are nice places to rest your feet, journal, and daydream. Baker and Spice Address:195 Anfu Lu Phone: +8621 5404-2733 Hours: 7am – 9pm Amokka Address: 201 Anfu Lu Phone: +8621 5404-0998 Hours: 7am – 12am
Nanjing Xi Lu
Ru-Wa Studio Address: 1025 Nanjing Xi Lu, #81 Phone: +8621 62185859 Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, Noon – 9pm, closed Monday Web site: http://ru-wa.blogbus.com Bargaining?: No Li Jing and her husband left their jobs to open this craft studio, where visitors can learn the lost craft of making traditional Chinese toys. In a converted home-turned-workshop in a old-style Shanghai alleyway (nongtang) that has been slowly morphing into a quiet artsy community of cafés and indie shops, their little storefront and patio is a nice escape from the busy surrounding streets. The couple speak English and host workshops in making kites, cloth tigers, rattle drums, diabolos, and lanterns. Plum Address: 1025 Nanjing Xi Lu, #37 Phone: +8621 52136565 Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 11am – 8pm, closed Monday Web site: http://blog.sina.com.cn/plumshanghai Bargaining?: No Taiwanese owner Nicole Teng opened this gallery in 2009 with friends. It blends design, art, and craft together in a peaceful airy space, just a row away from Ru-Wa Studio. The gallery frequently hosts art and craft events for visitors with local and visiting artists. Sit down and rest: GZ Café Address: 1025 Nanjing Xi Lu #162 Phone: +8621 52132139 Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, Noon – 10pm Known as the Secret Garden, it certainly feels hidden, tucked in a residential alley in a converted lane house. It’s quiet and cozy and worth the search. About the Author: A freelance journalist in China since 2002, Rebecca Kanthor hawked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the streets before moving on to work for CBS News Beijing. Now based in Shanghai, she crochets, makes prints, and sews when she’s not working in print, TV, and radio.