Destination: China: Hong Kong
Blanc de Chine
On a floor just above the glamorous and colorful Shanghai Tang in Hong Kong is Blanc de Chine, a much more subtle and subdued take on high-end Chinese fashion. The design philosophy is based on creating beautiful silk clothes that are timeless, “so ancient yet so modern.” Founded in 1986, the company was the first in Asia to draw on traditional Chinese styles like the Qi Pao and Mien O for a contemporary look. There are men’s and women’s collections as well as home products and accessories, all of which use wonderful quality silks and cottons in mainly neutral colors. Think Chinese Armani and you get the idea.
BYPAC Pearls & Cashmere
For high-quality cashmere at reasonable prices and in a large variety of styles and colors, Pearls & Cashmere has long been a go-to shop for visitors. Founded in 1984 with outlets in the top hotels in Hong Kong, it once offered only very traditional English styles. A few years ago, though the company started its BYPAC label, with hipper fashion designers introducing trendier styles. You will pay less than you would in Europe or the States, but sadly, not the bargain basement prices of years ago. Cashmere cardigans begin at around $200.
Note: There is also an outlet in the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon.
A sliver of a shop on bustling Wellington Street, Kei Poon sells handbags in exotic skins from crocodile and ostrich to ring lizard, lamb and pony hair. If you don’t see exactly what you like, they will custom design any style in any skin or color. Prices are not the cheapest you will find in town. Python clutches begin at 2,000HK but the range is wide. Don’t miss the tray of shark skin cuffs in the front, which come in many widths and colors, with the large ones selling for 700HK. Open every day.
NOTE: AS OF NOVEMBER, 2011, THIS SHOP HAS CLOSED
Paris may have Colette but Hong Kong has Kou, a special concept store that is located in a space that feels like a private mansion in Central. Founder Louise Kou mixes interior design and fashion products in the glamorous 5,000-square-foot duplex. While you take in the harbour views from the 22nd floor in a series of homey rooms, you can thrill in the feeling of prowling a stylish person’s house—from kitchen and study to bathroom and dressing room—but know that anything you covet here is actually for sale. Many of the products were custom made, including Kou’s jade tableware, but there is also lingerie from France, silk pajamas from China, furniture from Thailand and carpets from Isfahan. Lu, as she is known, has chosen everything you see and can be hired to advise on interior design projects as well.
As our advisory board member Robert Burns says, “Louise Kou has an incredible and absolutely unique ability to bring high style and extremely good taste to everything she does; her homes, table settings, clothes and accessories—all are uniquely hers.” Coming from the man behind the Four Seasons Milan and the Villa Feltrinelli, those are words of praise worth heeding.
Do you have a favorite pair of shoes that you wish you had bought in every color or that you could copy? Well, take one to the Chan brothers (Alan and Billy), and you can have your dream pair or replacement pair in just a few days. The tiny shop on the first floor of the Admiralty shopping center is jam packed with samples but nothing is for sale. Everything must be custom ordered. The shoes and boots–in pony skin to patent leather and python and lizard—bear the label Alan Chan or Billy Chan but many of the looks are copies of Manolo, Jimmy Choo and Gucci. You pick the shape, the material, the heel height and the size and they will be made to order within four or five days. High-heels cost 2,000 HK with platform styles costing 2,300 HK. They will also make handbags to order or to match.
Lace Department Store
For those willing to shop the way many expats do and go into a drab office building and ride the elevator up to the 6th floor, and hunt down No. 604A, you can find extremely inexpensive cashmere sweaters and scarves.
A highly rated tailor is Mode Elegante, where the prices range from $640 for a suit up to $900 for a Super 200 cloth from a renowned name like Ermenegildo Zegna.
The best known of them all, Sam’s Tailor, is something of an exception to that posh location rule; his tiny store is located in a shopping arcade alley with the absurdly grand address of “Burlington Arcade.” The boss, Manu Melwani, is available to go at a moment’s notice to the hotel rooms of clients such as David Bowie, Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, Luciano Pavarotti, Desmond Tutu, Michael Palin, Tony Blair, John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone. “I see myself as similar to a lawyer or a doctor,” says the loquacious and charming Melwani. “When people come for a fitting, it’s like an X-ray; I know lots of things about their body.”
The flagship shop of David Tang who brought new glamour to traditional Chinese style clothes with electric-colored silk Mao jackets and authentic Chinese tailoring for women. The multi-storey emporium now includes children’s clothing and a home collection.
Sin Sin Atelier
Local designer Sin Sin’s recently relocated boutique lives up to the atelier part of its name; clients can now pick fabrics from the Hong Kong native’s extensive, hand-picked collection and have them made into customized outfits. The less specific can also peruse or pore over pretty filigreed and sterling jewelry as well as trendy handbags and women’s clothing, which, some say, recalls the abstract style of Japanese designer Issey Miyake. Sin Sin, who prefers to introduce her new collections via elaborate performances rather than runway shows, also showcases the works of both established and up-and-coming (primarily Southeast Asian) artists in her adjacent gallery.
In a city where European luxury brand names are everywhere, Sonjia is a breath of fresh fashion air. Sonjia Norman, who is half Korean, half English, sold her first clothes in 1998 from a belief that “women should be able to express their individuality through unique dressing.” Her one-of-a-kind designs, which incorporate things like Japanese kimono fabric and antique embroideries trimmed with fur or lined in silk, inspired a cult following and not long ago she opened her first retail shop in Wanchai. The multi-level floor does carry some lesser-known labels from abroad like Karry ‘O jewelry and Divine Tribe but her boutique showcases her own designs.
Y. William Yu Co. Ltd.
Y. William Yu, younger brother to the Peninsula Hotel’s esteemed William Yu, is another tailor popular with an international, high-net-worth crowd; his clients have included royalty and KKR founder Henry Kravis. For New York-based customers, there is now a Manhattan Y. William Yu boutique on Madison Avenue.
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