Tailor-Made Creations at the Shanghai Fabric Market
There were a lot of things I was excited about when we decided to move to China----learning about a new culture, stretching our comfort zone, discovering new places…but unequivocally one of the things I was most excited about was getting tailor-made clothing at the Bund fabric market.
Typically I hate shopping and I don't have many clothes (since I prefer to spend a majority of my expendable money on experiences). But how could I resist the creative freedom to design your own clothes at a BARGAIN PRICE!? Y’all know I live for a bargain. Read on for our experiences at the fabric market, some vendor suggestions, and of course----photos of our finished results!
My first impression of the fabric market was that it is huge. Outside, there are vendors hawking handmade jewelry and the ubiquitous knock off purses. Inside, there are multiple stories of winding hallways packed cheek to jowl with tailors, seamstresses, fabrics, and clothing. What was surprising to me was the relative absence of actual patrons----we saw a handful of foreign businessmen getting their custom-suit fix and the odd wide-eyed tourist, but my assumption is that most tailors are lucky to get even one commission a day.
Just a few stalls in, we found a tailor who spoke English (another surprise! I was expecting to use lots of gestures and my translation app for my clothing specifications). He proudly showed us his wall of photos demonstrating his work----famous tennis players (Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic), actors (Sylvester Stalone!), and businessmen smiling alongside him while wearing his creations. After a few minutes of chatting, I pulled my printed stack of “cute outfits” curated from Pinterest. Together, we selected fabrics, patterns, and made some tweaks to the design (a plunging back on one top and cuffed sleeves on another dress). After what seemed like more measurements than I knew existed, he said he would have them done in a week.
Now are you ready for the twist in this story? Before arriving to China, I talked a lot about visiting the fabric market, while Andrew had pretty much zero interest in going. During this venture, he did a complete 180! The creative freedom was too tempting and he custom created his own t-shirt and commissioned a pair of shorts based on a pre-designed template. The shorts came out looking fantastic---just like any shorts you would purchase in Banana Republic (only custom made and WAY CHEAPER). The shirt…well, I’ll let you decide for yourself how that turned out.
Custom made t-shirt dress, cotton, unlined: 300RMB. Custom made American explosion t-shirt, linen: 150RMB.
Tom and Jenny can be found on the 1st floor of the Fabric Market, an immediate left from the entrance, #138.
Since we had to come back a week later for our creations, we explored a little deeper. We found two other stalls where we commissioned garments. One woman had beautiful silk fabric on display and I commissioned a white, off-the-shoulder summer dress. The dress was simple and she wanted to charge more than the previous tailor---so I haggled for a lower price! (Which I am very proud of, because I am not a great haggler. But in China, EVERYTHING is haggle-able.) In the end, I found her craftsmanship to be less impressive, and even though she pressed me to replicate the same dress in different colors, I declined.
A basic, summery dress and blue necklace. The necklace was originally quoted at 150RMB (half the price of the dress!), but I got them down to 50.
The last seamstress we visited is also a self-proclaimed designer. What caught my eye at her stall was the CUTEST fabric pattern with little elephants (I LOVE elephants!!!). Dani was very keen on helping us create custom looks at the highest quality. Her prices were fair and Andrew found t-shirt redemption in his second design attempt.
Dani’s store is on the second floor of the main Fabric Market building, #278.
Though we had some hit and misses with our custom items, we were not disappointed with our Fabric Market experience! Part of the journey is testing out different tailors to find one that you will stick with long term. I have even heard some people continue to order custom garments from the States! Tom, Jenny, and Dani can expect a lot more business from us----winter is coming and this Florida girl is going to need some cashmere sweaters and peacoats! Bring it on!
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