Posted by: Waheeda Harris | May 4, 2010

Fabric market vs Fake market

When you’re in any country in Asia, shopping is always at the top of the list. Whether its for food, spices, clothing, gift items or art, there’s always a market to do some shopping.

In Shanghai, I got to experience two kinds of markets. The first: the fabric market.

Located in a vast two storey building, the Shanghai South Bund Fabric Market an overwhelming building of clothing options. Each small stall represents a different tailor or seamstress, with different parts of the market specializing in furs, leather, silk, cotton, men’s, women’s, and home decor.

Wandering around, a shopper is easily lured in by the sample items hanging in the openings as well as along the walls to the ceilings of each wee shop. Staff are happy to help and are definitely interested in making a deal. There’s plenty of bartering and negotiation – and don’t accept the first price.

I found the quality of items very high – the shopkeepers are very friendly and willing to discuss styles and specifics. Everything is made to order and is made specifically for you, but at way less than the average North American consumer would pay for new items off the rack in any favourite retail shop. One of my friend’s was astounded to get a light wool two piece suit in a day, custom fitted for him. I benefitted from a bomber-style leather jacket, that took a bit longer, but was well worth the wait.

Then there’s the fake market – now hidden away near the subway and the Science and Technology Museum in Shanghai, the fake market is exactly as it sounds. This particular fake market was mainly luggage and handbags – name your favourite brand, and it was displayed here.

Racks of handbags, purses, wallets and other accessories were available, as well as luggage in every size from small totes to large cases.

Plenty of sportswear was also displayed, from polo shirts to brand name t-shirts from every popular sports label. These stores were layered – the cheaper items in front, with the more expensive knock-offs hidden in the back rooms.

But unlike the friendly shopping environment of the Fabric Market, the Fake Market was combattive, the shopkeepers aggressive in trying to get you to come into their store and desperately wanting your attention. I found many of them overbearing and frustrated by the lack of interest displayed by shoppers, trying to gain your confidence quickly, but instead insuring my quick departure from their shop.

The least offensive of the shop owners was where I ended up with my two friends, as we bartered to buy additional luggage during our trip to China. We got a pretty good deal, and then saw the real version of our purchases displayed in an airport boutique, still on sale for several more dollars than we had to pay.

Both are worthy of a visit, but the experience is not for the faint of heart or a shopper who is used to North American stores with set prices. Be prepared to bargain and know what you’re willing to pay – you’ll gain the respect of the sellers and know that there’s no absolute need to buy anything. Always be prepared to walk away.

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