The Most Splurge-Worthy Independent Shops in Shanghai

November 15, 2017

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Looking to do some shopping in Shanghai? Take some advice from resident Sophie Friedman and check out these fantastic, independently owned shops.

Culture Matters

Culture Matters. Image courtesy of the venue.

Closet-sized sneaker shop Culture Matters is the place to go if you’re in the market for a pair of Feiyues. Inspired by the shoes worn by Shaolin monks, the brand, which features rubber soles and canvas uppers, was born in Shanghai in the late 1950s. Originally, the shoes were only available in white and black, but today you’ll find them in a range of colors and cuts, though the classic white low-tops remain my choice. Feiyues start from just 50(around US$8), though you can pay a bit more to have your pair customized with anything from your initials to I ❤︎ SH to graffiti-style designs.

Factory Five

Factory Five. Image by Drew Bates.

Bikes are nothing new in China, but cycling culture of the sort that’s found in North America and Europe was non-existent until recently. No matter: Jeff Liu, Drew Bates and Tyler Bowa bonded over their love of biking and formed their own clubhouse, where they sell bikes and organize rides in Shanghai, as well as further afield. Since they started up five years ago, the trio has restored nearly 1,000 vintage Chinese bicycles. Factory Five now builds its own customized fixed-gear and single-speed bikes and also sells accessories. Custom-builds can be as luxe or frills-free as you want them, but it’ll cost you; these start from a cool 4,800(around US$775). If you’re not in the market to buy and just want to pop in and talk shop, there’s a stool and a pint of Brewer’s Union waiting for you.

Madame Mao’s Dowry

Madame Mao’s Dowry. Image courtesy of the venue.

Walking down Fumin Lu, you’ll recognize Madame Mao’s Dowry by its cornflower blue façade. British owner Linda Johnson has a keen eye and fills her shop with whatever she fancies, from authentic Communist Era propaganda art posters – at prices that are very much capitalist – to goods from young local designers. Look for baozi-printed dishtowels and dinnerware from Pinyin Press (see pg 53), Paper Tiger’s eco-friendly wrapping paper and Grifted’s cheery necklaces made from candy wrappers and paper clips. The HUNT Shanghai writer Sophie Friedman lives only five blocks from this store, and it’s my go-to for gifts that say “uniquely made in China” rather than those that scream “schlock from the tourist market”.


Nuomi. Image courtesy of the venue.

From the street, NuoMi appears to be nothing more than a boutique selling Asian-influenced women’s and childrenswear in cotton, bamboo, cashmere and silk. If all you’re looking for is beautiful clothing, then you can pop in, buy a few things and be on your merry way. What Sophie loves most about this store is that it’s committed to being socially responsible. The retail arm of BrownRice Designs, which works with disadvantaged locals to provide them with job skills, the store’s designers teach these individuals to sew, providing much-needed income for those who would otherwise be unable to support themselves and their families. When you shop here, you know that you’re supporting fairtrade and local artisans, which always makes me leave with an extra bounce in my step.

Piling Palang

Piling Palang. Image courtesy of the venue.

Tianjin-born-and-raised Deng Bingbing spent 10 years working as a graphic designer in Melbourne before moving to Shanghai and starting his own company – Piling Palang, one of my most frequented shops in Shanghai. Deng expertly combines Chinese and Western aesthetics into his brightly colored ceramics. The pieces can properly be called objets d’art and they’re finished in lacquer, ceramic and cloisonné. Ceramic trays printed with 1930s Shanghai signboards make excellent, moderately priced souvenirs, as do the cups and small plates printed with acrobats. The most expensive of the lot are the cloisonné, but the work is exquisite and worth the splurge.


S2VS. Image by Shanghai Collective.

After graduating from Parsons School of Design, Indonesian expat Sean William Salim – whose initials create S2VS, the two Vs making a W – stayed in New York and started his menswear line there, but it’s Shanghai where he decided to set up shop. Housed on one of the city’s most verdant streets, the narrow boutique is filled with stylish menswear that errs on the side of prep. Sophie loves the soft T-shirts, the charcoal gray wool bomber jacket with wooden buttons, the fun Kelly green shorts embroidered with tiny alligators and the handsome blue suede bucks with teal laces that provide an unexpected pop of color.


Spin. Image by Sophie Friedman.

The minute Sophie receives a wedding invitation, she hops on her bike and rides over to Spin. This sleek concrete temple of ceramics sells elegant dinnerware, jewelry and home goods such as pretty soap dispensers and tiny, ceramic dumplings that come in a bamboo steamer. Nearly everything for sale here is white, but some pieces are splashed with bold blue or red brushstrokes. That being said, the piece Sophie loves most in the shop is an impeccably detailed white porcelain wutong leaf.

Spoiled Brat

Spoiled Brat. Image courtesy of the venue.

Steffie Wu started her jewelry business in Los Angeles, making a name for herself there before opening the only Spoiled Brat boutique in Shanghai, a Cali-inspired space with a teal accent wall, plants in bell jars and jewelry displayed on mossy circles. Each piece of Wu’s jewelry is made by hand and one-of-a-kind: she sources semi-precious stones and pairs the colorful gems with sterling silver and 14-carat gold. Earrings start at 300(around US$50), but a thriftier option is the “lucky color bracelet”; decorated with silver charms, it’s traditionally believed that the five colors of these strings bring good luck: green for wealth, red for love, purple for friendship, yellow for enhanced spirituality and blue for a long life.

About The HUNT Shanghai WriterSophie Friedman moved from New York to Shanghai with two suitcases, no plan and speaking not a word of Mandarin. Years later, she’s traversed Asia, learned to love squat toilets and has written extensively about her adopted city.

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