Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A City Within The City...


Since I went with some friends to MuXiYuan (木樨园), which is the fabric district in Beijing, I thought I would write something about the joys of living in "cheap china" as far as clothes are concerned.

Sure China is known for the cheap "made in China" that we all associate with…well cheap, but what I appreciate the most here is that for a few hundred kuai (tens of euros/dollars) you can have custom-made and fitted clothes.
First, I started to just have some of the clothes that I already owned altered, since I’m not a 6 foot tall top model with perfect measurements (dammed close, but not quite... just kidding!!), and the clothes I have usually tend to be a few inches too long. So let’s start with a few examples of what a few bucks can buy you:
The other day I brought to the tailor:

  • 3 pairs of jeans to be hemmed; the really nice thing is that they keep the original hem and “reattach” it to the pants so that it doesn’t have that just hemmed look but more the “vintage”/original feel,
  • 1 pair of trousers to have the waist brought in,
  • 1 dress to have the sleeves slightly shortened,
  • 1 vest which was never my size but I loved it so I bought it anyway thinking that maybe I would grow boobs!!! Well after realizing that it won’t happen unless I paid for them and since I’m not that desperate, I decided to have it properly fitted.

All that for a whopping 150 kuai, that’s 15 euros or 18 dollars (I usually don’t even bother to bargain when I think how much it would cost me elsewhere) and it was done in 3 days (I told Helen, the seamstress, that I wasn’t in a rush because of course she probably would have had it done for the next day at no extra charge if I had wanted).

Another example: I had a jacket made (replica of one that I love and that I’ve been dragging around for far too long in far too many countries) well the labor cost me 300 kuai (again 30 euros/36 dollars), I just picked a nice fabric for a fraction of what it would have cost me in France or the US (so of course you go for cashmere here!!!). Next stop is a leather jacket, I just found out about a leather shop and a little tailor who works with leather... what else does a girl need!!

So sure you can buy a lot of “Gucci”, “Louis Vuitton”, “Dolce&Gabbana”, “Puma”, “Rolex” and all the things you probably couldn’t/wouldn’t afford in the west for next to nothing but the real luxury here is to have things custom-made, things that actually fit you properly. It might cost you a few more Kuai but compare to what it would have cost you back home that is the real bargain and in the end you don’t risk the chance to get caught at the customs with a suitcase full of counterfeit “luxury” items…

Stalls after stalls, after stalls

The Leather Shop

The Tailor (leather specialist)
The sign is there to let you know he's a tailor!!
ShangHai ShiZhuang JiaGong Bu)