Shopping in Hong Kong is a recreation, an artform, an exercise in sheer wonder. The range of goods is phenomenal, the variety of outlets astonishing: markets, small street shops, hip boutiques, emporia, department stores and, perhaps most of all, high-end malls. Although prices generally are not quite the bargain level that they used to be before much of the production moved to mainland China and before retail rents became astronomically high, you’ll still find that costs are agreeably lower than in Europe since Hong Kong remains a duty-free port. Shopping hours, meanwhile, are very much geared for consumer entertainment with most malls and stores staying open until 10pm – and in the particularly buzzy Causeway Bay area, until 11pm.
Melding with subways and even hotel precincts, shiny air-conditioned shopping malls are very much the modern face of Hong Kong. With food floors and in some cases cinemas on site, these are destinations in their own right. You’ll also find a staggeringly high concentration of top designer label outlets in these arcades of chic consumerism. There’s not, for example, just the one Jean Paul Gaultier, Anya Hindmarch or Vivienne Westwood store in Hong Kong but, respectively, three, four and seven. The largest and most lavish of the malls offer a fairly similar range, so deciding which you want to visit very much depends on what neighbourhood is most appealing or convenient for you.
In Central, The Landmark on Des Voeux Road has a smoothly exclusive atmosphere. It offers Christian Dior, Fendi, Versace, Pradaand more. But don’t overlook its lower floor where less expensive Hong Kong chains U2 and G2000 have outlets. And there is also the new IFC mall, embedded in the complex of the International Finance Centre, Hong Kong’s tallest building. This includes agnès b and Salvatore Ferragamo as well as French Connection and even a large Zara where you can call upon the services of inexpensive fitters who will alter hems and waistbands while you wait.
Up at Causeway Bay, you jostle for space on the elevators taking you up the 16 floors of the sleek Times Square block at Russell Street. This enormously popular mall is subtly geared for a slightly younger crowd – who flock to Burberry, Hugo Boss and Kate Spade. There’s even a branch of Marks & Spencer here, along with another outlet of Zara.
Across the harbour above Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui ferry terminal, Harbour City is a jawdropping complex with a dizzying array of some 600 shops as well as five cinemas and around 30 cafés and restaurants. You’ll find Ralph Lauren cashmeres, Gucci and Anya Hindmarch handbags, Mont Blanc pens, Paul Smith shirts and electronics such as Bose and B&O while homeware includes a large outlet of Hong Kong chain G.O.D (which stands for Goods of Desire while phonetically it is also Cantonese slang for “live better”). Here you can buy retro-chic tableware along with T-shirts, bags and more. For more funky young Hong Kong and Asian brands head up to Mong Kok where Langham Place mall off Nathan Road offers a large Muji along with outlets of local design chains Chocolate and Izzue.
In many areas department stores are integrated with malls, most glamorously at Harbour City with Lane Crawford and at The Landmark with Harvey Nichols. At Causeway Bay, meanwhile, the large and well-priced Japanese store Sogo draws crowds of evening shoppers. Next door, on the corner of Gloucester Road and Great George Street, Windsor House has a good reputation for electronics and computer ware. Over at Des Voeux Road in Central you’ll find the oldest big store: Sincere was established more than a century ago and today emphasises fashion and homeware.
In the Seventies it was Joyce Ma who founded the first fashion house in Hong Kong and among the Joyce Boutique outlets the store over at Tsim Sha Tsui at 23 Nathan Road is something of a local institution, stocking Dolce & Gabbana, Anna Sui, Ghost and more.
However, size matters. With many stores catering mainly for petite Chinese, you may find the larger sizes required by most Western shoppers are not available. No problem: opt instead for a tailor-made outfit. Sam’s at Burlington Arcade, 94 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui (00 852 2367 9423; www.samstailor.com) is probably the most celebrated bespoke outlet. A family business now run by Manu Melwani, son of the original Sam, it has clad Clinton, Blair, and even the late great Luciano Pavarotti. More competitively priced possibilities for women as well as men are at Star House, opposite the Star Ferry terminal at Tsim Sha Sui: try the wonderfully named Stitch-Up Tailors at number 16 (00 852 2314 4000) or Express Custom Tailors at number 18 Star House (00 852 2199 7965) at which suits for men cost upwards of £100 and for women £80.
For a total contrast head into the world antiques, if only to enjoy browsing. You’ll find the best range of shops along Hong Kong Island’s Hollywood Road – in particular Honeychurch Antiques at number 29 and Chak’s Gallery at number 76. Then go south.
It seems that any city worth its designer salt now has a district known as Soho, and Hong Kong is no exception, in this case SoHo being short for South of Hollywood Road.
Local residents say that about 10 years ago Staunton Street and Elgin Street were quiet backwaters. Now this is Bohemian chic heaven where the recherché design world rubs shoulders with traditional Hong Kong.
The mix makes compelling viewing. Don’t miss Man Chong Chinese medicine shop on Staunton Street selling goat horns, antlers, sponges, fungi and more. Then wander just down the road to number 21 where Hong Kong’s homegrown designer Henry Lau has a showroom and tailormade outlet, Spy Henry Lau (00 852 2317 6928; www.spyhenrylau.com).
Meanwhile at number 53 Tiare (00 852 2540 3380; www.tiareboutique.com) is a neat outfit with a collection that includes Michael Stars, Raven Denim and Vince. Adjacent is Elgin Street where at number 14E La Boutique stocks Maje, AnnaRita N and Margaret Groves labels.
More recently the cool crowd has been flocking to the newly hip area of NoHo, North of Hollywood Road, which straggles out around Gough Street. The much acclaimed artist Carrie Chau has recently opened a studio at number 29 while at number 16 designer Ranee K (00 852 2108 4068; www.raneek.com) has a wonderfully colourful little boutique where she conjures combinations of Chinese and Western styles in chiffons and silks.
Meanwhile, those in search of a bargain should head for the island of Ap Lei Chau off the south side of Hong Kong Island near Aberdeen. Here Horizon Plaza caters to some extent for the larger-sized Western market and offers high-end fashion labels like Armani and Dolce & Gabbana with as much as a 70 per cent reduction. Other discount options include Citygate Outlets at Tung Chung, a short taxi ride from the airport, where you’ll find reductions of 30 to 50 per cent on sports and young fashion labels such as Nike and Quicksilver.
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