Let’s face it everything is made in China. In recent years, China has propelled itself to the economic forefront. While the West wonders what the future holds, in China life goes on, but with a new vigour and a desire for novelty that has perhaps not existed here for some time. The motto is ‘out with the old and in with the new’ and the cityscape and inhabitants of places such as Beijing and Shanghai reflect this new vitality.
Beijing played host to Giorgio Armani in 2012. Here, in a gallery in the reputable 798 art district, “One Night Only in Beijing” celebrated 10 years of Armani in China. It featured couture designs that paid homage to the country. This reflects the current status of China in the opinions of the culturally and commercially orientated and is another reason for fashion capitals to move over and make some room for an up and coming player.
The perception here is that everything must be larger than life. Vast shopping hubs, groupings of ultra-modern shopping centres, litter Beijing. They are immense and they are impressive, featuring a lively mix of well-known Western labels, and fashionable new Chinese brands. Everything is sleek and maintains a certain contemporary panache. The ‘brand’ is essential. It is a brand that does not only affix itself to the merchandise but to the infrastructure also.
If you are a shopper who prefers to keep a distance from such commercial centres, then make for the markets. They are hives of activity, teeming with people, overflowing with merchandise. Your eyes will well up (mine certainly did!) as you begin to fathom the extent of these markets. Everything you desire can be found. There may not be a shop front or a price tag, but even the brand-chaser will be pleased. Haggling is rampant: if you like to bargain you will love it, if not you will suddenly find that you are very good at it, China teaches you things and the art of bargaining is certainly one.
China is a shopper’s paradise. Astounding in quantity and pleasing to the pocket. It possesses more Western commodities now than ever before. However, certain Western comforts and necessities have failed to translate, or been thoroughly lost in translation. So before arriving in Beijing with an empty suitcase in anticipation of a shopping bonanza, do take the following into consideration:
– Every traveller should always include a first aid kit on their list of things to pack.
– Bring enough of whatever you need: prescription drugs, contact lenses and glasses, vitamins etc. All things we take for granted at home, but sometimes it can be difficult to get exactly what you want here.
– You will find hand sanitizer to be of great use as soap isn’t always provided.
– Vaccinations: get them all before you get here. Consult your doctor, some vaccinations that you may need require booster shots and these can take a number of weeks.
– The climate here is dry, moisturiser is essential. They have a vast selection, however, the majority contain skin whitening agents which I tend to avoid; I’m certainly white enough. The same goes for sunscreen, which often not only protects your skin but whitens it too. Furthermore, it is expensive here (the whiteness of skin is highly valued).
– If you wear make-up, be aware that it is difficult to get the correct tones.
– Hair products that do not leave you in a state of constant-bad-hair-day can be difficult to acquire. Finding the right hair treatments, or even basics like shampoo and conditioner, can be difficult unless you can read Chinese characters or can ask for what you want. Recognisable brands will often contain different chemicals to what we are used to, this and the hard-water can lead to problems. But in the larger shopping malls, it’s always possible to pick up most products so no need to worry too much about this.
– Bring deodorant with you as it is another necessity which isn’t readily available, although larger stores such as Watsons do stock it.
– Fact: tampons are considered unhygienic here and are thus rare.
– I feel these miniature fiends deserve a quick note of their own. Bring insect repellent.
– Bring an adapter for when you get here, later you can buy as many as you please in most large supermarkets. (This is true for the larger cities at least)
- Blue tack
– It’s like a rare commodity here that renders people awe-struck – you will be the envy of all!
I rave about the burgeoning fashion scene; however, there are a few things you need to take into consideration. While there is a certain ultra-chic, simple and unadulterated Asian fashion, there is also a love of ‘tack’. Often you find a piece that may be beautiful, but has been brutalised by excess. You will most likely already know this but, size is an issue.
Chinese people are just smaller and their sizes are smaller, or they may not go to the size that you require. There are Western stores that will stock (limited numbers of) bigger sizes and more recognisable cuts, and fashions that are from home, however these are sometimes overpriced. Alternatively, you can go to any of the high end Chinese tailors and have your clothes handmade and/ or tailored to fit. But I recommend bringing some wardrobe staples.
Bras for the bustier. Honestly C+ is pushing it. Chinese girls are slender. While I recommend the markets, it is not always easy or even possible to try things on. Shoes become awkward after euro size 38/39. You can get bigger sizes in foreign markets, maybe euro 40/41, but not always.
You are most likely taller and broader than the majority of your Chinese counterparts. If it’s not issues with length, I have heard many complain about a certain preference here for unflattering, high-waisted trousers. Shoes can be a bit of a challenge for most guys but larger sizes are generally obtainable in the larger cities.
Pack wisely. If you find enjoyment in shopping, then be prepared for something very epic!
Written by Marie (our in-house fashion expert!)
Tags: What to pack for China, packing your bags, preparing for China
Key words: packing for China, shopping in China, what to bring to China, fashion, clothes, shops
Description: China has a burgeoning fashion scene with shopping centres a-plenty in the major cities but these tips on what to pack will advise on what’s not so readily available in European sizes and styles and help you know what essentials to bring with you.