Fabric Markets in South Bund

Saved stipends and three months in China has allowed me to explore the wide array of markets available to consumers in Shanghai. “Made to order” however has become a staple in my shopping endeavors. Customized goods have made the shopping aspect of my time abroad truly unique from any of my previous international experiences. One of my most memorable shopping experiences was at the South Bund Fabric Market in my journey to purchase my first suit.

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Arriving at the South Bund Fabric Market is a daunting experience. A sensory overload to the unprepared shopper, foreigners are constantly badgered and lured into pleading booths. I, however, was able to slide under the radar, mistaken for a local, and avoid the pressured atmosphere endured by other shoppers. I wandered the dozens of booths, peering into the storefronts. Clueless of what I was looking for, my search was aimless. Wandering through the maze of fabrics, I was shocked to find an escalator leading to three floors of tailors. To my untrained eye, the entire introduction to the fabric market was overwhelming. In search of a couple suits to be made, the market was beginning to stress me out, without the constant pestering from booths. My search led me across the street to a separate market that presented a much cleaner, relaxed atmosphere. Many of the booths were larger, better lit and organized, and most importantly, very few foreigners had crossed the street into this new paradise.

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I quickly learned why so few foreigners paced these hallways. The first store I went into, after multiple laps around the simply designed mall, approached me in Chinese and after hearing my first few sentences, clarified that they didn’t speak English at all. I decided to rely on my broken Chinese in favor of the laminate wood floors and undivided attention of my new friend. Before long, I was try on multiple jackets on hand, searching through online catalogs and fabric books, and finding excuses to buy more than I had set out for. The entire experience lasted nearly 3 hours and after a fitting the week later and a following week of alterations, I found myself on the subway with two garment bags filled with a couple brand new tailor-made suits. Made to order and a fraction of the price paid for a 3 for 1 Jos. A. Banks suit, I couldn’t have been more pleased to venture for the less frequented market and to put my clothing vocabulary to the test.

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