The Shanghai cityscape. Getty Images
The Shanghai cityscape. Getty Images

Smart Shopper: Shanghai, the fashion capital of the Far East

Shanghai is, without a doubt, a city with a rich history. In the 19th century, East was forced to meet West when the British occupied the city during the Opium Wars.

In the 1920s, it was dubbed “Paris of the Orient” thanks to the French influence in architecture and culture. And in 1949 the city was virtually sealed off by China’s then fledgling communist rulers until a political thaw in the 1990s.

Even its statistics are exhausting: a population of 24 million, the world’s busiest container port, and the country’s financial and commercial centre. And while it has been labelled the largest city in China by population, do not fear: the part of the city that is of most interest to visitors is not much more than a few square kilometres.

Once the location of where everything happened a century ago, the Bund on the river and its surrounding buildings are home to designer stores, restaurants and bars.

Look across the Huangpu – a tributary of the Yangtze, which flows into the South China Sea – to the new high-rise business centre of Pudong.

A kilometre or so inland from the Bund is the old French Concession, where the tree-lined streets now house cafes and boutiques. Linking the two is Nanjing Road, a lengthy main shopping street of the city. On Nanjing West Road’s designer stretch, around the intersection with Yang An Road, the boutiques, all glass and chrome and double-height ceilings, stand shoulder to shoulder: Burberry, Gucci, Prada, Tiffany, Marc Jacobs, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Marni, Lanvin. And among those three areas (and Huaihai Road, in Pudong), not a single famous luxury label appears unrepresented.

There is even a branch of Milan’s famous high-concept lifestyle store 10 Corso Como on Wheelock Square near Huashan Lu, the only one outside Italy except for in Seoul and Beijing.

It’s not just clothes, accessories, cosmetics and skincare on sale in Shanghai. Ferrari’s here, too, and located close to the gleaming gold of Jing An Temple and a block away from Reel, the latest boutique mall. “We sold 100 last year,” says a perky twenty-something Chinese assistant in the Ferrari showroom. Of the three on display, the bright yellow California T has also already been sold, she informs me. “Three million yuan. To a young guy,” she adds with a knowing smile, as if that went without saying. In Shanghai a “young guy” who buys a Ferrari is shorthand for one of those princelings – the hyper-pampered sons of Party leaders, apparently not overly affected by the current crackdown on corruption, lavish present-giving to officials and overt displays of wealth. This is a state of affairs that certainly has the general managers of many of Shanghai’s five-star hotels worrying about what is going to pick up the slack now that the extravagant parties and weddings that have proved so profitable in recent years are officially frowned upon.

They – princelings or princesslings – certainly aren’t in evidence at the luxury boutiques I dip into this autumn Sunday morning. Uniformly, the shops are beautifully stocked but empty. Taxes added to all luxury imports mean the prices are as much as 25 per cent higher than in Europe or the United States, although the whispers I’ve heard suggest that they’re being slashed. Still, if you’re wondering why come to Shanghai to shop, be assured that there are plenty of reasons – and they’re just not in the luxury boutiques. Before you set out, know that the Metro system is astoundingly well designed, but stations are so massive it is crucial to know the exit you use for your hotel and planned destination beforehand.

Clothes, silks and fabrics

Department stores such as the new, super-glitzy New World Daimaru, starring the world's only spiral escalators, are a good source of mainstream made-in-China clothes, albeit mainly in small sizes. But for discovering emerging young Chinese designers, the tree-lined French Concession is the place to go. In the 19th century, when the Europeans were forcing trade upon China, they carved up various areas of Shanghai. Whereas the British built those massive edifices along the Bund riverside, the French filled their part of the city with an elegant grid of green streets and red-roofed, cream-walled houses. Amazingly, given how much of the city the Chinese authorities have had pulled down, the area remains intact, and the French Concession is now home to the prettiest shopping streets and the most enticing, interesting boutiques. On Fumin Road, shops such as Helen Lee, Atelier Miss Lue, Lili Ming, Banana Moon and Madame Mao's Dowry – stocking fashion design stars He Yan and Lin Jing among others – are interspersed with fashionable little cafes.

For more one-off clothes, bags and accessories, the M50 arts complex on Moganshan Lu is also worth investigating, with boutiques and cafes interspersed by galleries. At Oshadai, a dove grey lightweight raincoat, very plain but with interesting cuff detail (1,950 yuan [Dh1,135]), and matching grey silk scarf (682 yuan [Dh400]), are items you could wear forever.

The Fabric Market, a crowded, crammed, noisy emporia, located at 399 Lujjiabang Lu near the Bund, where stock – fabrics as well as scarves and shawls – is piled to the ceiling, has silks for about 78 yuan (Dh45) a metre. You have to bargain and have your wits about you, though. Fingering a cashmere wrap, feeling pleased to learn the price is only Dh100, bargaining to Dh80, and then unthinkingly accepting one already wrapped in cellophane means that you have just paid for an acrylic wrap worth about Dh20. Insisting on taking the one you feel seems to be the only way of getting a good deal.

Posters, stationery and kitchen goods

The Propaganda Poster Museum gift shop sells copies of the posters that plastered China and Hong Kong during Mao's Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. Posters are available at 250 yuan (Dh145) each, with slogans such as: "The British are the running dogs of American Imperialists". Used Little Red Books are also on sale. Stationery, too, is an excellent buy in China, since so much is made there. Prices in department stores for gel pens, notebooks, blocks of drawing paper and Post-it notes are at least a quarter of what one would pay at home. But on Fuzhou Lu, the type of gel pens I pay Dh125 for at home cost only about Dh20 each, and Post-it notes, acyclic paints and drawing blocks offer similar bargains. And, apparently, if you go to the Shanghai Office Supplies Market at 21 Guangfu Lu, near Puyuan Lu in Zhabei district, the price per item is even cheaper, though you have to buy them by the boxful. That's a recommendation from UnTours guide, Jamie, who does brilliant food tours. She also suggests a visit to the Hotel Supplies Market at 345 Aomen Lu, for bamboo steamers for 7 yuan (Dh4), Japanese lanterns for 16 yuan (Dh9.25) and copper saucepans for 135 yuan (Dh78).

Gifts, trinkets and gems

The streets around Nanjing West Road near Yan'an Road have everything from children's cotton pyjamas for 16 yuan (Dh9.25) to retro-decorated cigarette packets (Dh5 per packet). And the touristy warren of the narrow old streets of Tianzifang are the place to be for inexpensive, fun presents such as giant packs of White Rabbit chewy sweets, delicately packaged teas and tea sets from fragrant little shops such as the Chinese Tea Shop, and soaps from Shanghai Lady, all in 1930s packaging for up to 25 yuan (Dh14).

A one-stop destination for shopping, sightseeing, and culture is the Shanghai Museum. Wandering around the galleries is fascinating – traditional clothing, sculptures, scrolls, paintings, jade and ceramics dating back thousands of years are all on display. The gift shop has postcards for under Dh1 each, writing sets for 110 yuan (Dh63), wall scrolls titled "Old Trees in Winter " and "In the Moonlight" for 1,680 yuan (Dh970), silk ties for 188 yuan (Dh109), red lacquer trays for 380 yuan (Dh220), translucent porcelain bowls for 10,800 yuan (Dh6,250), and excellent art books to weigh down your luggage.

Since July, visitors are entitled to a tax refund of 11 per cent on goods costing more than 500 yuan (Dh289). This must be spent in one day at one of 27 designated stores in Shanghai. For expensive items, such as gems, it's best to shop at one of the places on this list, such as Chow Tai Fook Jewellery at 438 Nanjing East Road. The shop offers a variety of gem-studded pieces set with rubies, pearls, diamonds and jade. However, the process of claiming the tax back can be lengthy, so leave enough time after checking in at the airport.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

It's encountering stores such as Lei Yun Shang, a pharmaceutical department store, off the Nanjing West Road, which makes simply wandering through the city so absorbing. The three-storey pharmacy is a treasure trove of traditional Chinese medicine remedies where, among displays of trusses and cupping sets, you can buy a two-foot wide box of Golden Sun ginseng tablets for 150 yuan (Dh75) The ginseng capsules that are priced at about Dh100 a box at home, will cost you about Dh30, and will be served with bright-eyed enthusiasm. "Yes! Best quality! In world!" grins the woman behind the counter selling foot-long, man-shaped roots from 3,600 yuan to 4,800 yuan (up to Dh2,775). Upstairs, in an old-fashioned setting of dark wood, where hairnetted, white-coated assistants bustle around a dispensing area packing up herbs, grave Chinese TCM doctors – some English-speaking – are available for consultation, diagnosis and acupuncture treatments.

Where to eat

When darkness falls, the only place to be is the Bund. Looking across the river to the neon forest that is Pudong by night, the open-air terrace bars and restaurants at the top of the majestic old Bund buildings provide some of the most spectacular views in the world. Standing on the seventh floor, Pop American Brasserie located at Three on the Bund (a trendy complex of shops, restaurants and galleries), feels thrilling as you look around, taking in the cupolas and towers of dramatically spotlit buildings and the glittering reflection of Pudong. Visitors also have a choice of eight restaurants in the same complex, all highly stylish. Establishments include the Italian restaurant Mercato by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, which serves up delectable small plates of smoked aubergine with goat's cheese, kingfish carpaccio with crushed olives and dill, and wood-oven-roasted halibut. Along the street, at number 18, Hakkasan and its darkly glamorous Ling Ling bar is a better choice on a chilly evening. Guests can choose from a variety of dishes on a lazy Susan.

Where to stay

Most of the five-star hotels lie either side of the river. The Bund is home to The Peninsula, the Mandarin Oriental, Park Hyatt, and Fairmont which has taken over the fabulously atmospheric old Peace Hotel. On the opposite side, Pudong, once an empty, soggy marshland, has been transformed into a dense grid of high-rises. Whichever side you choose, the look is pretty similar: a massive atrium and lots of chrome. But the hotel that decided on a different design was the Urban Resort Puli. The hotel notably attracts the city's most stylish locals, K-pop rock stars and high-flyers, such as Giorgio Armani, who book in during Shanghai Fashion Week. A block off the smartest stretch of Nanjing West Road – close to the French Concession – Puli feels like an oasis in Shanghai. It has a brilliant entrance tucked away from the traffic, the novelty of a garden terrace and pond, and views looking out onto a manicured people-free park. "If people were allowed they would lie down and cook and make a mess and spoil it," a Puli staff member explains. Inside, the hotel proves to be both laid-back and glamorous. Guests will find unevenly glazed black tiles (the same kind used in the Forbidden City in Beijing) lining the lobby and a long oak counter with a charming concierge placed on one side and a casual restaurant on the other. Also available are spacious rooms and suites, great bathrooms, a beautiful Anantara spa, efficient staff, and delicious breakfasts. Prices at the Puli start from 4,577 yuan (Dh2,645) including taxes – 1,997 yuan (Dh1,155) if you book ahead.

Getting there

Etihad flies direct from Abu Dhabi, with prices starting from Dh2,635 return, including taxes.

Look out for this and more stories in the Ultratravel magazine, out with The National on Thursday, November 26.

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures


Processor: Apple M3, 8-core CPU, up to 10-core CPU, 16-core Neural Engine

Display: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina, 2560 x 1664, 224ppi, 500 nits, True Tone, wide colour

Memory: 8/16/24GB

Storage: 256/512GB / 1/2TB

I/O: Thunderbolt 3/USB-4 (2), 3.5mm audio, Touch ID

Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3

Battery: 52.6Wh lithium-polymer, up to 18 hours, MagSafe charging

Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD

Video: Support for Apple ProRes, HDR with Dolby Vision, HDR10

Audio: 4-speaker system, wide stereo, support for Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio and dynamic head tracking (with AirPods)

Colours: Midnight, silver, space grey, starlight

In the box: MacBook Air, 30W/35W dual-port/70w power adapter, USB-C-to-MagSafe cable, 2 Apple stickers

Price: From Dh4,599

Important questions to consider

1. Where on the plane does my pet travel?

There are different types of travel available for pets:

  • Manifest cargo
  • Excess luggage in the hold
  • Excess luggage in the cabin

Each option is safe. The feasibility of each option is based on the size and breed of your pet, the airline they are traveling on and country they are travelling to.


2. What is the difference between my pet traveling as manifest cargo or as excess luggage?

If traveling as manifest cargo, your pet is traveling in the front hold of the plane and can travel with or without you being on the same plane. The cost of your pets travel is based on volumetric weight, in other words, the size of their travel crate.

If traveling as excess luggage, your pet will be in the rear hold of the plane and must be traveling under the ticket of a human passenger. The cost of your pets travel is based on the actual (combined) weight of your pet in their crate.


3. What happens when my pet arrives in the country they are traveling to?

As soon as the flight arrives, your pet will be taken from the plane straight to the airport terminal.

If your pet is traveling as excess luggage, they will taken to the oversized luggage area in the arrival hall. Once you clear passport control, you will be able to collect them at the same time as your normal luggage. As you exit the airport via the ‘something to declare’ customs channel you will be asked to present your pets travel paperwork to the customs official and / or the vet on duty. 

If your pet is traveling as manifest cargo, they will be taken to the Animal Reception Centre. There, their documentation will be reviewed by the staff of the ARC to ensure all is in order. At the same time, relevant customs formalities will be completed by staff based at the arriving airport. 


4. How long does the travel paperwork and other travel preparations take?

This depends entirely on the location that your pet is traveling to. Your pet relocation compnay will provide you with an accurate timeline of how long the relevant preparations will take and at what point in the process the various steps must be taken.

In some cases they can get your pet ‘travel ready’ in a few days. In others it can be up to six months or more.


5. What vaccinations does my pet need to travel?

Regardless of where your pet is traveling, they will need certain vaccinations. The exact vaccinations they need are entirely dependent on the location they are traveling to. The one vaccination that is mandatory for every country your pet may travel to is a rabies vaccination.

Other vaccinations may also be necessary. These will be advised to you as relevant. In every situation, it is essential to keep your vaccinations current and to not miss a due date, even by one day. To do so could severely hinder your pets travel plans.

Source: Pawsome Pets UAE


Hong Kong 52-5 UAE
South Korea 55-5 Malaysia
Malaysia 6-70 Hong Kong
UAE 36-32 South Korea

Friday, June 21, 7.30pm kick-off: UAE v Malaysia
At The Sevens, Dubai (admission is free).
Saturday: Hong Kong v South Korea

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

Founders: Abdulmajeed Alsukhan, Turki Bin Zarah and Abdulmohsen Albabtain.

Based: Riyadh

Offices: UAE, Vietnam and Germany

Founded: September, 2020

Number of employees: 70

Sector: FinTech, online payment solutions

Funding to date: $116m in two funding rounds  

Investors:, Impact46, Vision Ventures, Wealth Well, Seedra, Khwarizmi, Hala Ventures, Nama Ventures and family offices

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★


Director: Siddharth Anand 

Stars: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, John Abraham 

Rating: 3/5

ICC Intercontinental Cup

UAE squad Rohan Mustafa (captain), Chirag Suri, Shaiman Anwar, Rameez Shahzad, Mohammed Usman, Adnan Mufti, Saqlain Haider, Ahmed Raza, Mohammed Naveed, Imran Haider, Qadeer Ahmed, Mohammed Boota, Amir Hayat, Ashfaq Ahmed

Fixtures Nov 29-Dec 2

UAE v Afghanistan, Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Hong Kong v Papua New Guinea, Sharjah Cricket Stadium

Ireland v Scotland, Dubai International Stadium

Namibia v Netherlands, ICC Academy, Dubai