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Beijing shopping: The city's top 12 boutiques
The rise of China's homegrown design talent has spawned some of the coolest little shops in Asia
Gone are the days when Beijing shopping meant traditional qipao garb and Louis Vuitton knockoffs.
China's capital is now home to some of the most in-demand shops in the world, from European fast-fashion behemoths to Japanese couture houses.
But the real draw is the sudden emergence of homegrown talents, whose designs reflect a burgeoning aesthetic unique to China.
For the Beijing visitor operating with limited shopping time, here are the city’s must-see boutiques.
iReport assignment: What are your favorite spots in Beijing?
Plastered T-shirts jump-started growth in Beijing’s oldest alleyway and, some say, the entire surrounding area now known as Gulou.
Founded by native Brit and local celebrity Dominic Johnson-Hill, this hutong stalwart takes iconic images from around China and reinterprets them in fun graphic prints, in the form of T-shirts and other affordable memorabilia.
Plastered T-shirts, 61 Nanluogu Xiang, Dongcheng District; +86 (0)10 6407 8425; open daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
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We say skip the shops in the now-tired Nanluogu Xiang and head for neighboring up-and-coming alleyway Mao’er Hutong.
Located in a renovated courtyard, Wuhao has no sign and you have to ring the doorbell to enter.
Once the staff lets you in, you're greeted with steaming tea and led down traditional corridors filled with cutting-edge fashion and art.
Wuhao showcases the best of locally made jewelry, clothes (for men and women) and furniture in a feng shui-compliant space alongside French and American brands –- a curation decision meant to signal just how far Chinese design has come.
Wuhao, 35 Mao’er Hutong, Dongcheng District; +86 (0)10 6400 5435; 2-8 p.m. (Wednesday-Sunday) or by appointment
This unisex multi-brand store fashioned after a traditional Chinese medicine shop is just a 15-minute walk from Wuhao.
Antique cabinets originally used to store herbs now sport sunglasses, while cloth pouches for medicine have been redesigned as shopping bags.
Daniel Palillo, Ann Tian and other avant-garde brands from abroad are the main attraction. Triple-Major’s playful and more affordable in-house label is worth checking out as well if you're out doing some Beijing shopping.
Triple-Major, 81 Baochao Hutong, Dongcheng District, +86 10 8402 0763, 1-8 p.m. (Tuesday-Sunday)
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Vega Zaishi Wang
A brief cab ride from Triple-Major takes you to the studio/boutique of one of China’s most promising young designers.
A Central Saint Martins alum who previously worked under the late Alexander McQueen, Vega Zaishi Wang has six womenswear collections to her name -- each has been lauded by local media.
This Beijing shopping space feels more like a home than a retail shop, with a serene second-floor balcony where visitors can step out and enjoy the view.
Vega Wang, 63 Yanyue Hutong, Dongsi Nandajie, Dongcheng District; +86 10 5900 2279, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sanlitun Village is loud, flashy and commercial –- a stark contrast to Gulou’s hipster offerings.
Short for “Brand New China," BNC is a 540-square-meter airy store filled with beautiful apparel, jewelry, shoes and bags -- all made by Chinese designers.
By setting up shop next to the likes of Apple and Alexander Wang, owner Hung Huang (aka the Chinese Oprah) is making a powerful point about the caliber of domestic design.
She intends to showcase its range in creativity, too. While all the products on sale –- from Rfactory’s iPad cases to He Yan’s blazers –- vary in price, color and style, they have two things in common: they're all high-quality, and they're all made in China.
Brand New China, B1/F, NLG-09A, Sanlitun Village North, 11 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District; +86 (0)10 6416 9045; open daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
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This home accessories brand from Shanghai is run by a team of French and Chinese designers. Drawing inspiration from everyday life in China, they reimagine rice measuring cups or coin purses as contemporary tote bags, travel books and bedding.
A unique blend of traditional materials (silk, bamboo, linen) are matched with plasticized cloth and organic cotton -- the quintessence of Eastern and Western design.
Shanghai Trio.com; B1/F, NLG-38A, Sanlitun Village North, 11 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District; +86 (0)10 6417 3606; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (Monday-Friday), 11 a.m.-7 p.m. (Saturday-Sunday)
Lawyer-turned-designer Currie Lee picks up recycled textiles (from frog skin to buntal) in her travels across Asia and makes them into eco-friendly clutch bags and jewelry, now a ubiquitous sight on ladies at local fashion events.
More than chic, her creations are all handcrafted in Southeast Asian cottage industries by women, allowing them to earn a decent income.
NLG-13, Sanlitun Village North, 11 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District, +86 10 138 1123 1495; open daily, 1-9 p.m.
Dong Liang Studio
One of Beijing’s most beloved boutiques, Dong Liang Studio offers an expertly curated selection of domestic brands.
What started out as a hole-in-the-wall shop in the hutongs has since grown into a sophisticated multi-brand empire with a roomy boutique in Beijing’s commercial business district, as well as a branch in Shanghai.
All of the latest collections by China’s front runners, from Uma Wang (womenswear) to Xander Zhou (menswear), are showcased in beautiful rooms decorated with antique dressers and jars.
Shop 102, Building 2, Central Park, 6 Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District; +86 10 8404 7648; open daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Backed by French couture house Hermès, Shang Xia is slated to become China’s first homegrown luxury label.
Its lifestyle products -– which include yak hair coats, zitan wood tables and teapots -– are made in collaboration with local artisans, the result of hundreds, sometimes thousands of hours of handiwork, with eye-popping prices to match.
Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the stunning Beijing branch is this five-year-old brand’s second shop.
Unit SB-107B, 1/F, Building 1, China World Mall Phase 1, China World Trade Center, 1 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District, Chaoyang District; +86 (0)10 6505 7358; open daily, 10 a.m.-9.30 p.m.
UCCA Design Store
This Chinese designer platform is an offshoot of the Ullens Center of Contemporary Arts, the most popular gallery in Beijing’s bustling 798 Art District.
Books, magazines, clothes, temporary tattoos, art supplies and even bicycles are available at the UCCA Design Store (next door to the UCCA, not to be confused with the UCCA gift shop), designed by a variety of local and international artists, from Shang Xia’s Zhang Da to Y-3.
Like BNC, the UCCA Design Store offers a wide range in prices, so Beijing shoppers on any budget can pick up quirky souvenirs galore.
UCCA Store, 798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District; +86 (0)10 5780 0224; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. (Tuesday-Sunday)
The fashion savvy will have a ball at this Beijing shopping haven.
FEI Space stocks an envious selection of the world’s trendiest labels, from Front Row Shop to Raf Simons, all in a refurbished factory space furnished with nostalgic antique fittings.
What’s more, this hipped-out spot is the exclusive China mainland stockist for Topshop and Topman.
FEI Space, B-01, Dashanzi 798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District; +86 (0)10 5978 9580; 10.30 a.m.-5 p.m. (Tuesday-Sunday)
Your final stop is NLGX Design, another T-shirt shop that got its start in Nanluogu Xiang but has since opened branches in both Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 of the Beijing Airport (PEK).
Before boarding your flight back home, it's worth browsing through NLGX’s sustainable bags, iconic shirts and biking accessories.
NLGX, Terminal 3 (next to Gate E29), Beijing Capital International Airport, Shunyi District; open daily, 6.30 a.m.-8.30 p.m.
Do you have any Beijing shopping tips? Share them in the comments box below.