The Top 5 Funky Shops on Nanchang Lu Road in Shanghai

Just one street back from the parade of luxury brands along Huaihai Road, Nanchang Lu retains an air of antiquated chic from its early 20th-century French Concession days. Lined with overarching French plane trees and Art Deco lane houses, the friendly neighborhood is home to antique dealers, fruit sellers, and traditional medicine clinics. Fitting nicely into the eclectic mix are several funky boutiques that are starting to give Huaihai Road a run for its fashionista money.

By Amy Fabris-Shi
Photography by Eric Dang

Boutique 205
This new concept store may look like another hole-in-the-wall fashion outlet, but venture inside and discover three hip boutiques in one. Rifle the racks of cute casuals from Scandinavian label Frances-P, then continue into the sunlit backroom where Roommate stocks an eclectic mix of imports from Japan and Korea, plus a well-priced bespoke men’s shirt service. Ascend the creaky wooden stairs to I Prefer from Taiwan for one-off bohemian dresses crafted from hand-dyed silks and batik (205 Nanchang Lu; 86-21/3424-0336).

Chloe Chen
Near the intersection with Xiangyang Lu, the namesake boutique of Taiwanese fashion diva Chloe Chen is a one-stop shop for playful party outfits in retro fabrics. Complete your look with statement jewels and vintage hairpieces displayed in antique cabinets, and don’t forget the bright heels and ankle boots from Chen’s shoe label (174 Xiangyang Nanlu; 86-21/ 5465-7275; chloechen.com).

Pop Classic Sneakers
PCS stocks a covetable collection of vintage Chinese footwear. Affable young owner Jacob Wang is keen to keep China’s plimsoll past alive. Along with cult sneaker brand Feiyue, you can find canvas Warrior sneakers favored by Chinese hipsters in the 1980s. Ospop models, inspired by migrant workers’ olive-green Jiefang Xie pumps, are available in a reengineered utilitarian palette of cement, brick, and tobacco. China’s 3,000-year-old cotton kung-fu slippers also make a stylish comeback in the K-Fu range, with hand-sewn soles and fashionable stripes or polka-dot designs (130 Nanchang Lu; 86/138-1757-1942).

Le Goût du Temps
Tiptoe carefully through the stash of trinkets, homewares, and clothing in this endearing little bazaar. The owner sits in a corner knitting colorful coin purses with fancy clasps, which can be found tucked away on shelves throughout the store (134 Nanchang Lu; 86-21/6402-0411).

S2VS
Young Indonesian designer Sean William Salim is one of the street’s rising stars. Having grown up in Singapore and graduated from New York’s Parsons School of Design, Salim chose Shanghai as the base for his indie menswear brand S2VS. Now sold in more than 30 stores worldwide, his petite flagship boutique occupies the enclosed garden courtyard of a heritage residence. S2VS’s preppy looks feature sharp tailoring and edgy details like wooden buttons and flashes of color sewn into pockets and collars. Price tags at a fraction of those in the New York store are an added draw (172 Nanchang Lu; 86/138-1671-2631; s2vs.com).

Originally appeared in the October/November 2011 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Nanchang’s New Groove”)

China: Where to Eat, Drink, and be Merry in Shanghai

Above: Views of the Huangpu River.

From classic teahouses to avant-garde boutiques, discover how–and where–to make the most of your time in Shanghai.

By Natasha Dragun
Photographs by Andrew Rowat

The sign at the entrance to the small pudong park reads: “Caution Above!” I’m assuming. I’ve been warned to watch my head as I walk under the low, arched stone gate. But when I look up, I realize there’s a lot more cluttering the sky: the 492-meter-high Shanghai World Financial Center pierces the clouds just to my left; a steel jungle of cranes and earthmovers fight for space at a neighboring construction site where an even loftier building, the 632-meter Shanghai Tower, is taking form; and the shimmering Super Brand Mall, the city’s largest shopping center, looms over the trees, casting a long shadow across a handful of workers sleeping on park benches. When I first visited Shanghai 15 years ago, most of this area was still farmland.

With an estimated 4,000 skyscrapers and 17 million people, Shanghai has never shied away from breakneck urban development. And since the announcement eight years ago that it would play host to Expo 2010—running from May 1 to October 31 and expected to be the largest (and most expensive) world fair of all time—even the fringes of the metropolis have been given a facelift.

More than US$45 billion has been spent on sprucing up the city since 2002. The makeover includes six new subway lines, two airport terminals, dozens of futuristic expo pavilions, and a coat of paint for just about every neighborhood across town. But it’s not all steel and concrete. The city has also been given a new riverside promenade, and numerous parks and gardens have opened to add weight to Shanghai’s expo theme, “Better City, Better Life.” And then there’s the thriving restaurant and bar scene, the ever-growing cache of luxury hotels, and the burgeoning art and design landscape. As this gargantuan urban renewal nears completion, there’s never been a better time to be Shanghaied.

Getting Your Bearings

The snaking Huangpu River splits Shanghai in two. To the west, Concession-era architecture, posh boutiques, and glitzy nightclubs characterize the old city of Puxi. And to the east there’s Pudong, a futuristic business hub and the epitome of  “new” China with its broad boulevards and angular skyscrapers.

The Old West It’s easy to lose yourself in the narrow alleys and atmospheric neighborhoods that distinguish Shanghai’s French Concession district—the handsome Tudor mansions and camphor-tree lined streets that earned Shanghai its reputation as the Paris of the East. To the east is Xintiandi, a once-derelict neighborhood of gray-brick shikumen houses transformed into an entertainment enclave by American architect Benjamin Wood. And then there are the Neoclassical and Art Deco buildings of the Bund, built a century ago when this river town was the richest port in the Orient.

Extending 5.5 kilometers west from the Bund to People’s Square—once home to government buildings, today a vast public plaza popular for its museums—Nanjing Lu is Shanghai’s answer to Champs-élysées. The commercial lifeblood of the city for more than 160 years, the shopping strip is among the busiest in the world; if you’re after big-name boutiques, you needn’t look further than the mega-malls that clutter the sidewalks here.

The New East On the opposite bank is Pudong, a gleaming cityscape of glass, steel, and construction cranes, home to the silvery tiers of the Jinmao Tower, the bulbous pink body of the Oriental Pearl TV tower, the mirrored trunk of the World Financial Center, and, farther south, the hub of the sprawling expo site.

Where to Eat

There’s not much that you can’t find on the menu in Shanghai, from bamboo steamers piled high with soupy xiaolongbao dumplings to frou-frou fusion fare and everything in between. A good place to get a taste for the city’s delicate hu cai cuisine is Fu 1088 (375 Zhenning Lu; 86-21/5239-7878), a gem of a restaurant occupying a mansion decorated with antique chandeliers and cherry-wood dining tables. A traditional dish of “drunken chicken” (the meat’s marinated in alcohol) is spruced up with shaved ice scented with Chinese rice wine, while tea-smoked eggs get a salty kick from a spoonful of black caviar. Be warned: there’s a minimum spend of 300 yuan (about US$44) per person.

Less fussy Shanghainese fare can be sampled at Hu Xin Ting (257 Yuyuan Lu; 86-21/6373-6950), a venerable teahouse set in a Qing-era building perched over a lake near the leafy Yuyuan gardens. Every order of pu’er and oolong comes served with bite-size snacks like preserved plums and glutinous rice cakes filled with red bean paste. Should you want something more substantial, menu highlights range from petite dumplings to yanduxian, a fortifying soup made from fresh and cured pork, bamboo shoots, and knots of tofu skin.