This article has been edited and updated with new information and photos on March 1, 2017.
One of the best parts about life in China is how affordable it is. Tired of living the pauper post-grad life back home? Evade your student loan lenders, get yourself a plane ticket and start living like a king. If you're gonna live like royalty here in this great country, then you gotta look like royalty, too, right? Happily, China's got a cheap answer for that as well: it's booming, nation-wide knock-off industry. Don't have the money for a new pair of Nikes? No problem. Never gonna own a brand new Chanel handbag? No worries.
Take that money you've been spending at thrift stores and head on down to any of China's plentiful, labyrinthine markets to find: yes, of course, fakes, but also fantastic Chinglish t-shirts, blindingly bright lycra, shoes too small for most Western feet, Obama graphics in a Chairman Mao cap, and just about anything else under the sun.
As of the latter half of 2016, Han City (aka Fenshine Fashion or Taobao City), the earlier shrine for fake brands is now closed, but don't fret. There are still plenty of fake markets in Shanghai. We've revisited some tried and true knockoff markets around town and we've managed to find a few new ones as well. So if you're in the market for a brand new “Luis Vuitton” handbag or an “Aberkrombie & Fetch” jacket, you still have plenty of options.
So without any further ado, here is our updated guide to fake markets in Shanghai. (This article has been edited and updated with new information and photos on March 1, 2017.)
If you're hunting for Chinese street fashion but can only spend a few hours; the Qipu Lu Market is your place. From the latest female fashion to knockoff sportswear, men’s jeans, fake couture bags, children’s toys, sneakers and cheap cosmetics, Qipu Lu is the best option for a shopping spree into the style à la chinoise.
Inventory here skews more toward the female shopper. Apparel also runs in Chinese sizes, so you may have to buy a few sizes up to accommodate your hulking foreigner frame. Likewise, clothing tends to be more Chinese in style, too, so expect a little more flash than you might be accustomed to. For more variety, you may want to check out nearby STC Mall.
Screen printed tees go for RMB10-100. Blue jeans go for RMB50-100. Sneakers and sandals are RMB30-100. Jackets are the best value, starting at RMB100 upward. They may even go for cheaper in the warmer months.
What can I get for RMB200?
A new wardrobe from their discounted rack: Chinese, day-glow, no-name brand sneakers, RMB25; Chinese-style socks and underwear, RMB10; skinny jeans (remember, China sizes only), RMB40; graphic tees printed with hilarious English verbiage, RMB30; springtime leather jackets, RMB95.
Pro-tip: Map out your itinerary. Basement floors here usually sell shoes. The next few floors stock the latest women’s and men’s wear. The next floor: kidswear and often household appliances.
Where: 168 Qipu Lu (near Henan Bei Lu) 七浦路168号 (近河南北路)
Shanghai’s Asia-Pacific (AP) Plaza is 57,00 square meters of knockoff heaven. Sitting beneath Science & Technology Museum, alongside the subway station, AP's more than 1,000 vendor stalls make up one of Shanghai's biggest and most popular markets. The vibe here is more touristy and the sales pitches are more aggressive than what you'll find in Qipu Lu. Nevertheless, AP features more variety and also features the Yada Pearl Market right next door, which features an incredible selection of pearls as well as jade and costume jewelry.
AP offers an array of apparel as well as souvenirs. So if you're looking for China gifts, this is a good place to start. Look out for Abercrombie & Fitch polo-style shirts, kids' Ugg boots, mini-drones, panda plush toys. Options abound. Quality varies, but prices are low.
You'll hear the word “Bags?” a lot in AP. Say "yes" and follow the vendor through a hidden door that will take you to a secret Batcave of knockoff bags. Chanel leather clutches should start from RMB250, bigger Luis Vuitton bags from RMB500 (synthetic leather). Be prepared to haggle hard.
Back in the market proper, pick up a pair of knockoff sneakers in every color and print for RMB100 or less. There’s also a huge range of sunglasses, from classic aviators to trendy oval frames and vibrant colored shades. Prices vary depending on the quality and range from RMB50 to RMB150.
What can I get for RMB200?
Yankees or Dodgers caps can go for as low as RMB30 if you bargain hard. Sandals, flats and sneakers are plentiful and start at RMB50. Real leather UGG boots for kids start from RMB120. Beats headphones set you back RMB80, while Beats mini-loudspeakers are only RMB40. Top up a little and you can leave with Marshall headphones for RMB380.
Where: 2000 Shijie Da Dao, Inside Shanghai Science & Technology Museum Line 2 地铁2号线上海科技馆站内, 世纪大道2000号
The Hongqiao New World Pearl market is far from the city center but well worth making a journey for their pearls. The first floor features your standard garden variety knockoff-ery—handbags, wallets, souvenirs, shoes—but as you move up to the second floor, you'll find an extensive jewelry market with pearls in every variation, size and color.
In addition to jewelry, this market includes a tapestry shop with tons of carpets, cushions and home décor items that we haven’t seen elsewhere. There's also sports equipment, including tennis and badminton rackets and balls. Tailors are cheap (men’s suit for RMB650), but you have other dedicated markets, such as South Bund Fabric Market for that purpose.
Pearls are the best purchase at this market. Pearl boutiques reside on the second floor, and you can also design your own jewelry from their wide selection of pearls and jade. First and third floors have a few random shops for bags, sunglasses and cashmere scarves, all priced similarly to AP Plaza. There is a massive toy store, Wish Toy, on the third floor as well.
Pro-tip: The pearls you find here should be real fresh water pearls, but for your reference, whenever you shop for pearls, check for fakes by scratching the pearl's surface with scissors. Most vendors will provide scissors in order to prove their pearls' authenticity. If powder scratches off, then you know the pearl's real -- if nothing scratches off, you know it's fake.
What can I get for RMB200?
Pearl bracelets and earrings in white, pastel pink and black start from RMB40, while necklaces average RMB100. Silk and cashmere scarves start around RMB75 and vary depending on the material, quality and dimensions. A decent copy of a pink Fjällräven backpack goes for RMB150 and a metalllic replica of Issey Miyake’s Bao Bao toiletry bag goes for RMB60. Custom-made reading glasses start from RMB240 and prescriptions sunglasses start from RMB320. Those usually take a day to make.
Where: 3721 Hongmei Lu (near Yan'an Lu) 虹梅路3721号 (近延安路)
Hong Kong Famous Shops Street is located beneath People's Square, so you can start shopping once you pass throught the exit turnstiles. Goods include youth fashion, including mostly women’s wear, shoes and accessories. There are fewer shops here compared to the other markets around town, but the goods are selected with more care and are competitively priced.
Compared to Qipu, there’s less fake stuff which means more unique pieces. You can find unbranded ladies sneakers, organic makeup, NYC jerseys and more. The corridors are wider and easier to negotiate. Vendors are less aggressive, too. One floor down you'll find a wedding market full of glittery princess dresses, too.
What can I get for RMB200?
Leather mini backpacks for RMB150. Furry pom-poms and rabbits for RMB50 upward. Shoes from RMB100. Spring jackets from RMB150.
Pro-tip: Check the small corridors on the periphery, parallel to the train tracks. Stalls here have deeper discounts.
Where: 9 Renmin Dadao, inside People’s Square Subway Station Underground 人民大道9号，人民广场地铁站里
This market is closed as of 2017.
Han City is a mind-blowing maze of knock-off merchandise. If you know what you’re looking for, you can be in and out in 20 minutes. If you don't, you could wander for hours. Tourist buses drop off in the back entrance. Avoid this area at all costs. Han City is the fake market for tourists. You won’t find many Chinese locals here. If you go on a weekday, you’re less likely to be trampled by a stampede of foreigners.
You can find anything here. The building is four floors with hundreds of stalls. Each floor has a "specialty," but every floor is in reality the same. The only real way to find what you’re looking for is to search for it. Stalls specialize in art, shirts, electronics (headphones, speakers, software), jerseys, scarfs and sweaters, shoes, bags, kitschy Chinese propaganda stuff, jeans, etc.
Pro-tip: Naturally, the ground floor stalls get the most foot traffic, simply by virtue of the fact that people walk in, spot what they want right away, and make their purchase. But you'll save money if you exercise more patience.
Check out the top floors. Essentially every floor has the same stuff, yes, but far fewer customers have the time and energy to make their way to the top floors. There, you'll find more amenable stall owners, a bit more willing and eager to make a sale.
The best things to buy here are shoes and small-time electronics. Shoes start at RMB300-400 but can be bargained to RMB60-80. Jerseys start at RMB300 but can be bargained to RMB70. Speakers start at RMB200 but can be bargained down to RMB40.
Bags are a hot buy here: inexpensive knock-offs and really expensive knock-offs. Designer bags, the good ones, are located in the secret closets behind stalls. They start at RMB4,000 but try and push it to RMB600 or even lower. The same secret stalls also often sell fake designer watches and wallets (although made with real leather) for men.
Generally it's best to skip the jewelry, though, as there are better markets for that. Avoid the art.
What Can I Get For RMB200?
Buy a pair of name brand knock-off shoes for RMB70. Add a pair of bluetooth speakers -- RMB50. Top it off with a sweet soccer jersey, just in time for the World Cup this summer, RMB60-80. Boom, RMB200. Substitute a handbag for any two of these.
Where: 580 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Chengdu Bei Lu 南京西路580号, 近成都北路
So there you have it, folks. The list above comprises Shanghai's main fake markets, and lets you know where to find them and what to buy there. But here comes the tough part: haggling.
Shopping Shanghai's fake markets are not for the faint of heart. The crowds are as relentless as the shop keeps. You'll find your Western sense of personal space repeatedly violated, your person touched and grabbed, and you'll perceive behavior so rude as to be downright offensive. Remember: it's just shopping, not a war zone.
But assuming you can survive that far, what you'll need more than anything to win the fake shopping game is bargaining skills.
Bargaining, negotiating, intricate word-play -- call it what you want, the ancient practice of haggling is one of the great joys (or worst fears) of most of us who live in or visit Shanghai. But a few tips and some advanced preparation can mean the difference in finding that diamond in the rough without having to pay through the nose for it.
Mandarin skills are not even the crux of a successful bargain -- what takes you further than anything else is a bit of know-how with a bit of backbone. Read on for the do's and don'ts of how to bargain like a pro.
1. A little Chinese language goes a long way and may earn you some respect from the shop keep as well give you leverage when bargaining. Try these phrases:
这个多少钱? (Zhè gè duō shaŏ qián? How much is this?)
太贵了! (Tài guì le! This is too much!)
不要谢谢! (Bú yào, xiè xiè! I don’t want this but thanks anyway!)
可以便宜一点吗? (Kĕ yĭ pián yi yī diăn mā? Can you make this a little cheaper?)
2. Start low, almost too low. But make sure to have a price in mind first and wait as absolutely long as possible before even mentioning a number. Just saying a number starts the haggling. Once you decide to start though, shoot for 10 percent of the asking price. If a jersey starts at RMB300, start the counter-proposal at RMB30, be prepared for the onslaught of eye-rolling and the looks of exasperation, then slowly edge up.
Whatever you do, don't get too attached -- or at least appear too attached -- to an item before you start bargaining for it. The shop keep will be able to tell that you really want it, and you'll have a harder time not making concessions on the price.
If you feel like the price keeps going up, but your heart is set on an item, remind yourself that you're in a giant complex with hundreds of identical stalls hawking identical goods. When in doubt or starting to feel like you're losing or being cheated, simply walk away.
3. It’s all an act. Remember that and don’t get offended or frustrated because the shop keeps you’re haggling with are pros. Walking away to make it seem like you don’t want something is always a good tool to keep with you and they’ll put on a show too. Just remember, no matter how much they tell you you’re ripping them off, they won’t sell it to you if it’s not a good deal for them.
Finally, to assist you in your fake market shopping and haggling, check out an app: Fake Market Shanghai. This brilliant app tells you what the average after-bargaining price for popular items should be, has some good tips and advice on buying techniques, and even has a user-generated feed of items recently purchased and at what price. The app’s biggest downside: it’s not available for iPhone (only for Android).
By Christina Biciola & Stephen Dutton, edited for the web by Chelsea Stone
Updated on March 1, 2017 with new information and photos by Emmi Laine.
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