Monday, April 28, 2014

Fabric Shopping in Hong Kong

Fabric shopping in Hong Kong is an event.  It's not something you just casually do because poor planning will affect the quality (and amount) of one's stash.  I didn't have a lot of time, mostly because I had other things (family responsibilities) planned in Hong Kong. I gave myself a full day here, and honestly, it was not enough time.  I could have spent at least 3-4 days shopping.  I have read on a blog where a woman bought four large boxes filled with supplies for her personal stash.  Four boxes is probably the norm and not the exception!  One recommendation: bring a couple of large empty suitcases from home and shove all your personal belongings in a carry-on backpack.  If you're a serious sewist, and focused mostly on clothes sewing (like me), then shopping in Hong Kong is your slice of heaven on Earth. No kidding.

Sham Shui Po is the fabric district in Hong Kong. I was actually born here, in this very neighborhood...which is probably why I love textiles.  This is also one of the oldest districts on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong.  Getting here is a breeze by train, and stops basically in the dead center of town. It's also the district that has the only Michelin star dim sum restaurant called Tim Ho Wan. I actually ate some of their dim sum, except at their annex inside the Hong Kong MTR station.

I just had a dim sum flashback...more about fabric shopping...

Sham Shui Po is wholesale buying, but most vendors will sell to you for a 3-5 yard minimum. Clothes sewists need at least three yards (yes, they use inches and yards for measuring), so this shouldn't be a problem. Anything you want can be purchased in SSP: findings, fabrics, leathers, pleathers, accessory items like purse frames, and other hardware.  I had a small goal in mind, get a couple of rolls of grosgrain rayon ribbon from Japan, and some outstanding pieces of silk and cottons. Yes, I succeeded...but I couldn't help but think how much MORE I could have gotten.

I speak Cantonese so I had an advantage. It is harder to deal with vendors here unless you speak Chinese, but they all want your money, and most will speak basic English.  Bargaining is possible, but the margins are small, so unless you're buying a large amount, don't bother.  There will also be a small service fee for buying less than a bolt...but it should be a minimal amount.  Be sure to ask clearly what that fee is and if it's included in the quoted yard price.

If you plan on buying from the wholesalers, they will only have cut samples available for viewing around a 4X5" square or smaller. The majority of the vendors work this way. Some will have books and catalogues for other colors available, but you'll have to ask for it. When ordering from these vendors, one must allow at least three days for delivery.  All fabric stock is stored at factories in mainland China, and brought over after purchase. You can put deposits for large orders, but smaller orders will require full payment.  Everyone has to come back and pick-up their delivery three days later.  This is the average amount of time.  Some vendors can get it to you sooner, and others be very careful to get the correct delivery times and try to coordinate your pickup at the same time with your other purchases.  Many of the findings (notions) vendors will have things in stock so no waiting time.  Be sure to bring a wheelie bag or large backpack for the same-day purchases. If you forget to bring one, you can also buy one at SSP's open market.

The open market in Sham Shui Po also sells fabric and notions. If you have the time, check them out too.  These are not wholesalers, and most things look like overruns, samples, and possible defects, so check the merchandise carefully. I did not pick up zippers while there, and regretted that later. I had a friend with me who usually purchased from the bins, because they were cheaper.  I would have taken more photos but vendors are really nasty about having their photos taken. You can find a lot of photos all over the web if you search Sham Shui Po fabric district.

While I was in Japan, I looked for a good price for rayon grosgrain ribbon. I like the ribbon from Japan, but all the prices I found in Nippori were the same as the US prices so I passed.  In the US, they run about $1.25+ a yard depending upon the size. I found one vendor in SSP that sold the Japanese grosgrain, and if you buy the whole roll, it's about $1 a yard or less for any width depending on your exchange rate.  I bought two rolls, and some polyester embroidered trim. I could have spent hours at this little shop alone. They are also willing to ship if I run out and want to buy more rolls.  I did not get a super...super deal on these, but I did save some, plus the tax and shipping costs.  Still a happy day...

I bought all my fabric from one vendor named Moon Yue Piece Goods. He was not a wholesaler so there were no minimums. His place was hidden on the second floor of a nondescript building, and finding it can be a challenge, but not impossible. The owner told me that his family has worked as bolt-end jobbers for more than 25 years, picking up fabric from some of the finest design showrooms in Hong Kong.  This is the kind of fabric business that I love. They carried merchandise that cannot be purchased anywhere because they were custom-made for design rooms. One of their biggest names is JCrew.  I saw JCrew fabric that was so new, you could find the completed clothes still in the stores.  Some of those pieces cost $50 US a yard. I didn't get those...for the price, I was afraid those cuts would end up souvenirs and too special to cut into.  I already know this about I looked for pieces I would feel comfortable using.

Here is the address to Moon Yue, and if you're going there, give them a call to double check the address. They speak some English. 1/F (First floor), 125-127 Yu Chau Street, Sham Shui Po, Phone: 27899661.

This might have been a JCrew cotton. It has a beautiful light weight. 
Another design room that the jobber collects stock from is Shanghai Tang, a very famous upscale design house started by (Sir) David Tang who later sold his company to the luxury retailer Richmont.  Richmont also owns these luxury brands: Chloe, Lancel, and Baume & Mercier watches (just to name a few).  I picked up one Shanghai Tang exclusive...see here:

A Shanghai Tang satin silk charmeuse with vintage 1930s poster
girl print. This is a medium weight silk that was probably used for a coat 
lining. But really, it's pretty enough to be a dress or blouse on its own.
I have a small collection of these vintage posters too. This is 
my favorite piece in the group. 
All the fabric cuts were $40 HK or $80 HK per yard. All the silks were $80 HK.  This converts to about $5.50 - 11.00 US per yard. Not bad...considering the quality. If you didn't notice this past season, JCrew has contracted with Liberty of London for fabric to make some of their shirts. I swear I found a couple of cottons that looked like Liberty of London quality.  Check out my two photos below.

Here are more interesting cottons that I couldn't leave without. All have varying weight.  The white with the sailboat was thicker and good for bottom weight, but still soft and drapes nicely.

This piece has very interesting prints, and could be a nice home furnishings piece. I personally think it would make a wonderful sheath dress. It's a heavier weight cotton.

This is a lighter cotton with lovely rose prints on both sides...another great sheath dress possibility...but a lighter piece.

These next two pieces of silk are so gorgeous that I bought everything they had left on the roll.  The first is a cut velvet piece, but the back is polka-dotted so the piece is actually reversible. It's soooooooo beautiful and drapes like butter.

This piece is also a medium weight satin silk charmeuse that had all my favorite colors rolled into one. It might turn into one of those pieces that I cannot cut into.

This last piece was included because I knew that I wanted to dig into all those Japanese pattern books.  Many of the patterns recommend using a quality linen. The shop had a light-weight linen for about $4.00 US a yard, and I nabbed several yards in black (my favorite color).  The picture doesn't do the linen justice.

If you've shopped in Hong Kong, or have other suggestions, please send me a note. Chances are I won't be back this year...but you never know. I will probably be going back again next year.  This will give me time to save up more money. I only spent about $400 US. I could have easily spent $4,000.  My sewing room is overrun with stash now, and I keep telling myself to stop purchasing fabric...and things like this trip pops up. Oh well...who's complaining?  Not me.

Happy sewing!

PS: See some added pictures below of the exhibit at the Hong Kong airport. These are costumes directly from their local opera house.  Chinese opera is not like anything you have ever seen. It's an acquired taste for sure, but the costumes are beautiful! Please excuse the glare from the display glass!  This was one of those rare moments where I was able to take photos of displays.

Head dress

Female silk dress with long silk sleeves.

These must be antique shoes, the red boots on the right
looked like shoes meant for bound feet. 

Do you know who really invented the platform? 

More head dresses.  These are look like ones that actors portraying
royalty would wear. They are similar to wedding head dresses still
worn by modern-day Chinese brides.

Bye Hong Kong...exhausted selfie...on the plane home.

I was exhausted because I was climbing up hills that look like this everyday...

And obviously...I did not eat enough of these things...

I am really into Tea Time!

I actually made the rice and veggies to pair with
the roast duck.  

Best egg custard tart I have EVER had. Seconds. 

Hong Kong is the place for wonton noodle soup.