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Main Topic: Walking Through a Shanghai Silk Market

Hosts: James Stanworth , Clyde Warden

Silk MarketSilk is a centuries old part of business in China. The fabric in all its glorious colours, designs and fabulous texture is inherently attractive. Near the East Nanjing road is one of the largest silk markets in Shanghai. James and Clyde take you for a look inside with all its retail excitment, lots of typical Chinese retail and consumers from around the world.

The building itself is unimpressive. As ever, in China, no space is wasted and around the outside are small boutiques with vendors selling a variety of products. My eye was caught by a selection of ties. To the touch they felt good quality but the labels were most interesting: "Dolce and Gabbana" and "Pink". Irresistable! A little bargaining and I had a small selection for just over three US dollars a piece.

Inside the market is very typically Chinese with masses of small sellers, divided by thin partition and merchandise hung, drapped and stacked in all possible ways. These days the market does not just sell silk but cotton, linen and leather amongst other things. The tourist 'dollar' is a big part of the income here although locals are in evidence too.

The market is not just about buying fabrics. It is a great one-stop shop for all types of tailor made clothes. Customers choose their fabric. Then magazines are produced - usually worn - with all kinds designs. Nothing seems to phase the staff and they are keen to please and learn about new designs or ways of making the clothes. As I went through this process for getting a leather jacket made I described a way of reinforcing the seam at the cuff to stop it tearing. They had not seen this before and it seemed set to be integrated into future designs! One detailing - button, zips etc. is all taken care of a price is suggested. Negotiation goes on for a while. If the deal cannot get closed most seller become fairly cold. You are quickly left with the sense that this is very much about closing a deal. There is no sense that you might come back tomorrow, next year or send your friends there becuase they treated you well. Making the clothes is done near by the market. A walk around the small streets around the market showed old run down buildings filled with the sound of sewing machines and hard work. Fitting is usually carried out in a few days, final changes are quickly made and the customer comes back to pick up their finished item.

The workmanship - seaming and cutting is generally good - but the tailoring to fit the individual varies. The huge range of boutiques gives customers plenty of choice and some opportunity to compare. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the only way to really understand the quality of the final product is to talk to other customers who have bought something. It is also worth remembering that local expectations are often lower than international customers. So getting clear on standards takes time, patience and polite insistance. Sellers often hire an assistant - usually students - who handle translation and act as a go-between for the seller and customer. Chatting with them is interesting since they are often familiar with the business.The silk market offer the Chinese experience combining the copying of designs, with quality fabrics and often strong efforts at customer service.

This is a great place to contribute to the knock-off market

Listen To The Show (Audio Only):

Length: 17 minutes. Download MP3 7.9MB (Right click->Save As).

On Location

Watch The Show (Video & Audio):

From Shanghai with James and Clyde.
Length: 17 minutes.

iPod (H.264 fast download 320x240) Download MP4 52.47MB (Right click->Save As).
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Bottom Line:

  • Shanghai silk market offers fabrics from silk to leather and linen.
  • The layout is typical Chinese individual boutique style.
  • Tailoring helps customers transform their purchase into made to measure clothing.
  • Female and male customers are equally well catered for.
  • Boutiques often hire translators to help with communication and provide written confirmation of orders.
  • Customers often choose options from fashion magazines.
  • Copies are easily made from the customers own cloths or pictures they produce.
  • The customer has to take care of quality details like zips, buttons and other detailing.
Category: Videocasts

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