The shopping in Hong Kong is so good that it’s been dubbed a national pastime – and with good reason. Constance Haisma-Kwok points you in the direction of the finest stores on the continent
Photography by Ming Tang-Evans
Theoretically, one could walk from the venerable Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong to the city-chic Landmark Mandarin Oriental in five minutes. The fact that no one does so is not down to traffic congestion or poor city planning, but distraction. It’s hard to make a beeline when there are so many tempting shops en route. In fact, in a city that is often called a shopper’s paradise, the three blocks between the two hotels are the cream of the crop, offering visitors everything from haute cuisine to haute couture, and from chops to cheongsam.
The trick to finding the best retail spots is to understand a few secrets about shopping in Central, Hong Kong. The first is this: look up. This is not a city of broad boulevards. Instead, impediments such as heat, rain and traffic are circumvented by a series of elevated walkways connecting one building to the next. Happily, the connections begin at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, where guests can opt for the Luxury Fashionista package, which includes champagne, a shopping map, a foot massage and even a porter to carry your purchases.
The porter is a good idea because the bags are sure to start piling up as soon as you step out of your room. That’s because Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong happens to be home to a few of the city’s most celebrated stores, including Salvatore Ferragamo, John Lobb (for bespoke footwear), Boucheron and Chloé. At Chloé’s Asian flagship store, on two levels complete with spiral staircase, don’t be surprised to spy more than one tai tai (socialite) browsing the rails – especially whenever a new shipment of boxy handbags arrives.
Upstairs, the mezzanine features a number of stores that every visitor and local is familiar with. First up is the mouthwatering Mandarin Cake Shop, where shoppers can not only refuel with a cup of tea and a delicious pastry, but also pick up a jar of the hotel’s famous rose-petal jam to take home. This level is also home to glamorous jewellery boutique Ronald Abram, KS Sze & Sons (which is the place to go for pearls and jade) and renowned tailor A-Man Hing Cheong Co, which has been at the hotel since it opened in 1963, creating custom-made suits and ties for an impressive list of clients. If they’re not too busy, you can get a handmade suit in just five days. On this level, you will find the walkway to the first floor of Prince’s Building, home to a host of flagship boutiques including Chanel, Cartier and Alfred Dunhill, which all have main entrances on the ground floor. Before you rush outside, though, take heed of secret number two: explore inside.
Hong Kong does have window-shopping at street level, but by and large the trick to a successful excursion is to find the right building and explore its first three or four floors. Prince’s Building is home to a multitude of international brands, as well as many local gems. If you have kids you might want to toddle up to the third floor, which features upscale children’s wear; otherwise head to the second floor, which boasts a bevy of homes and interiors boutiques, many unique to Hong Kong. Most famous of them all is Altfield Gallery, which has a reputation for sourcing the best antique rosewood furniture (look out for the beautifully restored Chinese medicine cabinets) and vintage maps of Asia. The gallery’s Burmese silver pieces are also exquisite.
Just next door, CY Tse Antiques & Collectables is an Aladdin’s cave filled with jade pendants and earrings, terracotta figurines and unique bracelet charms. But the real speciality here is 18th- and 19th-century and blue-and-white porcelain. Collectors would do well to drop by.
On the same floor are two more stellar stores: Picture This and Nugget. Picture This is a real treat for anyone who loves old films or Oriental prints. The collections include vintage movie posters from Hong Kong and around the world, as well as illustrations, maps, cartoons and even early-edition books. Nugget is a shop that lives up to its name – small and valuable. Don’t walk past too quickly or you’ll miss this treasure trove of Victorian silver, coloured glass, vintage jewellery and nautical-themed collectables.
Down on the mezzanine level and tucked away in the corner is a favourite among the town’s trendsetters: Tabla, which imports hand-beaded bags, pashminas and beautiful silk clothes from India.