Shopping in Beijing: Gulou’s Best Boutiques

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Gulou has long established itself as a shopping mecca – the “hipster” (read: younger, edgier and more affordable) alternative to Sanlitun and CBD’s luxury offerings. Since Nanluogu Xiang started marketing itself as “Beijing’s oldest hutong” and catering to tourists, all of the contiguous alleyways have benefited from the uptick in traffic. While NLGX has become oversaturated – no doubt a Starbucks opening is right around the corner – Gulou Dongdajie, Baochao, Wudaoying and Fangjia have begun drawing plentiful shops selling old and new (but mostly old) clothes, kitschy souvenirs, handmade jewelry and cutesy home accessories.

Mega Mega Vintage This list wouldn’t be complete without Beijing’s most famous vintage shop. The red storefront and steady selection of rocker tees, ripped denim and leather jackets pay homage to Great Britain, where some of the clothes are sourced (along with the US, Japan and Korea). You can expect the usual secondhand staples, including boxy leather handbags, ‘50s-style dresses and the occasional fur coat. (Other vintage stores on this street worth mentioning: Tiger VintageVintage Style and Underground Kidz.) 241 Guloudong Dajie, Dongcheng District. (8404 5637) www.mmvintage.com

Fun denim collage at Underground Kidz

Fun denim collage at Underground Kidz

Triple-Major Owner Ritchie Chan named this shop after, you guessed it, his triple-major degree from college. Highly ambitious, the Hong Kong-born 24-year-old has now opened concept shops in Shanghai, Hong Kong and counting. His Beijing boutique is modeled after a Chinese medicine shop (Triple-Major’s goal, the wall reads, is “to provide the antidote to commercialized fashion’s erosion of individuality”), stocking super-quirky designers from all over the world like Henrik Vibsov, Daniel Palillo and Ann Tian, as well as his own in-house label. I helped model for the latter’s first catalogue once upon a time ago; Ritchie is a great friend and a creative genius. Baochao Hutong’s splendid growth after his store opening is a testament to his business prowess. Daily 1-8pm. 81 Baochao Hutong (northwest of Nanluogu Xiang), Dongcheng District (139 1047 8143) www.triple-major.com

Vega Zaishi Wang One of China’s most promising young designers recently moved her eponymous label’s only boutique from Jianwai Soho to a largely residential hutong in Gulou. Indeed, her new location feels more like a home, with a traditional courtyard entrance and unique décor touches much better suited to her designs. A Central Saint Martins alum, her previous credentials also include working under Vivienne Westwood and the late Alexander McQueen. So far her collections have earned much praise from local media, as she consistently turns out clothing that is beautifully sleek and structured. Daily 10am-7pm. 63 Yanyue Hutong, Dongsi Nandajie, Dongcheng District (5900 2279) www.vegawang.com

Vega Zaishi Wang's new shop is much more mindful of her Chinese roots

Vega Zaishi Wang's new shop is much more mindful of her Chinese roots

Plastered T-shirts and NLGX Design These are two separate shops, but they essentially sell the same concept: drawing inspiration from daily life in China and reinterpreting them in graphic prints. Both helped usher in the growth of Nanluogu Xiang, paving the way for several other stores in this list. The T-shirts and accessories are fairly affordable (around RMB 150-200 if I’m not mistaken) and make for good keepsakes. 1) Plastered T-shirts. Daily 10am-10pm. 61 Nanluogu Xiang, Dongcheng District (134 8884 8855) www.plasteredtshirts.com 2) NLGX Design. Sun-Thu 9.30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-midnight. 33 Nanluogu Xiang, Dongcheng District (6404 8088) www.nlgx.org 

Brand Nu Brand Nu started out as a charity shop, and has since reinvented itself to become an upcycling fashion boutique. I have yet to pay a visit since it was last renovated, but when I last spoke with owner Nathan Zhang – who is somewhat of a local celebrity – he said to expect the same collaborations with Chinese designers like Sara Yun and Na(too). Hopefully he still touts locally-crafted items by rural women and tea by Tranquil Tuesdays, too. 61 Wudaoying Hutong (just west of Vineyard Cafe), Dongcheng District (150 1115 3421)

Good Goods Commune Yet another boutique that aims to serve as a platform for young domestic designers, only this one specializes in lesser-known ones (many of whom are still students), meaning the wares are much cheaper than at, say, BNC or Dong Liang Studio. Where Good Goods Commune succeeds is in its size (the space is huge) and its range of items (from recycled notebooks to maps to laptop cases to clothes). It’s ideal for stopping by to pick up a small gift or to simply show your support for local design. Daily 10.30am-10.30pm. 141 Gulou Dongdajie, Dongcheng District (8400 2291)

Wuhao (currently closed and looking for a new space) The most underrated shop in Beijing, Wuhao maintains its mystery and allure via its hard-to-find location. Only those in-the-know will be able to visit, and owner Isabelle Pascal wants to keep it that way. The renovated courtyard where it is located bears no sign, and you must knock to enter. Once the staff comes to let you in, you will find yourself transported to another world: serene, lush and stunningly curated, where you are greeted with steaming tea and led down corridors filled with cutting-edge fashion and art. Wuhao wears many hats – retail shop, gallery, events space – but its main goal is to promote local talents, whether they be jewelers, couturiers, furniture designers or artists. Their pieces are hung nonchalantly alongside French, American and other international labels, the message being that these designs are all on a level playing field. Even if you can’t afford anything, the space itself is so breathtakingly beautiful that it is well-worth a visit. It will change your mind about Chinese design and instill you with much hope for its future. Wed-Sun 2-8pm, or by appointment. 35 Mao’er Hutong, Dongcheng District (6400 5435; 189 1135 5035) http://wuhaoonline.com 

Wearing my favorite set of rings, from Wuhao

Wearing my favorite set of rings, from Wuhao

This blog post is part of a larger "Shopping in Beijing" series. For my guide on where to shop in Sanlitun, click here. For Lido, click here. To see my original reviews on the boutiques listed above, click on the embedded links.