China's best online shops

Top 6 Chinese online shopping websites besides Taobao

 

Forget about Taobao; China is home to a wealth of exciting online fashion shops. Time Out pick the 6 best among the key e-tailers

Xinlelu

Shanghai-based Xinlelu.com is both an online and offline boutique, championing independent fashion designers and celebrating the world of China’s fashion.

The brand is named after the street in Xuhui district, and its online presence is boosted by a stylish boutique on Shaanxi Bei Lu. The biggest ranges can be found online however.

Co-founder Yilei Wu is passionate about hunting out new designers, learning their stories, and helping to promote the growing independent fashion scene in Shanghai. The newly relaunched site is one of the classier online shopping websites, including a fashion blog, photo galleries, interviews and profiles of designers,as well as a select list of the best fashion boutiques in different cities.

There are options for every taste and price range. A much wider selection than ModeInAsia (though with one or two similar designers stocked), Xinlelu offers hundreds of styles, sizes and colours, and seeks out independent designers around the globe who (in their own words), ‘make our hearts flutter’. Select a clothing item and the site draws up suggested accessories from across the store.

You’ll find an exciting range of statement jewellery from Shanghai-based designer Josie Chen (we love a chunky yellow, green and gold textured necklace for 600RMB), while other recognisable China brands include Jie, Spoiled Brat, Nuomi, Bubble Mood and Mary Ching.

This is a community site as much as a retail one, which is largely why we love it; Xinlelu organises style-based events and parties, curates information about the fashion scene, and sends out a series of newsletters to keep fashionistas up to date. All prices are in RMB, the site is available in Chinese and English, and all shipping and returns are free in China.

shop online at http://www.xinlelu.com/


Net-a-Porter


UK fashion e-tailer Net-a-Porter has been making steady in-roads into the Chinese market in recent years, first taking over Chinese shopping site shouke.cn, then launching a Chinese-language version of its discount couture outlet, TheOutnet.com, and finally introducing a Chinese-language version of its curated parent fashion brand.

As you might expect from one of the pioneers in editorialised fashion sites, Net-a-Porter offers a sleek service. There isn’t a distribution base in Shanghai but there is in Hong Kong, meaning shoppers can still expect fairly speedy delivery – select ‘China’ as your home country (you’ll still be given the option to choose different languages). You can shop by brand, colour or designer, or let Net-a-Porter pick for you – the brand cleverly links together the ability to shop the site for the items mentioned in the latest edition of its glossy house magazine, Porter.

Luxury is the raison d’être at Neta- Porter and so this is the place for hundreds of beautifully presented, high-end designs from the likes of fashion doyennes Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, and Vera Wang. Not everything will require a bank loan to purchase though, with more affordable luxury options including Michael Kors, Miu Miu, Rag & Bone, and Marc Jacobs. We love the feminine classics from Temperley London, where an Empire jacquardknit merino wool jacket can be snapped up for 989USD.

It’s not all good news – Net-a- Porter won’t take payment in RMB, and only accept international cards like Visa, or payment via PayPal. Shipping is 15USD to Shanghai, but returns can be arranged via free collection.

shop online www.net-a-porter.com

Shangpin


Shangpin is a tailored online fashion website, a little along the lines of Net-a-Porter but offering an array of international brands which are mostly unavailable elsewhere in China. According to Shangpin, they have more than five million customers, with the majority made up of young fashion consumers aged in their 20s and 30s, who spend an average of 2,000RMB each time.

The website, which launched in October 2010, was initially a bonus service for VIP credit card holders at Chinese banks, before relaunching in 2012 with 70 brand partners including the likes of Milly by Michelle Smith, Sergio Rossi, Halston Heritage and RED Valentino. This exclusivity has given it a strong credibility and you can rest assured that you won’t be fobbed off with fakes or copies.

It’s generally a fullprice retailer (don’t expect to pick up lots of discounted stock), but they do have regular sales. Best for women’s and men’s fashion, accessories, and shoes, Shangpin also offers products from a number of beauty brands including L’Occitane, Olay, Dior and Clarins, plus a small range of homewares.

Last year, UK fashion giant Topshop joined the fray. The brand – yet to establish a major physical presence in China – has its own dedicated section on the site’s homepage (along with sister brand Miss Selfridge). Other recognisable labels include Victoria’s Secret (unlike the official shops here they actually sell underwear), Juicy Couture, Nine West, and Coach.

The site is not the most attractive, but it’s easy to navigate (be aware that it’s mainly in Chinese), and the curated approach draws up a list of top fashion picks. You can search via your size, price range, or delivery options, plus there’s a live chat customer service option. In China shoppers can pay cash on delivery, with a flat shipping fee of 20RMB and a free seven-day return policy. You have to register to buy stuff, but once you’re a member you get a birthday discount.

Shangpin also has an alliance with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to help bring both fledgling and more established US designers to China, so it’s a good place to keep an eye out for emerging talent.

Shop online at http://www.shangpin.com/

Yoox


The home of global luxury, Yoox is Italy’s answer to high-end online retailing. Three years ago, Yoox opened a Shanghai office to launch its Chinese site and target shoppers looking for a taste of European luxury. The result, Yoox.cn, has some good points, but non-Chinese readers should be aware that it’s almost entirely in Chinese characters with apparently no distinction made between country base and language. Choose to have something delivered to China and the whole site turns into Chinese with no English. Try shopping in English on Yoox.com and then change the delivery country to China at the end and you get kicked off and sent back to yoox.cn. Your shopping bag gets emptied as penance.

If you can get access, you’ll find big names like Calvin Klein, Paul Smith, Moschino and Armani, but also a few more niche brands, such as New Yorkbased Opening Ceremony, or tailored jackets from Italian retailer Cantarelli.

However, Yoox’s real strength lies in its mobile and social retailing. Last year they set up a concept store account on WeChat, meaning you can shop directly on the messaging app and even pick up some products designed exclusively for WeChat. Their WeChat account (yooxyooxyoox, also solely in Chinese) highlights fashion articles and events, promotes sales and outlines discounts. They have also just launched a mobile shopping app aimed at the Chinese market, which shows best-selling items in your locale (and in Paris, London, Tokyo and other fashion-focused cities).

Items bought at Yoox can be paid for in RMB, either with cash on delivery or via Alipay or Paypal.


Shop online at http://www.yoox.cn/


Mode in Asia is a highly stylised fashion website based between Shanghai and Singapore that looks to showcase Asian designers to the rest of the world. The brand focuses on emerging fashion talents based in Asia and currently offers lines from 15 different designers as part of an online collective.

Compared to some other e-commerce sites in China, ModeinAsia.com is easy to navigate, and has plenty of options to share items, create a wish-list, or learn about the designers through 2015a series of profiles. It’s aesthetically pleasing too, with beautiful bold designs.

Recognisable Shanghai-based brands include CeliaB and Bubble Mood, plus a host of other niche designers from Singapore, Bangkok and across Asia. Singapore-born Danielle Woo founded the Aijek line in Shanghai in 2010, and her passion for simple, wearable elegance has gone from strength to strength, with her designs now stocked by several different retailers across Asia, including Shanghai’s Xinlelu.

We also love Thai brand Dusk Till Dawn, an incredibly cool collection of metallic patterns, gold knit and studded pieces. Also guaranteed to turn heads are products from Shanghai-based Helen Lee, who collaborated with Disney for Shanghai’s 2013 Fashion Week. At Mode in Asia you can a nab a range of her brightly patterned mini-skirts and pencil skirts, along with playful, high-waisted floral shorts.

Each designer only offers a fairly small range of around eight items on the site, meaning it’s a good place for niche fashion ranges and individual jewellery pieces, and makes it pretty unlikely you’ll bump into others wearing the same clothes.

The website can be set to English or Chinese, and payment can be in several different currencies. You have to register before you make a purchase, but this is straightforward and can be done through Facebook, Twitter or Google. Payment can be made via Paypal or major credit cards, and delivery is free to Shanghai.

Shop online at www.modeinasia.com


In late 2013, one of the UK’s favourite fashion sites launched a hugely successful China version at asos.cn, bringing its reputation for fun, funky fashion to the country. Asos made its name in Britain for trendy but affordable lines with a first-class customer service policy that makes it extra easy to buy, change or return.

The China site has mirrored this approach; Asos.cn selects a range of editor’s choice items, offers free returns comwithin 14 days, plus free shipping on orders over 249RMB. You can choose to either register an account or checkout as a guest, and payment can be made via Alipay or with cash upon delivery.

There’s an outlet section with some big discounts (although most prices on the main website are very reasonable), regular fashion newsletters and a big selection of men’s and women’s clothing, accessories and shoes. The site is good for both Asos’ own lines plus a range of other brands, including Adidas, Mango, French Connection, Ted Baker and Cath Kidston. While most of these are available elsewhere in Shanghai, the way Asos brings them together and suggests matching items is a like having a personal shopper.

It’s all pretty great, except for one annoying niggle – there’s an English language option on the China site, but when you select it you’re redirected to the British Asos site, which of course, places orders in Britain, takes longer and costs more. So if you can’t read Chinese, you might need to get a friend involved to help you, because you won’t want to miss out on what Asos.cn has to offer.

Shop online at www.asos.cn


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