BORED of buying mass-produced clothes from stores? Do you dread bumping into someone on the street wearing an identical outfit?
If so, fear not. Shoppers demanding unique garments - whether a copy of a couture piece from a fashion magazine or a self-designed outfit - are looking to Shanghai's fabric markets and tailors to make their couture dreams come true.
Here are some options to check out for exclusive threads.
Shiliupu Fabric Market
A popular attraction, Shiliupu Fabric Market in downtown Huangpu District offers a wide range of fabrics, plus, reputedly, some of Shanghai's best tailors, and all under one roof.
At the intersection of Zhonghua Road and Dongmen Road, this three-story building, plus a basement, attracts locals and foreigners.
In spacious and neatly aligned surroundings, more than 350 vendors offer an astounding array of custom-made suits and high-end fabrics.
Within this multi-level maze of material, stores are filled with bolts of linen, silk, wool, cashmere, cotton, satin and many other textiles and textures. A tailor will measure you up and run up garments within a week. A delivery service is available for rush orders.
The cost of a tailor-made suit ranges from 500 yuan to 1,000 yuan; a dress costs 50 yuan; while a qipao can be bought from 250 yuan to 350 yuan. Many foreign tourists find that these generally good quality products cost only a fraction of what they would pay back home.
A new 1,500-square-meter area features wedding dresses and accessories. Some 25 stores moved from Renmin Road, a famous wedding supplies street, offer high quality products at reasonable prices. The cost of a wedding dress ranges from 300 yuan to 1,000 yuan, depending on materials.
Located near Shanghai's historical Shiliupu Dock, a tourism center with stunning views, the Shiliupu Fabric Market attracts tourists from all over the world.
Many vendors have a fair grasp of English and can help customers with choices and answer questions. There is generous parking space opposite.
This market, the successor to Dongjiadu Fabric Market, has a rich collection of fabrics of all kinds and nifty tailors who can turn out made-to-order suits and dresses in a day or two.
Opened in 2006 in a 10,000-square-meter building, the South Bund Fabric Market is home to nearly 300 vendors.
Offering better facilities than its predecessor, the market is very popular among locals and foreign tourists. Many local fans get good bargains and seek distinctive fabrics and tailor-made garments, such as woolen overcoats, suits, wedding dresses and qipao.
Prices depend on the quality of the material and tailoring skills. The cost of an overcoat ranges from 200 yuan (US$32) for simpler styles, to 800 yuan. Bargaining is usually required.
While English-speaking foreigners may encounter language problems at some of the city's large malls, they should have no difficulties at this market.
Whenever foreign would-be customers appear at their booth, vendors take the initiative to greet and start chatting with them in English. Some are also proficient in other foreign languages, such as Japanese, French and Spanish.
It isn't unusual to hear vendors calling out "Hello, would you like to try a hand-made qipao?" at the market in a number of languages.
The South Bund Fabric Market is not merely a market but a tourist attraction to experience old Shanghai. The area around Dongjiadu has memories for locals going back generations.
Address: 339 Lujiabang Road(near Nanchang Street)
Hongxiang Tailor Shop
The Hongxiang Tailor Shop has a long and honorable history of making high-end custom-made suits. Founded in 1917 and recognized as a China time-honored brand by the Ministry of Commerce in 1993, Hongxiang, is a trusted choice for professional tailor-made garments.
If you are seeking an elegant qipao with elaborate, multicolored embroidery, Hongxiang's silk option, which won the silver medal at the 1933 Chicago Expo, is a good choice. Hongxiang qipao have long enjoyed a high reputation - known as "the queen of women's dresses" by Shanghai locals during the 1930s. Madame Soong Ching Ling, wife of Dr Sun Yat-sen, and revolutionary Cai Yuanpei both wrote inscriptions for Hongxiang.
Hongxiang qipao are still regarded as among China's finest. To ensure continuity, the shop hires third generation descendants of the original tailors. They employ more than 30 techniques, such as "3D tailoring," "push, back, pull" and "inlay and trim."
Staff are also expert in knowing how the body moves so that garments are comfortable. Hongxiang qipao are also famous for compensating for flaws and flattering the body, making wearers seem slimmer or taller.
The cost of a custom-made qipao ranges from 2,800 yuan to 10,000 yuan.
While the average age of customers is from 35 to 45, some are more than 90 years old. The company offers a door-to-door service for customers aged over 80.
In order to keep up with changing trends, Hongxiang set up a project in conjunction with Donghua University to input fashionable elements into this old brand and attract more young customers.
Address: 131 Shaanxi Road N.
In the early part of the 20th century, Shanghai was not only renowned as the place for cutting-edge ladies' fashion. The city was also at the forefront of revolutionizing Chinese menswear, ushering the change from gowns to modern suits - in both Chinese and Western styles.
The Humsuit, another upscale store from this era, features high-end suits, overcoats, shirts and accessories for men. The store, recently recognized as a China time-honored brand by the Ministry of Commerce, was founded in 1929.
The cost of a woolen suit featuring personalized design and high-quality material ranges from 3,000 yuan to 20,000 yuan at The Humsuit.
Before a suit is deemed ready, customers are asked to try on the near finished garment while tailors measure them up again and compensate for any flaws.
The Humsuit stresses that the total look is important and that accessories set the tone: shirts, ties, socks, shoes, belts, cufflinks and tie clip complete the look.
The shop says its experienced staff ensure customers end up with a perfect garment with personalized accessories.