Gobsmacked: Shopping at Sanyuanli Clothing Market

Up until today, we’d ventured to all kinds of wholesale markets in Guangzhou, from the pet fish market to the bling-bling market… but we’d actually never been to a clothes market. Duh! It was high time to rectify the situation so, with two girlfriends whom I’d bamboozled into showing me the way, off we went.

Our destination was the wholesale clothing market district of Sanyuanli. My girlfriends had forewarned me that because of the overwhelming sheer volume of clothes for sale, it was best to tackle the shopping by going one market or building at a time. So, baby steps, dear Stiletto-istas, baby steps…

I thought I was used to shopping in markets by now, in Beijing & Shanghai, in Bangkok & Manila, but when we got there, I swear to God, I was still overwhelmed. Absolutely gobsmacked. This market had five storeys and there were sooooooo many shops, selling soooooo many clothes, from women’s, men’s, children’s clothes, you name it, they had it all. Piles upon bundles, plastic bags upon sacks, it was insane! Some shops had prices quoting by the kilogramme! Some shops didn’t bother about any sort of display at all; clothes were simply strewn about, spilling out of plastic bags that looked suspiciously like the black plastic garbage bags you see only in kitchens. Walk into these shops and you feel like an unwitting extra in that horrifyingly addictive reality TV show, “Hoarders.”

And to think this was just in a single building…this entire district had streets upon streets, with buildings upon buildings, all devoted to clothing. For instance, a quick peek at the building next door revealed an entire barrio crammed with shops all selling jeans.

Anyhooz, I was busy walking around wide-eyed with mouth agape, that I completely forgot to take photos of the market for you guys. I do apologize for that but – worry not! – our morning wasn’t completely wasted.

In order not to go completely batshit-crazy in the market, I’d decided to concentrate on hunting for very specific clothing items. Clothes which I know I can always use here in Guangzhou or Hong Kong, with sub-tropical climates, are always handy in tropical countries like the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and can always be counted on as summer staples.

Stylish white cotton tops and/or dresses: this was my mission.  It took a couple of hours of combing through that market but I’m happy to report…mission successfully accomplished! When I got home, I then had fun playing amateur stylist and putting together outfits and accessories to go with my newly purchased whites. Here are the results!

White eyelet smock top with 3/4 sleeves. Pair with candy-hued shorts (like this scarlet pair) & accessorize with a funky necklace to enhance its simple neckline. Doesn’t the white top just pop?

Another white eyelet number, this one with an elastic waistband & shoulder (so you can choose to bare both shoulders or go assymetrical, with one shoulder bared). For a soft yet sexy look, pair with white denim cut-off minis (like this) or your scruffiest Daisy Dukes. Accessorize those tanned bare shoulders with a dramatic statement necklace.

This entire outfit is so totally moi, it’s practically my uniform! Loose white embroidered top (check out that gorgeous detailing around the neckline & sleeves) paired with creamy khaki shorts & a matching jute & wood necklace. Slip on flat or wedge espadrilles & you’re good to go. Gaaah, so adorbs!

The party top! All sleek, shiny & sequinned in a very simple, chic cut. Imagine with your favourite skinny jeans and…your sexiest pair of STILETTOS, OF COURSE, DAHLINGS! Sizzle, sizzle!

Let me share a secret with you, seeing as we’re all besties here and all: I actually already had a similar top to that top above sitting in my closet at home, the exact same cut, style, fabric & sequins, but in silver, not in white. Except that my old silver top was purchased at Calvin Klein and had cost me an absolute BOMB (this was when The Bamboo Stiletto was still a corporate rat racer and was earning accordingly, having no time then to bargain-hunt in markets). You will absolutely die when I tell you how much the white Calvin look-alike above actually cost me. 🙂

Speaking of corporate rat racers, here’s a stylish look for the office. Working girl, you can go from business meetings to a working dinner with this ensemble:

A practical yet pretty white top with lace & eyelet embellishments is feminine yet businesslike when paired with a pencil skirt in neutral hues like this grey. Amp up the style with a simple necklace or an elegant belt. When heading out for dinner with work colleagues or business clients, a stylish alternative to the usual blazer is a great scarf.

And, lastly, here’s a sweet look that’s ideal for a surprise lunch date with the boyfriend or the hubby. Especially if it’s a special lunch date, y’ know, like meeting his Mom for the first time (wanna make a good, demure ladylike impression, right, babes?) :

A simple white eyelet sheath spells dewy romance when paired with soft pearls & strappy sandals. A statement scarf – such as this gorgeous silk beauty designed by our creative & talented friend VAL – definitely adds ooooompppphhhhh! Interested in snagging a signature VAL scarf like this for yourself? Easy-peasy. Just click on http://expressionsbyval.wordpress.com/

So, those were the results of our morning hunt for alles weiss at Sanyuanli. Not bad, eh? And NOW, apres le shopping, you nosy Stiletto-istas may be asking, what was la damage? Let’s see, you can see that we bought a total of 5 tops & 1 dress, correct? Our total cost for this entire loot came to RMB 415 (approximately USD 70). Less than a hundred bucks, can you believe it? The Calvin look-alike sequinned top? That was the best bargain of the lot, costing me RMB 35 (about USD 6!!!). The dress was the most expensive, with a cost of RMB 120 (about USD 20).

My girlfriends reminded me that actually, the cost per item was still rather high because I had only bought one piece of each item and seeing as we were in a wholesale market, the prices could still have gone lower if I had bought multiple pieces. Gaaaah! Whaaaa…??? How on earth do these people make any profit? The mind boggles!

So now that we’ve successfully completed our baby steps-shopping at Sanyuanli, we look forward to sharing our future, more confident shopping forays with y’all. Excited, Stiletto-istas? Because we sure are! 🙂

How to get there: Very simple. Take the Guangzhou metro to Sanyuanli station, take exit D and the market is right on top. No need to even get out onto the street. Another, more comfy option, is to cab it & ask the driver to drop you at Sanyuanli ditie (metro station), walk down into the station and look for exit D. Make sure to bring cash only, plastic not welcome in most places in this market. Happy shopping!

– our Cantonese Phrase for the Week…”Gay daw tsin?” is probably one of the most useful phrases one can learn in this part of China.

Literally meaning “How much money?” and more often used to say “How much is it?”, with all the gajillion markets that we’re getting to discover and explore in Guangzhou these past couple of weeks, this phrase is definitely getting a lot of mileage!

And with so many, many tempting things to buy, probably a more useful phrase would then be: “Peng di laaaaa!” (and be sure to make the “laaaa” as dramatically whiney  as possible), as in “Cheaper!” Hahahaaa, let’s all learn this one, Stiletto-istas…STAT!

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