Image credit: Emily Malan.
With its booming creativity and status as China’s fashion capital cemented, Shanghai is one of Asia’s most exciting destinations right now. Its vibrant creative landscape and hyper-modern gourmet and nightlife scene are ready to be explored. Here, Vogue interviews local fashion insiders to discover the most exciting hotspots in the Paris of the East.
Image credit: Getty Images.
Stay: Find a room with a view
Whether it’s in the bustling downtown or the more leisurely suburbs, a gold-rated Shanghai hotel is all about a room with a view. In the downtown area, The Middle House, with its classical-cum-contemporary interiors designed by Italian architect Piero Lissoni, offers a rare quiet haven. “The whole space looks modern and warm; it has a homely intimacy,” says influencer Candice Wang. The Edition Shanghai, which opened in November 2018 with a panoramic view of the Bund and stylish decor in line with Ian Schrager’s other global Editions, is Sherry Li, Vogue China’s digital editor’s, new favourite. She also recommends the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland, which has 16 of its 18 stories built below ground level on the site of an 88 metre-deep quarry. “The building is a pioneering work,” she says. “You live literally underground. It’s not like any other hotel – it’s a real wonderland.”
Image credit: Beast Bling Bling.
Shop: Buy the local curations
Shanghai has its own iterations of Dover Street Market and Colette. Located in the leafy boulevards of the old French Concession, Labelhood Pillar is a must-visit for anyone who wants to discover up-and-coming local designers such as Xu Zhi, Ms Min and Uma Wang. The newly opened Le Monde de SHC, founded by Eric Young, a former media veteran and current fashion PR guru, is an art-deco-inspired boutique with a compelling curation of Young’s favourite fashion, homeware and books from around the world, as well as a salon for his hip friends in the industry. “The place is dedicated to representing Shanghai chic, to wow those well-informed international fashionistas,” he says. The Beast Shop, meanwhile, which started as a viral online flower shop (the bouquets were customised by clients’ personal stories) is now a chain of boutiques divided into four concepts: you can buy the bouquets inspired by Van Gogh at The Beast Shops; find the most exciting new beauty products at Little B; purchase selected modern homeware and furniture at T-B-H; and discover the most stylish fashion jewellers at Beast Bling Bling.
Image credit: Fu He Hui.
Eat: A fusion of flavours
Shanghai’s embrace of diverse cuisines makes it a gourmet capital for foodies, but what sets it apart is its creativity when it comes to fusion cooking. Vogue China’s Li favours La Maison, a restaurant located in a villa previously owned by the Chinese Al Capone, Du Yuesheng, in the 1930s. Famous for updating traditional Shanghai classics, such as scallion noodles and sweet and sour ribs made from Iberian pork, its beautiful garden is the perfect spot for a romantic summer dinner. The upcoming stylist Audrey Hu who contributes to i-D, likes the casual eatery Bloom. “They present exquisite fusion dishes – the sea urchin wheat risotto Sakura cocktail is stunning,” she says. “Plus, it has a hidden but enchanting view.” For vegetarians, the Michelin-starred Fu He Hui is a temple to haute vegetarian cuisine using traditional Chinese ingredients.
Image credit: 44KW.
Going out: Dance and drink all night
Shanghai is a city that never sleeps – and the fashion crowd has its own secret spots for fun at night. Womenswear designer Min Wu recommends 44KW, owned by fashion photographer Puyuan Guo. The club comprises a front area with bar and ping-pong tables, a lounge space and a back room with a sound system that will blow your mind. Adam Chen, editorial director of i-D China and Sisi Li the mastermind behind music agency S.T.D., say Arkham is the place to go for the best music (from techno to house) and DJs in Shanghai. Both clubs see the best parties during fashion weeks, but if your tastes veer towards cosy and intimate, Speak Low is considered to be the best bar in China, and the second best in Asia. A Japanese-style speakeasy, it is hidden behind a secret door in a bartending equipment shop and each of its four floors has a unique design concept. Expect classic cocktails as well as some creative originals, including one made with local Wang Lao Ji tea.
Image credit: Sukothai.
Detox: Try traditional therapy
Shanghai’s best spas are havens of traditional Asian therapies. The Green Massage chain is a favourite of many insiders, including influencer Wang. “You feel so revived after the signature detox treatment. The traditional Hanfang therapy and Chinese massage always have long waiting lists, too,” she says. The newly opened The Retreat at The Sukhothai hotel offers a raft of mindful ritual treatments, including Himalayan warm stone massages and green tea facials. “The interior design and the fragrance in the air make you feel relaxed just walking in,” says Hu. “Chinese massage, cupping and scraping are all worth trying.” You’s Acupuncture may not look particularly fancy on the outside, but it is the go-to choice of Jun Zhou, one half of the design duo behind the fashion label Pronounce. Zhou tells Vogue he always goes there after staging a fashion show. “The meridians massage and hot mud with moxibustion treatment literally make you feel warm inside and out, and give you your energy back,” he says.
Image credit: The Tank.
See: The contemporary art scene
According to Lingjie Tang, creative director of The Beast Shop and a former arts journalist, Shanghai is becoming the contemporary art hub of China, with several museum openings in recent years creating a vibrant new art scene in the city. Sitting on the banks of the Huangpu River, Power Station of Art is Shanghai’s equivalent of Tate Modern. The contemporary art museum has hosted Shanghai biennales, visiting exhibitions from The Andy Warhol Museum and the Centre Pompidou, and a memorable Cai Guo-Qiang solo show. And its current exhibitions, including Hélène Binet and The Challenging Souls: Yves Klein, Lee Ufan, Ding Yi, are must-see shows. Tank Shanghai, which only opened in March, is already a blockbuster – the 60,000 square-metre art park’s debut show was an immersive exhibition by art collective teamLab, and during Shanghai Fashion Week it hosted Labelhood, a platform showcasing upcoming fashion design talent. It is also currently exhibiting Argentine artist Adrián Villar Rojas’s debut show in China. Prada Rong Zhai, a replicate of the Italian luxury house’s Fondazione in Milan, is another new power player in the city. After a six-year renovation, the once garden mansion of Rong Zongjing, a late Qing Dynasty industrialist dubbed “The King of Flour”, is now an exquisite East-meets-West art space. The latest exhibition, Who Was I? curated by Goshka Macuga, showcases the identity issues of humans and robots in a fictional, post-apocalyptic universe.