Handmade in Shanghai

With gift giving season bearing down upon us once more, we’ve turned to some of the city’s traditions for inspiration. In an online retail obsessed world, finding gifts that are genuinely and unmistakably ‘Shanghai’ is harder than ever. Bespoke opens its little black book to share a few of our favorite traders who are keeping it distinctively and wonderfully local.


A handmade wok, hammer marks and all.

The Old School Wok

It doesn’t get more handmade than this. The wok-making Cen brothers and their tiny workshop in Zhabei District are well-known in foodie circles and, despite Shanghai’s constant development, they’ve barely changed. The brothers still spend most of the day sitting outside, bashing away – you’ll need to interrupt them to make a purchase. They’re said to be the only people plying this craft in the entire city and whilst we can’t verify that, we do know that the finished product, hammer marks and all, is a thing of great beauty. Prices start at 120 RMB per wok.

Wok Maker

Mr. Cen hard at work.

The wok workshop is at 214 Baoyuan Lu near Baotong Lu in Zhabei Distict.

The Soong Sister Ceramics

Shanghai is home to a few great contemporary ceramic houses (like our old favorite Spin) but Yasi still flies beneath the radar. Their pieces run a range of styles, but our go-to for sheer ‘Shanghai-ness’ is this set of three cups that was inspired by legendary Shanghai residents the Soong sisters. The pieces here are all produced in the ‘ceramic capital’ of Jingdezhen but designed by the Yasi team right here in Shanghai.


The Soong sisters immortalized in ceramic!

Yasi is at 808 Julu Lu near Changshu lu. Telephone: 021-6257-8909.

Blue Nankeen

A little treasure in the former French Concession that far too few people know about, this is a museum and store that promotes the traditional handmade ‘Blue Nankeen’ fabric seen in a number of Chinese regions. The fabric is produced in Nantong, just outside Shanghai, and then sold here on site with a number of clothing pieces and other accessories available.

Blue Nankeen

Blue Nankeen, blowin’ in the wind.

The Shanghai Blue Nankeen Museum & Shop is at Lane 637 Changle Lu (Building 24). Telephone: 021 5403 7947.

The Propaganda Poster

Mr. Yang remains firmly in charge at the Propaganda Poster Art Center – a real Shanghai gem and Bespoke favorite that provides a window on a very different era of Chinese history that’s rarely seen. The small store in the museum has an interesting selection of gifts, including both original posters and more moderately priced prints.

Propaganda Poster

Propaganda Poster. Picture credit: Shanghai Propaganda Art Center.

The Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center is at 868 Huashan Road. Telephone: 021-6211-1845

…and the finishing touches

Since you’ve spent so much time choosing your gift, covering it up in generic wrapping paper is definitely not the way to go. When it comes to the little details that make a gift say ‘Shanghai’, we always turn to Paper Tiger. Choose from a variety of colorful designs that have been inspired by local motifs including some of Shanghai’s most treasured architecture.

Paper Tiger

Papert Tiger’s Shanghai Deco gift wrap.

Paper Tiger products are available at a number of stores around town including Madame Mao’s Dowry located at 207 Fumin Road. Telephone: 021-5403-3551.

Want Bespoke to take you shopping? Get in touch!

2 Responses to “Handmade in Shanghai”

  1. Daphne Howat December 5, 2015 at 9:39 am #

    Hi, I am Daphne Howat, joined your Nanjing art deco prospecting tour a few months ago. I just wonder if you know what happened to my favorite leather goods store Yamado. went to their Changle location a few days ago and it has been gutted. no trace of them on the internet either except obsolete postings.
    I bought a couple of woks from the wok guy about 2 years ago, and thought he had retired. More power to him. My wok is beautifully seasoned now. love it.

    • Sarah Keenlyside February 5, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

      Hello Daphne! Great to hear from you again. Unfortunately we fear the worst for Yamado – they also once had a store on Jinxian Lu near Bespoke HQ. It’s a cafe now, and the staff tell us they believe the company to have closed. Sorry to be the bearers of bad news.

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