Hong Kong night skyline is like a scarf display

With some imagination, Hong Kong's night skyline could be reminiscent of an upside down synthetic scarf display. Ok, maybe with lots of imagination. But one reality is that Hong Kong is the commercial window of China, so the best place in the world to do retail shopping for Made in China scarves. 

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Affordable and synthetic scarves for all

Most, if not all, scarves for sale in large department stores in North America are made in China. The mere concept of Made in China is very controversial and charged with a negative connotation in the modern consumer world. It is at the very bottom of the handmade vs machine made spectrum. Chinese themselves, when they can afford it, will favor made elsewhere garments. They love the Nepalese pashminas who exports a lot to China. And the Chinese tourists for the majority of buyers in all scarf shops.

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Why shop for Chinese scarves

China is very innovative in copying technologies and its industries are experts in producing fakes and imitations. Some of them are pretty good, especially when they are not trying to disguise themselves behind a famous brand name. They mastered the automation of many steps in the textile industry, they can spin and sort cashmere, and they can even make a thread that doesn’t even have cashmere but will feel almost like the real thing. With Made in China scarves, you can have an entire collection to match all your clothes and moods and weather, at less than the price of one handmade pashmina.

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My failed Hong Kong shopping guide

With all this in mind I planned during my short trip to Hong Kong in May 2016 to write an overview of scarves "made in China", on what to buy, how and where to buy them in Hong Kong. But I had no idea how astronomic was this city. It took me all 3 days just to tame the idea of this tight and electric megalopolis. Obviously, I had no time to explore everything and truly review the thousands of made in China scarf qualities.

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Hong Kong is a modern cosmopolitan megalopolis

At least I soon realized the products sold in Hong Kong are not very different from what was sold in any one of the major department stores in the west. Prices are about similar in brand name store, otherwise they can cost up to half what you would pay in our department stores. Any stores selling accessories like hats or hats will have scarves also. Price is fixed, they are easy to look at and feel. Unfortunately, labeling is faulty and doesn’t reflect the content of the fiber, like everywhere else in Asia.

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The materials and labeling

I bought several samples from street markets and shops with storefronts.  According to labels, dominant materials are viscose, silk, cotton and cashmere. But burn testing revealed that most of them are 100% synthetic or synthetic mix. By synthetic I mean man-made petroleum derived or meltable fibers like acrylic, polyester and so on. Viscose is man-made natural fiber which is usually found on more expensive scarves in the made in China category. Yet, one of the cheapest scarves labeled as 100% pashmina (I suppose they suggest it cashmere) burn tested as viscose. A similar one from the same vendor, also 100% pashmina, burn tested as acrylic.

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My fake viscose and cotton mix

The most expensive scarf I bought was from one store on Nathan street in Kowloon district. This one is very deceiving. It has a wonderful feel and its label displays 80% viscose and 20% cotton. I usually can tell by touch and feel if it contains synthetic materials.  I did the burn test of weft and warp threads and both samples melted into a ball, with no trace of ashes. I could not believe it, so I did the test several times with the same result. After being tricked with the wonders of modern synthetic fibers and wrong labeling, I decided not to waste my money more with maybe-silk and perhaps-wool samples. Chinese textile industries really have indeed become masters in imitation.

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Street markets: Ladies markets & Temple night market

This 1km long market along Tung Shoy street and the Temple road night market, both in Kowloon, are famous and highly recommended in all guide books. But for a person travelling a lot in Asia, they are quite a disappointment and a diminutive reproduction of major touristic street markets in other countries. Most of the items sold are the same accessories and souvenirs found in touristic markets all over Asia. Quite a few stalls sell scarves, including the standard fake silk and 100% fake pashminas and even cashmere.

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Haggle to save a few dozen dollars

In the street market the prices are sometimes fixed, most likely not as haggling is the norm. The seller will give a high price according to your looks and their own mood. Then you must fight to bring it down. I find it exhausting and not worth it at all for such inexpensive items. For example, they ask 60 HK dollars for a scarf. You negotiate the price down to 40. You feel so proud that you saved 20.  Wow, lots of work for what adds up to saving the equivalent of 3 canadian dollars!

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Shopping in stores

The market experience is not worth it for me. I prefer the stores with nice clean displays, AC, fixed prices. And no aggressive salesperson forcing items on me. I touch, see, feel. I like it then I look at the price tag. Finally, I glimpse at the label, even if it doesn’t have any valuable information. As I mentioned above, it seems that in China they label randomly, maybe according to which labels they have on hand or what the factory manager thinks the scarf is made of.

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The principle in Hong Kong; if you like it, buy it

Shopping in Hong Kong is fun, and on average you pay 2 to 3 times less for a similar item at home, whether for clothes or accessories. So you can’t go wrong if you like what you are buying.  Just take for granted it will not be made of what the label says, and don’t overpay for a name tag in branded stores.  Hong Kong has no pashmina and no cashmere, and if it does it will be branded and same price as home. 

 

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