Leaving the Tourists Behind on Granville Road

Merin is a New York City free-lance writer .

The latest of Hong Kong's super-shopping streets is Granville Road in Tsimshatsui East (Kowloon). Tsimshatsui East was originally a popular shopping district, but recently many shops have been replaced by reasonably priced eateries. Still, a three-block-long span along Granville Road, a narrow offshoot off Chatham Road, is lined with clothing boutiques.

Most of the boutiques are filled with factory overruns and remaindered garments, sold here at even lower prices than at shops in Hong Kong's other discount shopping streets and markets.

One reason for the price differential is that Granville Road, popular with Hong Kong residents for several years, is still not known to the tourists who swarm into the other areas. Not only are the prices lower, but salespeople tend to be a bit less brusque or hawkish with foreign customers.

Granville Road stores are like stalls in that they have no front walls or doors. Owners close for the night by lowering ceiling-to-sidewalk corrugated metal sheets across shop fronts. But during the day merchandise overflows into the street, making it easy for customers to see at a glance whether the shop warrants an indoor browse.

With or Without Labels

Most shops carry casual and sports clothes; some have recognizable labels, other have unknown labels or none. At these prices, brand recognition isn't that important. If a $3 jersey unravels slightly on the third washing, you aren't losing much if you throw it away.

At Super Fashion, No. 24, you'll find white linen dresses with bone buttons for $15, soft black sweaters with the backs cut out for $9 and black linen oversize shirts for $10. There are some Byblos olive drab suits with skinny skirts and high-collared jackets for an astonishing $15.

The shop at No. 26 either has no name, or the name is so well hidden you can't find it. But bargains are in plain view. For example: Britches (a Washington, D.C.-based casual clothes chain) long-sleeved turtleneck shirts in a wide range of colors have Britches price tags for $48, but sell here for $5.

Bugle Boy U.S.A. striped rugby shirts cost $5. French Connection V-neck cardigan jerseys are $8. Trendy shirts by Marithe & Francois Girbaud have all sorts of interesting pockets and buttons or zips and cost $7. Club California textured heavy cotton jackets, in white and off-white, are $7.50.

The Factory Fashion Co. at No. 27 has pretty knit tank-top dresses for $3.50. Those with buttons down the front are only $3. There are a wide variety of Frenchified T-shirts on which silk-screened, appliqued and sequined vehicles are identified as "le Avion" or "le Rolls." At $4, these are no doubt the cheapest rides around.

Junglewear Shirts

Tai Fat, No. 28, specializes in International News Junglewear shirts for $4 each. Also at No. 28, Sample Nook has Bjorn Borg casual tops and trousers for $18 per outfit, Nancy Heller velour trousers for $5 and Jag minidresses for $18. I. Magnin label knit jersey pantsuits sell for $12.

Stock Co. at No. 29 has terrific prices on better-known sports clothes. Miller's Outpost solid color and plaid shirts cost $5, a Jag double-breasted suit costs $5, Gap long-sleeved shirts are $5, Jordache jeans jumper pants are $10 and fitted jeans are $4, Van Heusen sweat suits are $10. Forenza printed denim skirts, tagged with The Limited price tags for $34, sold here for $4.

Value Casual Aware, at No. 32, sells famous labels for a song, including Nordstrom Point of View suits with padded shoulders and double-kick pleats, in black, for about $20; The Gap shirt dresses for $8; Jack Winter straight skirts for $7, and Le Chateau (a Canadian label) cotton knit tank-top dresses for $10.

Universal Fashion Co. at No. 37A has mostly ladies' tops, including pretty cotton jersey knit sweaters in a variety of colors ($10) and black cotton shirts with a vest-like effect and a multitude of pockets of various shapes and sizes ($10). Next door at No. 37B, Attilo Fashion has floral-patterned rayon blouses for $2 and up.

Cut on the Bias

The 328, at No. 38, has knit separates, including Etam vest and bloomer sets in black or brown for $23, and silky oversize shirts and skinny trousers for $23. There are also dressier items by lesser-known Japanese designers. These are cut on the bias, have many layers, come in mostly small sizes and cost about $15 to $28 per outfit.

At No. 41B, the Wholesale & Retail Hong Kong Bargain Co. (the name is almost larger than the shop) sells Hawaiian shirts for $4. And at No. 41C, On Air Casual Wear has upbeat styles for young women, including red-on-white polka-dot blouses to be worn with white-on-red polka-dot skirts. Other color combinations are available too, and ensembles cost about $12. Linen miniskirts that button down the front cost about $11, blazer jackets about $12. A slinky black knit dress with an alluring hood sells for $5, black cotton pantsuits are about $20.

Kwoon Sun Fashion Co., No. 45, sells cashmere and mohair sweaters for $35 and up and sweater coats for $60 to $150.

Ming Hoi Co. at No. 47 has silk-screened tiger print jerseys with Chinese labels for $10, plus a more traditional line of women's suits by Gianfranco Rossi. His black tight-waisted suit, with buttons set along a diagonal line, costs $20.

Fox, No. 49, has Carol Little for St. Tropez skirts for $8, Miss Selfridge knit tops ($8) and dresses ($18) and Marc O'Polo ribbed knit black sleeveless dresses for $10.

Italian, Spanish Shoes

Next door, Enrico sells Italian and Spanish leather shoes. Women's heels and flats in the latest colors cost up to $45, but sale items cost as little as $12. Men's loafers cost $60 to $65, and Stracam oxfords are about $75.

Wing's, at No. 53, has trendy and fanciful women's clothes, a bit dressier in design than surrounding styles. For example, a three-piece dress by Kazuki has various layers of coordinated grays and sells for $52. And an olive-green two-piece ensemble with the same label has a full skirt with buttons down the front and a broad-shouldered shirt that gathers at the waist. The outfit costs $23.

Takfat, at No. 60-62A, has Complice cotton knit trousers for $4.50, Jordache denim jackets for $13 and Oakbrook Sport one-piece jump suits for $5.

Pop Inn, No. 64, has black satin jodhpurs for $20, Flash label black bomber jackets for $25, and leather cutout or studded belts for $8.

Nothing but Puma

Puma, in the Intercontinental Plaza at No. 94, carries Puma products exclusively. Men's bikini swimsuits are $10. Women's high-fashion swimsuits are $20. Unisex cotton knit shorts and shirts ensembles are $20, and the whale shirt is available in various colors for $15. Children's cotton shirts are $8 and sweat jackets are $12. Backpacks and waist pouches cost $5. Puma's Top Gun shoes cost $30, children's shoes $12 and up.

Granville Road shops have a quick turnover and stock varies daily. If you ponder a purchase overnight, don't expect to find the garment waiting for you the next day. You won't find all sizes, either--women with smaller sizes probably have the best luck at Granville Road; in men's clothing, larger sizes are abundant.

Most stores don't have liberal return policies. Before you buy anything, give it a close inspection for crooked seams, hidden stains and other flaws. And some labels may be counterfeit.

Prices quoted in this article reflect currency exchange rates at the time of writing .

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