Whether you’re looking for lace, leather, beads or buttons, Sham Shui Po is the place to visit for all your crafting needs. This working-class neighbourhood in the heart of Kowloon, was the heart of Hong Kong’s textiles industry in the 1950s and 60s. It’s still home to rows upon rows of wholesale and retail fabric and accessory stores, and it’s where you’re likely to find what you need at better prices than anywhere else in the city. Just remember to test out your bargaining skills!
Ki Lung Street (Button Street)
There are buttons, zippers and clasp wholesale shops and fabric stores aplenty along this road and its side streets. There are also plenty of offerings beyond clothing textiles; bag, cushion, curtain makers, upholsterers, and the like can find what they need here.
We love HK Johnson Lace (230 Ki Lung Street), which specialises in, you guessed it, lace, and also tulle and trims. We once took a German lingerie designer into this gem of a store and she was delighted with the quality and price. This was also where we met a local wedding dress designer getting lace trims for a custom piece.
For fabric, our dress-making maven friends also swear by the fabric stalls on Ki Lung Street, between Yen Chow and Wong Chuk Street. You get your traditional weaves, Japanese cotton, designer cut-offs, raw linens, waterproof jacket linings, and cheongsam silks, but also some fun off-beat prints. (South Park characters or hamburger prints anyone?) A lot of the fabrics are deadstock (fabric that hasn’t been able to sell, either because they produced too much, or there are small defects) from the mills in China.
Most stalls open early in the morning and are usually closed over the weekend. With that said, we did recently go on a Saturday, and some of the stalls were still doing a brisk trade.
For the casual crafter, the stores that only have sample swatches aren’t likely the ones you want, as they usually only sell in bulk.
Yu Chau Street (Bead Street)
This is where you’ll find everything you need for your jewellery/accessory making, embroidery, sewing and beading needs. Swarovski crystals, pompoms, pearls, fascinators, embroidery hoops, glue guns, costume jewellery parts, you name it this street probably has it.
We don’t have a favourite store on this street as the quality and prices really vary depending on what you’re looking for. Lucky for us everything is close together so comparison shopping for quality and price is pretty easy. Set aside a few hours to give yourself enough time to sift through everything.
Nam Cheong Street (Ribbon Street)
There are ribbon stores all along Nam Cheong street, but quite a concentration of them are near the intersection of Yu Chau Street and Nam Cheong Street. Velvet, Santa print, Chinese ethnic minority weaves, reels and reels of every colour and print of ribbon imaginable for your wrapping and trimming needs.
Tai Nan Street (Leather Street)
Totes, wallets, handbags, ornaments, whatever you fancy making in leather, this is the street you’ll find what you need to make it. You can pick up your own gear and raw materials here, or sign up for a class at places like Brothers Leathercraft (207-209 Tai Nan Street) or the Teepee Leather Workshop (217 Tai Nan Street).
Take a break
Feeling famished after all that walking around? Why not head over to sample some street food? Hop Yik Tai, (121 Kweilin Street) specialises in delicious cheung fun (rice rolls) smothered in sweet sauce, sesame sauce and soy sauce. Meanwhile the Hei Hei Snack Stall (125 Fuk Wing Street) has everything from siu mai dumplings to offal.
And if you’re looking to sit down somewhere, Hong Kong’s cheapest Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wan has a branch here (9-11 Fuk Wing Street).
Let us help you out with the ordering. Here’s the HK Cheapo Guide to Dim Sum.
Sham Shui Po’s other offerings
We’ve focused on crafts, but Sham Shui Po is also a great place to shop for electronics, Christmas decorations, toys (Fuk Wing Street), and just to go for a wander around the street markets (Pei Ho Street) to see how everyday life is in this vibrant HK neighbourhood.
Tips for shopping in Sham Shui Po
- Buses connect from all over Hong Kong to Sham Shui Po, but the easiest way to get there is the subway. Take exit A2 of Sham Shui Po Station on the red Tsuen Wan Line and you’ll find yourself right in the middle of it all.
- Late autumn and winter are the best times to visit the area. Walking around during the summer heat and humidity can get pretty unbearable.
- Remember to bring cash with you, as most of the shops in the area are cash only. If you do run short, you can head to a 7-11 and ask for cash back using an ATM card.
- Take a local with you if you can. That way you’ve got someone to translate, and make sure you get a good price. If not, Google Translate will do. Photographs of what you’re looking for are always handy.
- Stores will often sell cast-offs at a discount in small bins or boxes at the front of the store.
If you want to learn more about this authentic area of Hong Kong, check out this privately-guided historical tour or this food-and-hiking tour of the area.