East meets West in Chinatown shops

It’s too bad there aren’t any cherry blossom trees along Liacouras Walk, because this spring, the campus hotspot will fill with students modeling Asia-inspired style.

Movies like Memoirs of a Geisha and celebrities like singer Gwen Stefani, who parades about with four Japanese “Harajuku” girls at her side, have fueled this season’s love affair with style of the East.

Cherry or not, the trees will soon bloom for spring and it’s time for all fashionistas and fashionistos to pay a visit to Philadelphia’s very own Chinatown.

Here you can delve into men’s and women’s kimono shirts, silk dresses, scarves and ties, jeweled flats and current designer trends for both sexes imported from China, all without breaking the bank.

At Shanghai Bazaar on 10th and Race streets, silk scarves, which can be worn as belts, sashes, scarves or hair pieces, sell for $15 in a variety of eye-catching animal, flower and asian designs well-suited for spring.

Silk shirts and kimonos for men and women start around $100 and can sell for upwards of $300; but with their exquisite detailing, vibrant color and a quality rarely found in American design, the product is worth the price.

Unique button placement, including along the collar or in double rows down the chest, boosts each shirt’s originality so that no matter what, you’ve bought a truly distinctive piece of fashion. Cotton versions of similar designs run around $50 each.

Guys can pick up casual wear from Chinese brands, too. Kimono-style shirts, $30, are made from light cotton material that can be worn as relaxing dress wear for warmer days. Much of casual apparel for guys has graffiti-inspired design, as many brands’ logos resemble graffiti tags, and some shirts are spray painted to appear like you’ve just rolled around in a bucket of paint. Be forewarned: These styles are for guys who aren’t afraid of a little color.

My favorite section of Shanghai Bazaar, of course, was the shoe section. Comfortable jeweled slides sell for $19.99 to $30 each and are thankfully available in sizes for American feet, up to a size 10. A pair of high top sneakers for guys complete with blue laces, a red interior and a big tongue to match, screamed excess but still had me pining for a pair.

For the complete Chinatown shopping experience, head down Arch and Race streets from 10th to Eighth streets. Here in the heart of Chinatown are some of the best clothing (and food) destinations. Bypass the extra large bag of fortune cookies and check out the stores’ selections of modern Chinese brands and all the Hello Kitty gear you could ever want.

Gwen Stefani and her Asian chick posse know what’s hot. Follow her lead and get in on the trend before the blossoms bloom this season.

Sammy Davis can be reached at s.davis@temple.edu.

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