Floatation Shopping is a brand new concept in the sphere of retail therapy, and one that’s pretty well exclusive to Hong Kong
Much of Central district is linked by overhead walkways bridging busy roads and weaving their way through a quintet of premiere malls (www.centralhk.com and www.ifc.com.hk) which are all sited above the MTR station.
Dedicated shoppers can spend a day or more navigating their way through myriad boutiques and stores without ever once setting foot on a pavement or pausing at a traffic light.
The Landmark’s the place to start, anchored by Harvey Nichols (3695 3388), and piled high with designer label boutiques from the gorgeous Gucci (2524 4492) to Jimmy 'rhymes-with-shoe Choo' (2525 6068) to home-grown Hong Kong designer Vivienne Tam (2868 2726).
The Who’s Who of upper crust retailers here is nothing if not extensive and includes Louis Vuitton (8100 1182), Tiffany & Co (2845 9853), Sonia Rykiel (2525 6048), and Ralph Lauren (2869 0388).
Prince’s Building lies a few minutes’ stroll away. There are international names spread about Prince’s five regal floors – take your pick from Brooks Brothers (2523 3366) or Calvin Klein (2530 3632) and a particularly healthy crop of jewellers: Van Cleef & Arpels (2522 9677), Cartier (8105 5008), and Piaget (2525 5575) to name but three.
However there’s a more home-spun feel to its purlieus. This is partly imbued by a number of children’s outlets, such as Wise-Kids Educational Toys (2377 9888) but – more importantly – by the bespoke business that is very much part and parcel of Hong Kong shopping. Ascot Chang (2523 3663) first set up in an unassuming townhouse in the then Crown Colony back in 1955, and five decades on, has become a byword for the very finest tailoring. Decreeing 22 stitches to the inch for a shirt may seem excessive, but it is simply routine for the house of Chang.
Alexandra House might be described as the junior member of Central’s shopping clique, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Abutting the Landmark and Prince’s Building, and revolving around an especially frenetic Starbucks outlet, Alexandra provides a roll call of celebrated names. Burberry (2868 3511), and Prada (2522 2989) run to two levels, Ermenegildo Zegna (2868 9638) and Yves Saint Laurent (2868 0092) stick to the ground floor, while Tse (2147 3033) is to be found on the second. One of the pleasures of shopping in this part of town is the Central Concierge (2500 0555) – a multi-lingual team who remain on call during shopping hours to provide directions, advice and other essential information on all the commercial operations in Alexandra House, Prince’s Building, The Landmark and Chater House.
At Chater, Bvlgari (2523 8057) gets a look in on the ground floor, but elsewhere the building is almost singularly devoted to the Armani empire (2532 7728), in all its delicious shapes and forms. On the non-threads side, there’s Armani Casa, Dolci and Fiori, as well as Giorgio Armani Cosmetics; and to augment the wares in Emporio Armani and the flagship Giorgio Armani stores, there’s also a GA Cosmetics. The Armani Bar does sterling work as a suitably hip oasis.
Striking north, Floatation Shoppers are lead out of the air conditioning above Connaught Road Central and past the General Post Office into ifc, as the International Finance Centre styles itself.
Unlike neighbouring malls which have grown up in a slightly piecemeal fashion, ifc was designed from the ground up, and while it is new, it’s home to a very Hong Kong institution. Lane Crawford (2118 3388) is the Harrods or Macey’s of Hong Kong, tracing its antecedents to Victorian times but with some very modern styles on offer nowadays.
Another long-established partnership, Gieves & Hawkes (2234 7220), acts as a magnet in ifc, especially for mainland Chinese who flock here in search of bespoke suiting that’s the antithesis of Mao jacket and trousers.
Elsewhere in ifc, fashion rubs its comfortable shoulders with jewellery, and personal care and beauty makes a solid showing as well. A stroll along a single gently curved podium, happily lit by the marine vistas outside, might embrace the likes of Zara (2234 7305), FCUK (2234 7787), and Agnès b La Loggia (2805 0678); Links of London (2295 3328), Swarovski (2234 7126) and Swatch 2376 3909; and, Estée Lauder (3188 9313). Samsonite (2295 3055) and Victorinix (2730 1847) provide plenty in the way of travel accessories, and Dymocks (2117 0360) stocks a heady supply of books, magazines and stationery.
Floatation Shoppers in need of assistance can drop by the ifc concierge desk – on Level One (2295 3308) next to the multiplex cinema – which provides free photocopying, faxes and scanning, mobile phone charging, sweets for children (no age limit) and a wealth of pointers on where to shop and eat.