Leather Jackets in China : Fabric Markets, Taobao, Vintage, and Custom Leather Shops

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by TheJuniper, Jan 28, 2018.

  1. TheJuniper

    TheJuniper Familiar Face

    Messages:
    54
    Location:
    Californian living in China
    I’ve been living and working in China for the last 5 years, and as far as I know, I’m the only person on this forum that posts from China. I figured it might be helpful to share some of my personal experiences regarding the leather jackets I’ve purchased while living here. An honest and accurate account of what I’ve come across in China; the good and the bad experiences.

    This thread was created as an informative guide for those interested in leather jackets in China. I do hope it is helpful. Enjoy the read, and onward …

    Fabric Markets

    Shiliupu Inside.jpg

    Most medium and large cities in China will have a fabric market tucked away somewhere, with tailors ready to fill custom orders for clothes, sheets, drapes, and the like. Some can fill a rush order in a few hours, but most need a few days or weeks to get a job done. Leather tailors can be found here, but not very many.

    In the winter of 2014, I bought my first ever custom leather jacket on an impulse in Shiliupu Fabric Market in Shanghai. I was walking through the market and saw a stall with several leather jackets that looked like they were of decent quality, so I stopped in to check it out, and ended up making a custom order for 1800 RMB (~$300).

    That jacket ended up being a total disaster. It arrived at my apartment 2 weeks later, and it was at least 4 sizes too big. The zippers were the wrong color. It had a pointed back yoke, which I did not order. I took the jacket back to Shiliupu, and after about 15 minutes of argument, I got the tailor to size it down and replace the zippers, free of charge. I wore it sporadically over that winter until the leather started cracking and flaking off, then I just tossed it. Sorry, I have no pictures of that jacket. It’s something I’d rather forget.

    Taobao

    Taobao.png

    The next place I turned for a leather jacket was Taobao, the massive online marketplace in China. For those of you unfamiliar, Taobao is akin to Amazon, Rakuten, Lazada, or Gmarket. If a clothing business is online in China, you will likely find it here. You can find just about any kind of leather jacket on Taobao: vintage Buco, made-to-order custom jackets, overseas dealers, and all of the chain store brands. Don’t fret about the language barrier; using a translator app works fine. There are plenty of other pages and forums on the internet about Taobao, so I’d rather not go into detail about it here.

    I was able to find 2 “custom leather jackets (定制皮夹克)” that fit my measurements on Taobao, so I snatched them both. Mind you, these were stock jackets and weren’t tailored to my specs. I paid $200 each for them, and they were actually decent for the price. Quality-wise, they were similar to something you might find off-the-rack or on Amazon for around the same price. I got what I paid for, but it wasn’t really what I was really looking for. I kept them for about a year before putting them up for sale on Xianyu (see below).

    TB.jpg

    Vintage and Second-Hand Jackets

    There isn’t a huge demand for vintage or second-hand goods in China. My Chinese friends look at me kind of weird when I tell them I want to buy something used. I’ve never actually seen a thrift, vintage, or second-hand shop in person here, but you can certainly find them online. A search for “二手 Schott” on Taobao will yield loads of results and lead you to many different vintage shops.

    Your Taobao searches will inevitably lead you to Xianyu (闲鱼), which is the second-hand marketplace of Taobao. You’ll know you’re in Xianyu by the big yellow fish on the product page. Xianyu is its own independent app and website, but it is also a sub-market of Taobao. Any user can list a new or second-hand item for sale on Xianyu and set an asking price, kind of similar to eBay. The big difference being that you don’t bid the price up … but you can negotiate the price down.

    Xianyu1.png Xianyu2.png

    At any given moment on Xianyu, you can find tons of new, used, vintage, and custom leather jackets for sale. Just do a search for Schott, Aero, Vanson, RRL, etc and see for yourself. I’ve been very tempted to buy a few jackets on Xianyu, but haven’t committed to any yet. But I have bought and sold plenty of other items here, and can vouch that the experience is very similar to eBay.

    Custom Leather Shops

    There are loads of leather shops on Taobao that will make custom jackets, shoes, boots, bags, belts, and wallets. Search the word “Horween皮” on Taobao and hundreds of products from these shops will pop up. I’ve personally bought a few stock items from these shops, and it’s hit and miss, TBH. I got a great leather bag for work for $60, but I've also gotten 2 wallets that weren't so good.

    Sansun Leather.png

    I periodically come across random custom leather shops just walking around in China. They’re on busy tourist streets and tucked away in back alleys all over the place. Typically they’re selling custom bags and wallets. I’ve seen guidebooks that have warned against these places, but I’m sure some of them must be OK since the locals seem to shop there. You might find a gem in one of these, but use your own judgment and discretion.

    Tony Leathers in Shanghai

    One custom leather jacket shop worth mentioning is Tony Leathers in Shanghai, simply because it has the best styling, quality, and reputation I’ve yet seen in China. Their used leather jackets are bought and sold regularly on Xianyu (search for “武装战线 皮衣”). You can have a glance at their shop at https://langlitz.taobao.com. I know, it’s a questionable name and web address for the shop, but Welcome to China. They sell bespoke leather jackets and custom reproductions of classic motorcycle, flight, and military leather jackets for around 3000 RMB (~$450).

    TN1.jpg

    Tony Leather is definitely on my short list for my next custom leather jacket, but I am holding out until I visit Shanghai again. My communication with them has been fairly good so far, but I’m just afraid something will get lost in translation if I do everything online. I’d like to personally see their products and get measured in their shop. I suppose I’ll do another post when that happens.

    Ray Kwoh / 玩累了的孩子 (A Tired Child) in Guangzhou

    Another fairly popular leather shop that boasts some big styles and labels is 玩累了的孩子 (A Tired Child). I know, that’s a terrible name for a clothing maker in China, but give their products a browse at https://shop33305506.taobao.com. This shop doesn't make bespoke items, but they do have a sizable catalog that offers made-to-order clothes, shoes, bags, belts, and jackets fashioned from Harris Tweed, Horween, Shinki, and other choice materials. I haven’t purchased anything from them yet either, but several of their shoes are in my Taobao shopping cart.

    RK.jpg

    Custom Shops That Can Facilitate Orders From Outside of China : My First Custom Aero

    In the summer of 2017, I decided to go ahead and splurge the cash for my first custom Aero. I contacted two shops in China that sold Aero jackets: Vintage by N&S, and Ozzy Leather. Vintage by N&S was too difficult to get a hold of. Ozzy Leather had someone who spoke English and chatted with me over Taobao for quite a while. They carried many of the reputable custom brands such Aero, Schott, and Vanson, and they said I could order stock or custom items direct from their Canadian shop (Bison Trading), or do the purchase through their shop in China.

    Ozzy-Leather.jpg

    I contacted Thurston Bros in the US, and they said they could ship custom orders to China too. I ultimately ordered my custom Board Racer directly from Aero, just so I wouldn’t have to ship my new jacket all over the world to receive it. I go into detail about that order on this thread: http://www.thefedoralounge.com/threads/first-aero-modified-board-racer-dark-seal-vicenza-…-arrived-in-china.91864/#post-2318308.

    When I finally received my Aero, I wasn’t happy with the Alpaca lining, so Aero sent me a new cotton drill lining for free. I had my local dry cleaners find someone to install it for 300 RMB (~$50), and I’m very happy with it now.

    BR.jpg

    My biggest gripe with ordering jackets from outside of China is the fact that the import taxes can be painfully high. I’m talking upwards of $300 for a single jacket.

    I may as well inform you on the hurdles associated with importing jackets into China ….
    • Customs: This is a highly volatile situation in China. Officially, they can charge 30% of the value of an incoming parcel.
    • Shipping: It usually takes 2-6 weeks for parcels to come in or out of China. Couriers typically call you and want to talk to you in Chinese to pick up parcels, so make sure your correct phone number is on the parcel.
    • Payments: Very few vendors and very few people use Visa, MasterCard, or PayPal in China. The banks function on UnionPay. Alipay and WeChat Pay are the preferred methods of payment.
    Conclusion

    Well, this ends my account of leather jackets in China. So far. I’ll update it again later if I come across any more noteworthy finds while I’m here. I hope you all found it helpful and informative. Mind you, these are just my personal experiences, and I’m sure others out there have had different ones. Thanks for reading and feel free to contribute below.

    Cheers and 再见,

    TheJuniper
     
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  2. zebedee

    zebedee One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,418
    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    I have been in China for about 13 years, and lived in Shanghai for much of that time. The mindset is on a season's wear; people who can afford high-end goods frequently replace them at Chinese New Year. Whereas I have had overcoats and suits made by Shanghai and Hong Kong tailors (both were brilliant and lasted years longer than I expected- oldest overcoats are now a decade old and still going strong after Shanghai's evil winters), I never, ever went near a leather tailor because they often use stretched skins that are very fragile. Again, they're for a season- the stalls there are not necessarily being underhand, but the market is not for a lifetime jacket- it's more thin lambskin for a season or two's wear. They can't really compete with the Banana Republic, etc. brands made here when it comes to quality for export (see below).

    On the other hand, the Guangzhou import/export districts sold brand name leather jackets for between 200 and 400 USD a piece (more expensive examples would not really have worked given temperature extremes). They were excellently made, lasted until I graduated to Aero jackets (one is nine years old, no real deterioration and passed three others on [again, no complaints at all]). I'd avoid tailors for leather jackets in China- Hong Kong has some good vintage stores where you can pick up some bargains, but I wouldn't use a leather tailor here, either- they're making fashion items, lambskin car coats, and the like. If Asia's where you're looking, South Korea's Itaewon has some brilliant stores that can either sell branded jackets or make them custom. I've never seen a thick leather jacket here- people would want something light and fashion-y. If it absolutely must be China, I'd recommend finding a custom shoemaker and asking for samples of tougher hides that you could take to a tailor, but you're better off biting the bullet and paying the import fees.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2018
  3. TheJuniper

    TheJuniper Familiar Face

    Messages:
    54
    Location:
    Californian living in China
    Thanks for your reply, Zebedee! I agree with you about the mindset on a season's wear ... I get my dress shirts custom tailored here, and they are only good for about 10 wears before I toss them. But they're only $30 a pop, so the price trade-off is worth it. I also had a cashmere peacoat made in Shanghai about 3 years ago, and it looks ready for a few more years of wear.

    My impression of Tony Leather is that it is better quality, from talking to several people who have bought them on Taobao/Xianyu. I figure it may be worth the risk, considering the import fees of a new Aero. And I have gotten some good thick leather bags in China, so all hope is not lost. Again, I'm waiting until I visit SH to go the Tony store to see for myself. Have you had any experience with Tony yet?

    I spent 3 years in S. Korea as well, and had my clothes tailored at Dynasty in Itaewon. Never saw any leather tailors there. Haven't been back to Korea in 5 years though.

    To be honest, I'm probably going to order another Aero anyways. I'm developing this leather jacket addiction, so finding a good maker in China might be worth the search. Nice recommendation on the Guangzhou import/export districts :)

    Hope you're enjoying this current cold storm ...
     
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  4. Mark

    Mark Practically Family

    Messages:
    522
    Location:
    UK
    That was an interesting read, thanks. I can relate to some of what you say, the wife and I visit Thailand quite frequently, as with china they very much make clothes for that season and/or to last only a short time, but on the upside they are often amazingly cheap. If you mention that you like or are wearing something 5/10 years old or even worse second hand they look at you like you from another planet (or think you must be very, very poor)! Very much a different mind-set it seems in Asian countries.
     
    bn1966 likes this.
  5. red devil

    red devil Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,466
    Location:
    London
    Thanks for this account!
    There was a shop in the Lu Jia Bang market, that did the sizing very well but the leather was too thin and got a rip in a year....
    On the other hand, I bought two pairs of custom shoes that are still going strong after regular wear
     
    bn1966 likes this.
  6. zebedee

    zebedee One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,418
    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    My time in South Korea was many years ago. Things are probably very different now. Not had any dealings with Tony Leather.
     
  7. rocketeer

    rocketeer Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,612
    Location:
    England
    The Chinese appear to make everything for one season or less from my experiences. It is probably not the person or artisan but the bosses trying to cut corners to save money on manufacture thus increasing the profit on the finished items. Electrical goods have a virtual lifespan just outside the warranty meaning I have had bad experiences with a fridge lasting two weeks, a telephone connector with no electrical contacts installed(bought same day as fridge).
    As for clothing socks and T shirts last around a month before becoming misshapen and most expensive goods appear to have threads hanging, wonky stitching etc.
    Steiff, the teddy bear people had to pull out of China as Chinese quality control was giving the company a bad name
    Go back a few years and we didn't want to know about cheap Japanese goods for similar reasons. They took notice, improved and now a lot of their goods are brand leaders. A lot of people on here want Japanese denims, leathers etc, so why can't the Chinese do the same?
    They have the skills to build the fastest trains in the world and the most complex Olympic sports stadium ever built. So why can't they make a broom that the head will stay on for more than a week.
     
  8. zebedee

    zebedee One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,418
    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    I've never had an issue with electrical goods, apart from a kettle that expired after 3 months. The simplest reason for things sometimes not being up to scratch is that the workers are paid so little that they're hardly going to care. It's a place of massive contrasts, though- trial and error is the order of the day. There's often a sense of 'Well, good enough' applied to many things- the aesthetics are less important here, but eventually, in the mould of Taiwan and Japan, quality might pick up- it's unlikely to happen while short-termism and 'money now' are the goals because you can't count on tomorrow being profitable. God bless the Motherland (and see you in Sydney).
     
  9. Monitor

    Monitor

    Messages:
    11,762
    They can and they do. But it will cost more. That's all there is to it.
     
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  10. ton312

    ton312

    Messages:
    10,877
    Location:
    Chicago
    Cool post. I enjoyed reading it and can't help but think Tony Leathers makes the best jackets in China. Coincidence? I think not.
     
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  11. navetsea

    navetsea I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
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    Location:
    East Java
    great read, thanks for sharing your quest story :)
     
  12. handymike

    handymike I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,412
    Location:
    SoCal
    Tony does play pretty fast and loose with the descriptions though...(BUCO, LANGLITZ, SCHOTT, VANSON, BUZZ, California).
    and that's just in the description of his "Hercules" copy :rolleyes:
     
    ton312 likes this.
  13. Worf

    Worf I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,739
    Location:
    Troy, New York, USA
    Thanks for the report. Quite informative.

    Worf
     
  14. TheJuniper

    TheJuniper Familiar Face

    Messages:
    54
    Location:
    Californian living in China
    For electronics I usually buy the "good Chinese brands" like Joyoung or Supor, and they're just as good as any other name brand I've purchased.

    There are probably good quality brooms here too, but I haven't found any yet ... it's true many of the shops are filled with these cheap plasticky ones. And many times you just can't find the good ones. Probably can on Taobao!

    I had the same problem with umbrellas before ... anywhere I went, I could only find umbrellas for about $5 that would only last a month before falling apart. Then my Chinese friends recommended I order a TianTang
    天堂 umbrella for about $10. It's as good as any umbrella I've owned.

    I've found the same goes with tailored clothing. South Bund Fabric Market is going to make inexpensive clothing that won't last long, but the tailors on Moaming Road are going to make much better clothing for 2 or 3 times the price.

    If I want something that is going to last a while here, I will generally pay the same (or comparable) price I would in the states. You do get what you pay for here. And you kinda need to know where to look for it.

    There are loads of leather artisans all over the place in China. I just remain hopeful that somewhere in China, there is a good quality custom leather jacket shop. Somewhere. Someday.
     
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  15. TheJuniper

    TheJuniper Familiar Face

    Messages:
    54
    Location:
    Californian living in China
    red devil, where did you get those shoes made? I went shopping for custom shoes in Shanghai a few years back, but the shops needed a few weeks between fittings and I didn't have time. I think it was Billy Wang, but can't remember. They quoted me 3000 RMB (~$500) and a one month wait.
     
  16. navetsea

    navetsea I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,303
    Location:
    East Java
    I bought a made in China $60 one button stand collar crop cotton blazer, and the pattern fit me like a tailor made, and now I use it to size my jackets only adding sleeve length since leather jacket needs more sleeve than a blazer and rotate the sleeve a bit since my leather is used for riding, but for the torso it is a perfect fit shoulder width, chest, waist, everything fits perfectly .

    and I can't be happier with this $3 Jinhao X750 fountain pen and it's cheap blue cartridges from ebay.
     
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  17. red devil

    red devil Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,466
    Location:
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    One pair is from a shop called Yanye shoes, they did need some time to do the fitting model as well.
    The other one is from Jack Peng, but his prices had increased massively when I visited again a year or so later.
     
  18. Justhandguns

    Justhandguns Practically Family

    Messages:
    750
    Location:
    London
    Yes, they have the fastest trains running, but fastest doesn't mean safest, you know what I mean, and God knows when these trains will break down. I believe people in HongKong can tell you how 'rubbish' their made in China train carriages are compared to the good old made in England ones. As for the bird's nest stadium, it was built to save the nation's face, so much so to show off to the outside world how magnificent they could be. But check out the photos here.


    Totally agree with the short-temism 'money-now' mentality like there is no tomorrow.

    I do hope that things may improve in the future, but mind you that China produced the finest arts and crafts a hundred years ago. If you go on Taobao (Chinese ebay+amazon), there are a few vintage/repro clothing makers which are catching up with the quality pretty nicely, hopefully it is a good start, even though it may take 2-3 generations.
     
  19. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    Messages:
    21,182
    Location:
    London, UK
    OP: interesting rad. You'll find two or three other Floungers live in China, I believe. I am based in the UK myself, but I spend up to a month, collectively, in China - specifically, Beijing - every year in connection with my work at the university. My impression of China has long been that they're on the same curve as the West - just as owning a car, fast fashion, and other things were big here in the eighties and nineties, China is now enjoying that form of prosperity; I very much suspect that over the next decade we'll see them shift in favour of durability, quality, environmental responsibility.... even if mainly in the interests of profit over anything else.

    I'll be interested to hear what your experience of tony Leathers is. At the price they are charging relative to the local market, they should be able to equal at least Schott level - or exceed it, if they're custom building rather than production line. The main thing will be the ensure no corners have been cut in terms of the quality of components, but again there's no need to assume that they will definitely do that. They've been building high end electronics for years; now they're increasingly making high quality guitars. Once, Japanese guitars were laughed at; now they build a better Gretsch than ever the US did. Then cheap guitars moved to being built in Korea, and they were laughed at - until Korea became the new Japan. And now China is fast becoming the new Korea.... All they need is the spec and the budget, and they can equal anywhere else in the world.


    As for the old stereotype that the Chinese can copy but not innovate, well.... There was some basis in that at a time: thousands of years of a culture where copying the master was revered as a way to learn. (Still a problem for enforcing intellectual property). That said, much as has long been the case with Japan, very often the best that China has to offer is simply never seen outside China because the West doesn't want it. In much the same way, Westerners used to point at Japanese guitars and say they were just staid copies of Western designs, while missing that the Japanese were making some extremely far-reaching stuff, but it just didn't sell in the West because Western players only wanted more of the same. One of the most fascinating things I've seen in China was a copy of an iPhone which actually vastly improved on the original in almost every conceivable way. My current handset is a OnePlus 2 - OnePLus, a Taiwanese company, are now onto the Mk 5, but my three year old Mk 2 is still a better spec than most iPhones, and an original design, not a copy. The limitations o Chniese and Far Eastern production more generally are not local but rather pertain to Western Market demand.

    That's the thing. People in the West have gotten so used to buying everything for practically nothing, that in order to satisfy market demand for low price, quality had to give eventually. DMs took the production of their standard boots to China because they market refused to pay hat British labour cost; over time, to keep the price the same, the cost of material was cut again and again, and now they're nothing. The Chinese can make whatever you want - at a price. If you want the lowest possible price, they can make it down to the spec too; you want good, you have to pay for it.

    That's the difficult bit; remember, you're dealing with an ancient civilisation with a very different cultural approach to intellectual property. It'll take a while. Of course, as the Chinese brands themselves become more valuable, this too will change.


    Some of the best shoes ever I had made were done by a shop on Gulou East Street, just a few doors from the Mao Livehouse in Beijing (running East from the Drum and Bell Towers). I had the hlpe of a local colleague on the phone who also collected them for me after they were made (took two weeks). Beautiul shoes, fit like a glove. I'd have a whole lot more made there if I manage to get organised enough and once I've cleared out the flat properly! Cost me GBP110 in 2009; at the same time, comparable Loakes were around £190 in the UK.


    There's certainly something of a lack of health and safety concept in China (though that'll come), and often public project are done on the cheap. nonetheless, they'll get there. Brands like Bronson and Bob Dong are closing in on the Japanese stuff. Be interesting to see how they would do if somebody were to set up an import business here and market them.
     
    G'c, AeroFan_07 and Monitor like this.
  20. rocketeer

    rocketeer Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,612
    Location:
    England
    Everyone quotes they invented this and that and their pottery was the best in the world 100-200 years ago so yes they can do it. It's their bosses, they just don't want to :(

    I work in the railway industry where our wheels have to be within 0.25mm across the axel. Recently on TV was one of those programs, possibly Megabuilds or something similar where the Chinese put billions into building this train to get from Shanghai to Bejing 15 minutes earlier than the previous service. The wheels on that train had to be something like 10 times as accurate due to speeds. What the infrastructure(hate that word) is like in China though is anyones guess.
    As an old Urbexer(look it up those who don't know) I would love to have a look inside the 'Birds nest' but would probably get put in prison over there rather than a telling off and escorted from the premises as here :p
     
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