If I had a pound for every time I heard someone say that ‘everything from China is shit quality’ I’d be immensely rich. So rich, in fact, I would probably be able to buy China. (Ish. Don’t quote me on that.) It’s kind of frustrating, seeing as many of the brands we know and love in the west are, well, actually made in China, or the far east, and there are a lot of fab brands that don’t get the recognition (I think) they deserve because they’re Asia based.
And by Asia based brands, I don’t mean Romwe and Choies etc, I mean actual brands like mixxmix and dabagirl and those that have legitimate stores you can wander into. I may have actually been to a bunch of the stores. I might be missing them.
So. If you’re ordering from China, or Asia, and you don’t want the bad quality stuff, or to be seriously disappointed how do you avoid it?
These images are shots of my new favourite jumpers. Knitted, cosy, and all from China <3
First up, two general tips:
– understand that Asia doesn’t always use the same fabrics that the West does.
Western countries are very into cotton and cotton blends. Which is, admittedly, really quite fab because breatheability. Asia does too, just… not all the time. There have been a couple of instances where I felt I’d turned into Jack (Jack, Jack the Pumpkin King), running around stores going ‘What’s this?!’ with materials I hadn’t felt clothes being before. It was odd on all accounts, but the main point here is that things may be different cotton blends, or straight up not what you’d expect.
– asian sizes tend to run a lot smaller.
I haven’t really found that China/Korea/Japan subscribe to the ‘vanity’ sizing game – they have ‘free size’ for that. Generally Asian sizes run a good deal smaller than western sizes. And by ‘a good deal’ a Small is usually advertised as being around a 63cm/24″ waist, a Medium is ~ 25″-26″ waist, and a Large is hitting that 27″-29″ mark. Size charts do vary, so please please please remember to measure yourself if you’re wanting to order from Asia. It may make you feel like a giant, but it isn’t through the fault of the manufacturers. If you look at Asias history you’ll understand why the stereotypes of being tiny and small boned/fast metabolisms and generally smaller in build than people in the west, came about. (pro tip: it isn’t the happiest.).
Shopping from Asia essentially requires you to toss your expectations out of the window and grab a new set. Not lesser or lower, but different.
Ok, so now we’ve covered the absolute basics, how do you order the good stuff?
1) go to the stores webpages directly.
eBay is great, it really is, but it takes an age to find anything decent among the pages and pages of slightly questionable. It’s far easier to just go to a store page direct and order from there. Usually they’ll ship internationally, but if not then you can always use what’s known in these circles as a ‘shopping service’ – basically you liaise with someone who can purchase the items for you, have them shipped to them, then they ship it to you. Yay.
This method can be quite expensive though, and is way less attractive than the ease of eBay – I mean, free shipping and super cheap?!?! Also the stores may not ship internationally and the use of a shopping service may mean you’re spending more than the actual item… so…
2) try reputable stockists:
Yesstyle is probably the largest stockist of Asian fashion and beauty items I can think of right now. They’re usually pretty decently priced and have a large collection ready to ship. I’ve never had an issue with them, but make sure you read the size guide for each item.
TaoBao is … kind of China’s answer to eBay. You have individual stores that sell items, and the stores are given a ranking by how much they’ve sold and how well they did. They stock pretty much everything imaginable. From clothing to legitimate furniture. However, it’s all in Chinese (mandarin) and you have to use a shopping service to ship. Prices are insanely low, though – they use the RMB and usually convert the amount into the equivalent in US dollars for comparison. I’ll be doing a post soon on my experiences with TaoBao – but if you’re unsure before then just yell at me and I’ll answer all your q’s. Generally I find the sellers to be mostly legitimate.
G-market is Korea’s answer to Taobao/eBay, it’s an auction/shopping mall type site that stocks all the Korean fashion. It has an English site, and does ship internationally, so you don’t have to use a shopping service or struggle with Korean. I’ve only ever ordered from G-market when I was in Korea… but I am tempted to try it out again soon.
With TaoBao and G-market, it’s usually more cost effective to by a couple of items so the shipping rates make more sense. Rates for TaoBao also depend on which shopping service you use… some charge more as they only offer express shipping, some have a more standard price. It just depends on where you go. Also, please be wary of TaoBao/G-market resellers – they like to buy products in bulk for hardly anything and then jack the prices up majorly. Most offenders are on storenvy and eBay, sadly.
TaoBao is also the company that owns Aliexpress, so if you feel uncomfortable with using TaoBao straight up, you can always use the Aliexpress website or app, and you’re ordering from the same company. Although Aliexpress uses Alipay, and with shopping services you get the option of paypal, usually.
4) Sometimes you just get really lucky.
I’ve ordered a ton of stuff from China on eBay/Aliexpress in the past for literal pennies, and the quality has been really quite great. It takes a lot of searching, maybe some emails and the request of actual photos from the retailers, but you have to be persistent. Perseverance is key, do your research or ask people to check things over for you. One bad experience doesn’t mean everyone is out to scam you.
There are other ways to order good quality things from China/Asia, but these are my current favourites. In my experience, I’ve only had a few incidents where I’ve had to pester people for a refund (and I’ve been ordering from Asia for a looong time now. 7 or 8 years at least…), so the vast majority of transactions have ended with me being ridiculously happy.