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The Times Shopper

Clothes Are a Steal in Bargain City of Hong Kong

August 17, 1986|JENNIFER MERIN | Merin is a New York City free-lance writer.

Hong Kong is a paradise for clothing shoppers. Thousands of small retail shops sell current fashions at prices that make bargain hunting a breeze.

The colony's tax-free status is one reason for the low prices. Many garments, sold in the United States and Europe at higher prices, are manufactured in Hong Kong, where labor is still cheap. Low production costs and the lack of shipping charges are passed along to shoppers in Hong Kong.

Even so, there is no reason to pay the full suggested Hong Kong retail price. If you're out to really rack up the bargains, head for Hunghom, Kowloon, the area with the greatest concentration of designer-clothing factory outlets. Hunghom is just 10 minutes by taxi from the Star Ferry Terminal, Kowloon-side.

Ask the taxi driver to take you to Man Yue Street, where you'll find a factory complex called Kaiser Estates. There are factory outlets scattered throughout the crowded streets of the Central District (Hong Kong Island), but the Kaiser Estates have some of the best outlets gathered in one small area. The selection is superb, and the prices are so good, you may have trouble resisting the temptation to buy an entire new wardrobe.

In Industrial Area

The Kaiser Estates are three, huge, concrete bunker-like buildings in the heart of an industrial area. The streets are not lined with handsome window displays, and the corridors of the buildings are a bit dingy. This is no-frills shopping.

There are few mannequins at the factory outlets. Clothes are displayed on racks, neatly arranged according to price and size. There are modest dressing rooms which sometimes must be shared with other shoppers. The sales staff is helpful and eager to please, if sometimes overly attentive. Everyone speaks English.

Kaiser Estates has several dozen manufacturing units with factory outlets. There are jewelry, gem and craft companies, but the largest number of outlets, and those that are most reliable, distribute clothes.

Clothing, from casual to dressy, is sold. The fabrics range from cottons and linens to pure silks and polyesters. There is also leather and suede clothing and accessories. Some of the merchandise is discontinued stock; most of it is current, the surplus of factory overruns. These are the same clothes you see on the racks at department stores and boutiques back home.

You may even find recognizable designer or store labels in the garments. Seconds and irregulars are not always marked as such, so examine the clothing carefully before purchasing it. Not all of the outlets allow exchanges or refunds, so always ask about their policy before buying anything you have doubts about. Always get a receipt. If not for returns, it's important for customs--especially if you're buying many items.

Each of the Kaiser Estate buildings is called Phase. Phase II Estate (the second one along Man Yue Street) has two of the best-known outlet shops. Four Seasons (51 Man Yue St., first floor, phone 3-632218) and another location at Kaiser Estate Phase III (11 Hok Yuen St., phone 3-626217) have a larger selection of garments in pure silk. For women, there are skirts and blouses, dresses, kimonos and lounge wear. A patterned, silk smock dress sells for $90, a paisley silk quilted jacket is $95. Skirt-and-blouse sets bearing Italian labels cost about $120. Women's blouses and men's shirts are about $15 to $30, and oversized shirts in bright, racing colors are about $40.

Factory Outlet

Also in the Phase II building, on the ground floor, is Camberley Enterprises, the factory outlet that sells Anne Klein II clothes at greatly discounted prices. Silk blouses with tucked fronts cost $42. Silk casual jackets in fashionable plaids are $62. Wool sweater dresses in solid colors are $31, those in bright floral prints are $44. Then there's the leather: full-cut jackets for $150, skirts for $64 and suede slacks for $90.

At Vica Moda (Kaiser Estate Phase II, first floor, phone 3-765333), you'll find silk shirtwaist dresses for $90, suits for $90, blouses for $40-$50, slacks for $40, and tank tops for $15. A raw silk jump suit is $90. Designer labels include a Karl Lagerfeld lynx-trimmed jacket for $700 and a Sauzaie B of Paris red-fox jacket for $900.

Bendini Fashions (Kaiser Estate Phase II, seventh floor, phone 3-652295) sells silk blouses and shirts for about $35. On the 12th floor, A Club (phone 3-626267) has children's clothes and Angora sweaters (about $25 for a set of two).

More Silk Items

The Phase I building has fewer outlets, but don't overlook Ede Ltd. (first floor, phone 3-344218), where Stanley Blacker overruns and St. Tropez seconds are sold for a song. A Stanley Blacker silk shirt costs $45, St. Tropez silk slacks are $48 and the matching top is $65.

The Phase III building has Wintex, on the 12th floor, which is an outlet for Calvin Klein silks, and also for some fine knitwear.

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