Beneath this bowl of stars...

toddler activites, food, photos, and other orbital occurrences

so many of you might know i go a little crazy for stuff for amber. Clothes, toys, gear. I love to look at it all and think up ideas that I want to create (but never do), or look for crazy sales. I even went to the huge buyers market in NYC this past March (amber and I snook in), it was very overwhelming, and very educational into the fancy children's brands that cost over $100 per outfit.
I found (thanks to my wonderful guide book) the underground children's market here in Shanghai. An unmarked (at least in english) entrance next to a bus station takes you under the park to isles and isles of stalls each overflowing with fakes, seconds and some that look and feel like the real thing of children's clothes (mostly high end european brands but also Gymboree, Gap, and Carters), shoes and even toys. I was so completely overwhelmed that I could not even buy anything, I basically just walked around with my jaw dropped wishing amber needed more summer clothes or that i knew how much she would grow between now and fall.I dont even really know how to describe it. Each little booth has a few things displayed and then bags and bags of clothes piled up and stuffed around. You basically go in and tell them (in chinese, or charades since they dont speak english) what age and sex of the child you are shopping for and they start digging for things. You can find just about anything you can imagine.... pastels, trendy neutral styles, vibrant colors and patterns, licensed characters, stride rite shoes, crocs, hair stuff, dress up stuff, stickers, bags, and toys... all sorts of toys, but what i was drawn to was the wooden toys. I learned from my trip to the real department store that there is a chinese toy brand called smart toys that makes many of the toys for melissa and doug and haba. They sell toys in real packaging in real stores under their own brand but with different decorations, different colors and pictures that are not as nice (since designed by chinese graphic artists that are probably not paid very well or very skilled). These same factories create unbranded editions of the toys that are sold in the underground/backroom markets around the city. As with the clothes, sometimes you cannot tell you are not getting the real thing, maybe its a good fake, maybe its a second... other times its a great fake, but when you inspect the quality, you can just tell its not of the same caliber, but $3 vs $35 for a set of wooden blocks, I can overlook any quality differences :-) Same with stickers. I got the same book of stickers I paid $1 for at home, for 17cents, looks just the same, sticks, but the paper that the stickers come on is very low quality, but who cares! (see future post on stickers for pics and more detail).

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