Smell the fakes, snap up the bargains then advance to genuine designer talent, writes Belinda Jackson.
KL boasts a massive Sogo, the Japanese department store, as well as home-grown mall staples Metrojaya and omnipresent Parkson, purveyor of the sporty fashion line, B.U.M. Equipment. Go figure. The granddaddy of department stores, Harrods, is at Suria KLCC at the base of the Petronas Towers.
Shoes. Fact of the day: Jimmy Choo is Malaysian. His boutique is in Suria KLCC. However, cute shoes abound from $10 in the main malls and even less in super-budget Sungei Wang mall. Well-priced, fashionable shoes under $35 are at Malaysia's own chic Sembonia (Berjaya Times Square, Pavilion et al). The designer-in-waiting to Choo is Lewre Lew, found in Parkson stores and Mid Valley Megamall. Choo himself recommends Fion Poon of Borsette Scarpe and Ferrelle, who's doing batik shoes in the Central Market.
Serious shoppers base themselves in the Imbi/Bukit Bintang area to plough into Sungei Wang plaza for budget yoof fashion and an astonishing amount of handbag and shoe stalls and hairdressers. Many fashion outlets have spilled into the fourth and fifth floors of Berjaya Times Square, worth a squiz for street fashion under 20 Malaysian ringgit ($7). Follow the locals to pumping Low Yat Plaza, beside Sungei Wang, for cheap new and second-hand unlocked mobiles, laptops, cameras and all the accessories. Geeks and gamers haunt nearby Imbi Plaza.
You can smell the fakes at Chinatown's day-and-night Petaling Street markets, with tourists elbow-to-elbow buying not-quite-right Mui Mui handbags and DVDs of movies surely still in production. Nearby, the Central Market is an initially off-putting mix of batik chopstick covers and tacky bead jewellery but yields a few gems, including Tanamera organic Malay skin and spa products. Little India is awash with street stalls clustered around the Masjid Jamek station, selling branded cosmetics (think M.A.C, Estee Lauder) for a song. Bangsar Baru is known for its busy Sunday market.
Uniquely Malaysian batik furnishing fabrics can be found in high-end Jendela in Starhill Gallery. The designs are all hand-printed on natural fibres and sold by the metre or in gorgeous cushions and even upholstered on sleek furniture. While in Starhill, cruise beloved Jim Thompson for a touch of Thai silk. He's word-of-mouth only but Peter Hoe's Evolution is packed with cute ornaments, souvenirs and cool batiks as well as a good cafe (second floor, Lee Rubber Building, 145 Jalan Tun HS Lee). On a budget? Go to Little India for elaborately printed fabrics and quirky home decorations.
Dominated by Bangsar Village shopping mall, the air is refined in the upmarket enclave of Bangsar Village, about 15 minutes by taxi from downtown KL. You'll find Massimo Dutti and Tom Baker in the newer BVII and just opened is the gorgeous Boudoir, a boho-fab nail spa that doles out champagne with the mani-pedis. Check out local girl Melinda Looi's showroom (279 Jalan Maarof, Bukit Bandaray in Bangsar, Sungei Plaza) for chic cocktail wear and her new organic cotton "basics" range (in Parkson) and bridal and haute couture king Eric Choong (61-1 Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar).
Fash and trash
Zara fiends head to Lot 10 (Jalan BB) and there are eight Top Shops in KL (including KLCC, Pavilion, Mid Valley). Men should seek out local laid-back Philosophy for hip T-shirts, the adidas Originals range and limited-edition shoes in the same three malls. Chic tots are clad in the local children's label, Poney, (Berjaya Times Square) and Elements is for glam, locally designed office wear that goes up to a generous size 14.
Malls. The queen of KL's many vast shopping malls is elite Starhill Gallery for your Vuitton, McQueen and Armani, then Petronas's neighbour, Suria KLCC, for Jimmy Choo, Pucci and Tod's and funky Pavilion for a swag of high-street brands, Juicy Couture, Shanghai Tang and Prada. Easier on the wallet are the Bukit Bintang district's haunts of Berjaya Times Square, Lot 10 and Bukit Bingtang Plaza and massive Mid Valley Megamall, flush with all the usual high-street suspects. Newly-opened Fahrenheit88, also on busy Bukit Bintang, which is aimed at the under-30s, anchored by cheap and cheerful Japanese casual clothes guru Uniqlo.
The fine print
Malaysia has twice-yearly mega-sales at Christmas and the monster sale from late July to mid-September. Check Tourism Malaysia for dates. tourism.gov.my.