Last week I had to write a brand story on Shanghai Tang so I decided to drop by their flagship store on Duddell Street (Central), a few blocks down the road from my office.
The whole theme of the brand is – if you haven’t already guessed – nostalgia for the ‘golden days’ of Shanghai during the 1920s/30s when it was called ‘The Paris of the East’.
I came with L (my editor) to the shop, and we played the mystery shopper card, conducting the anonymity test which the Shanghai Tang employees barely passed. Out of all the sections, of course I made a beeline for the Imperial Tailoring wing. Other bloggers and journalists (I’ve scanned a few other write-ups on the brand) mostly wanted to try on the modern and ready-to-wear styles, but I like my dramatic garb given the chance (why go for normal when you can have the red-carpet-worthy?)… and Shanghai Tang has their fair share of this on the racks at the special section.
I’m no expert, but I would say Shanghai Tang falls under mid-range-priced designer labels (think Longchamps and Furla), given its retail/RTW prices are mostly under HK$10,000. My verdict is that this is quite reasonable considering the quality you get. At least you don’t spend months justifying the purchase of a single item in your head… and failing.
Our store experience
The staff were nice enough, yes, when we asked to try on the gowns. They were encouraging but note that this was only after we came up to them and asked them about fitting some pieces). This was a stark contrast to James’s treatment – when he dropped by (his office is right across the street), he was immediately surrounded, offered a drink, and attended to (bordering fussed over)… think it’s because he looks every inch the typical work-suit-sporting British broker with a nice watch?
Campaigns and inspirations
As I was going through their press kit, the folders that got me absorbed were those from Shanghai Tang’s campaigns. Each season is inspired by a Chinese place or minority tribe, which I think is absolutely wonderful – a great way to capitalize on China’s rich culture and history. One example is their “Miao Hinterland” Collection for Fall 2003:
Probably the most iconic of their campaigns: From China with Love Autumn Winter 2011
The Rite of the Phoenix S/S 2012 Campaign:
SHANGHAI TANG S/S 2013 CAMPAIGN: (is it just me or are their visuals getting darker and darker with every passing season? I mean, compare the ones from 2011 to the 2013 photos… I prefer the former.)
Their latest: A/W 2013 campaign shot in Folies Bergere in Paris
And finally, a few interesting facts I gathered in the writing of the article:
- Shanghai Tang began as a custom-tailoring service in Hong Kong, leveraging on the talent of Shanghainese tailors who fled the city during the communist revolution of 1949.
- Before the revolution, cheongsams or qipaos (like the dress I’m wearing above) were popular with high society. Members of the latter fled to Hong Kong in the late 40’s and brought the fashion here, which explains the costume design for films like In the Mood for Love by Wong kar-wai, set in 1960’s Hong Kong.
- ‘Sir’ David Tang is the British-educated Hong Kongese businessman behind Shanghai Tang. His grandfather founded the Kowloon bus company and became one of Hong Kong’s greatest philanthropists, according to The Sunday times.
- Shanghai Tang sponsored the costume design for the 2010 American star-studded film ‘Shanghai’ with Gong Li, John Cusack, Ken Watanabe, and Chow Yun-fat
Shanghai Tang Mansion