Shanghai Tang Making Moves in China

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Shanghai Tang Autumn Winter 2011 Collection

I’ve been a fan of Shanghai Tang since first visiting Hong Kong well over a decade ago. For someone such as myself with a strong interest in Asian culture and design Shanghai Tang’s mix of Chinese design sensibilities and high quality products really got me excited.  Yet herein lies the conundrum for Shanghai Tang. Their products are appealing to non-Chinese who are captured by the orientalism of the designs yet Chinese consumers themselves are not interested. While Shanghai Tang does strong sales in Hong Kong with its large expat community and thriving international tourist shopping centers, it doesn’t fair so well in Mainland China,  where any fashion brand wanting to succeed must go after the Chinese crowd, not the foreigners.

As covered previously in the post on Shanghai Tang’s Beijing Fashion Show last year – the brand was founded by Savvy Hong Kong Entrepreneur David Tang and then sold to luxury brand conglomerate Richemont in 1998. Since then Shanghai Tang has faced an uphill battle in defining itself as a Chinese fashion and luxury brand. Following the ‘copy first, be creative later’ philosophy that permeates China’s adoption of new things, Chinese still prefer European or American fashion sensibilities and shy away from Chinese inspired designs and motifs.

Shanghai Tang are aware of this and have been trying to shed the label of ‘fancy souvenir brand’ by improving their product offerings and becoming more relevant and adoptable for Chinese. Their last campaign was photographed around Beijing by famed Chinese fashion photographer Chen Man and the collection maintains Chinese characteristics without resorting to printing Chinese characters and imperial emblems on the clothes.

To my sadness, Shanghai Tang was recently evicted from its Flagship Store Location in Central Hong Kong’s Pedder Building after losing a bidding war with Abercrombie & Fitch for the space. The Pedder Building is a heritage building with beautiful yesteryear architecture nestled amongst the skyscrapers that define modern day Hong Kong. The Pedder Building was a perfect fit for Shanghai Tangs charming aesthetic and it’s a pity they have been moved on.

To Shanghai Tang’s great credit, for the interim they have capitalized on their eviction and gone nomadic in true style by setting up camp on top of Pier 4 of Hong Kong’s harbor. To facilitate this Shanghai Tang commissioned the building of multiple Mongolian Gers (tents) to create a luxury pop up village featuring special products created especially for the project.

From the Shanghai Tang Website:

The Shanghai Tang Mongolian Village is a winter wonderland that evokes Mongolia’s spectacular landscape and traditional nomadic lifestyle. A series of authentic, beautiful Mongolian Ger tents have been perched on the rooftop of Central Pier 4 at the harbour front with sweeping views over Hong Kong’s skyline….. The Shanghai Tang Mongolian Village will offer the new, limited edition Mongolian Collection as festive gift choices, as well as other signature Shanghai Tang products.

The Mongolian Village is open 11am to 7pm everyday from now until December 31.

Shanghai Tang Spring/Summer 2004 Collection

Shanghai Tang Spring/Summer 2007 Collection

Shanghai Tang Autumn/Winter 2011 Collection

Massive Shanghai Tang Billboard in Hong Kong

Shanghai Tang's Mongolian Village at Pier 4 by Hong Kong Harbour

Shanghai Tang's Mongolian Village at Pier 4 by Hong Kong Harbour

Shanghai Tang's Imperial Tailoring Ger

Inside Shanghai Tang's Imperial Tailoring Ger

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