Memories of Shanghai Tang
In 1994, Hong Kong businessman and socialite, David Tang, opened a designer boutique on Pedder street in Hong Kong.
Shanghai Tang, as I remember it, was startling in its style, its sophistication, its message. It represented a fusion between traditional Chinese style and Western chic. It was, as my friend, Liam Fitzpatrick of Time magazine, wrote, "contemporary Chinese", something we take for granted today, but a "startling novelty" at the time.
To me, it was the symbolism, the underlying subtext, that was most striking. It was about bringing worlds together. About bridging differences. About overlaying what would seem to be incongruous stylistic elements into a coherent whole.
Shanghai Tang gave us cheongsams, padded jackets, mandarin collars, and more, but integrated with a more global sensibility. It represented more than a fashion line. It represented an idea.
Perhaps you'll say I'm reading too much into it, and maybe I am. I mean, this wasn't the brand for the everyman. It's a brand beyond the reach of most of us, certainly.
Maybe it's the nostalgia of my Hong Kong, or the idealism of growing up in what seemed to me a transient society. But more than the physical product itself (which was well beyond the economic reach of this twenty something when it launched), Shanghai Tang represented an idea. An idea I've always bought into.
That it's about the best of all of us, but without losing the identity of any one of us.
Which is, really, the point.
David Tang died yesterday, at the youthful age of 63. He brought us more than this store in his lifetime, many other businesses, but Shanghai Tang was, to me, his signature.
(To read Liam's wonderful remembrance of David Tang, click here.)