New Tang DynastyA local icon in transition makes the most of its temporary transience

It was a black day in Central when Shanghai Tang closed its doors for the last time ever at its Pedder Building location. Long an area landmark, word on the street is American clothier Abercrombie & Fitch will be moving into the space to sell its identical-to-J.Crew-and-Polo wares. But fear not: Shanghai Tang won’t be gone for long. A new multi-storey Central flagship will open in spring 2012 (which should also feature an expanded housewares section), and branch shops remain in operation in Elements, Pacific Place, 1881 and Times Square. The Pedder Building will feature a temporary loft store (on the sixth floor), but just in time for the Christmas rush is its pop-up boutique on the roof of Pier 4 in Central.

With one of the biggest shopping seasons of the year just around the corner, Shanghai Tang is gearing up for the holidays with an eye toward Mongolia, one of the world’s most distinctive natural environments and still something of an enigma to outsiders. Reflecting the brand’s current status as a nomad it’s planning a Mongolian Village experience right here in Hong Kong. “The Mongolian Village is going to be a big event,” says former chief home designer Millicent Lai, who was at the helm for the Village’s development. “The collection will be Mongolian-themed as well. And I wouldn’t say the Christmas collection was for ‘Christmas’ but those products and home collection will also use the Mongolian theme, with clothing and accessories that match.”

The Village will operate until December 31st and feature four regular retail yurts (tents to everyone else), one highlighting the new Imperial Tailoring Ger and the last reserved for events. So if you have gifts to buy and parties to throw, you’re still in luck.

A limited number of items inspired by the vivid landscapes of Mongolia will hit the yurt shelves just in time for the holiday season, and though they’re not specifically designed for Christmas, many of the items will make novel gifts. Accessories ranging from tea light candle holders, scented candles, china and flatware to textile items such as Mongolianstyled silk robes, silk-lined cashmere cardigans and cushions are among the gift items that also incorporate the Dragon for the New Year. It’s still too early for Shanghai Tang to roll out their big-ticket housewares — likely to be more prominently displayed in the new store where there’s more space — but a hint at what’s to come will be available. “We already have a few furniture [pieces] and we just launched our first dinnerware line as well,” begins Lai of the month-old line. “The theme of that is an imperial collection with iconic symbols.”

However, it is the event space may be the most intriguing for those among us that don’t give traditional presents but would rather just gather friends and family for a good meal. If you’re tired of standard hotels and banquet restaurants, this could be your chance to impress. Capacity for a sit-down meal is 60, but that number puffs up to 250 for a cocktail event — featuring canapes, champagne and Mongolian vodka (!). Granted, that’s a huge family and a lot of friends, but Shanghai Tang is convinced of the space’s uniqueness to sell itself, what the label refers to as a “money can’t buy” experience. And if Mongolian vodka is anything like Russian vodka, it’s bound to be a good time.