Lifestyle

The Next Tang Dynasty

The Next Tang DynastySince it opened its doors in the Pedder Building, Shanghai Tang has been something of a staple in Central. The brand’s distinctive, ultra-modern spin on traditional Chinese design, be it in clothing (still its lynchpin), candles, diaries or wallets made the boutique a destination for tourists and the go-to shop for locals seeking gifts that couldn’t be found anywhere else. An ambassador for Hong Kong, and easily one of the SAR’s most internationally well-known “products” — up there with Bruce Lee, John Woo, Jackie Chan and HSBC — it seemed nothing could move Shanghai Tang from its Pedder Street address. Nothing until and American super-brand Abercrombie & Fitch outbid the venerable retailer for the (ultimately) $7 million space.

So it was off to Duddell Street where the new Shanghai Tang Mansion opened in April. As Shanghai Tang executive chairman Raphael le Masne de Chermont, put it, the Mansion will be playing “a part in revitalising a historic Hong Kong street with a modern retail and lifestyle destination.” Duddell Street is quickly becoming synonymous with high-end design for the home: Ruttonjee Centre, just up the block, is home to a slew of stores that cater to cutting edge interiors. Shanghai Tang is in good company.

The Shanghai Tang Mansion’s exterior is a contemporary spin on a Chinese deco mansion, and the entry foyer with its crystal Shou-shaped chandelier hanging from the soaring ceiling is a clue as to what the boutique has in store. The wood lattice walls connect the traditional and the modern, and lead to the centerpiece — a deco-style wrought iron staircase that simultaneously pays homage to the old shop while hinting at a new chapter in the brand’s evolving history.

The new 15,000-square foot store is designed in such as way as to highlight Shanghai Tang’s home wares as much as its women’s fashion and tailoring. Concentrated on the second floor, the label’s picture frames, fragrances, stemware, china, table accessories, cushions, throws and bed linens are set out for easy browsing. And the main room allows you to get a good look at the select furniture on sale.

Among the standouts lining the shelves of the Mansion? One of the most vivid home items is the silver-plated, dragon-emblazoned ice bucket (it’s still Year of the Dragon after all) and the similarly designed Imperial Table Collection: choose from bone china plates with 12-inch gold, 10-inch green and 8-inch silver trim. To go with those are this year’s champagne flutes, wine glasses, tea glasses and highballs, with multi-coloured stems/bases and dragon etchings, and if those don’t make you feel regal not much will.

On a different front, from the limited furniture collection, the Kensington sofa, the Harlow, Mongolian and London trunks, and the Chelsea and Professor armchairs blend into the background in the store, but they are very much signature items that will jump out in your home. Furniture items need to be ordered and the final hand-made pieces take anywhere from 30 days to three months for delivery. But no two are alike and the leathers have an old-school quality to them that is rare and which stylistically balances the demands of modern homes with the classicism of leather sofas. The Kensington would be a perfect fit in either a lush, red-walled dimly lit library or bright, airy open-concept modern living room. Pedder Street may be physically gone, but its spirit is far from forgotten.