NEW YORK — The last time Shanghai Tang made headlines in New York, they were of the wrong kind.
It was in July 1999, when its high-profile, 12,500-square-foot flagship on Madison Avenue and 61st Street closed only 19 months after it had opened, a victim of high rents, its own hype and fashion miscues.
But the company appears to have learned its lessons. Today, a reinvented Shanghai Tang, which occupies a smaller space at 714 Madison Avenue near 63rd Street, is poised for expansion with the help of its deep-pocketed parent, Compagnie Financière Richemont SA.
Raphaël le Masne de Chermont, executive chairman of Tang Department Stores Limited, has spent the last three years quietly transforming the company into a lifestyle brand. Gone are the kitschy items such as Mao watches and T-shirts with a likeness of the late Communist leader. The prerevolutionary and Cultural Revolution styles are now updated for the 21st century. There’s a made-to-measure business where customers can create their own wedding gowns and evening gowns for $1,500 to $5,000. The price depends upon the fabric choices, which include hand-brocaded silk, lace and beaded fabrics, which cost $40 to $80 a yard. The most popular bridal gown style is the traditional cheongsam with custom-made buttons.
De Chermont plans to take the store count to 30 from the current 17 in the next two years. Next week, he will preside over the opening of a store in Jakarta, Indonesia. With three stores in China and five in Hong Kong, the company is clearly focused on Asia, where its name is well known. In September, Shanghai Tang will open flagships in Beijing and the Ginza in Tokyo.
There also is a push into Europe, with a flagship scheduled to open in Milan in spring 2006. Two in-store shops are opening as well, in Zurich’s Globus department store in the fall and Galeries Lafayette in Paris in spring 2006.
In the U.S., de Chermont has singled out a handful of cities — Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago and Las Vegas — as suitable locations for Shanghai Tang stores. “We don’t want to be overexposed,” he said. “The shopping experience is unique.”De Chermont uses his friend, Ralph Toledano, chairman and chief executive officer of Chloé, as a sounding board. “He has been helping me a lot,” said de Chermont, who maintained that Shanghai Tang makes money. (Chloé also is part of Richemont.)
“My job was to turn the company to profitability,” he said. “The last two years have been profitable. The first rule of working for Richemont is, ‘It’s forbidden not to make money.’”
De Chermont declined to discuss volume for the company or specific stores. However, sources said the 6,000-square-foot New York store does $5 million in annual revenue.
According to luxury analysts, Richemont is clearly preoccupied with growing its successful watch and jewelry businesses. “They’re focussing less on textiles and apparel and enhancing the stores and improving the margins for Cartier,” said Bear Stearns’ Dana Telsey.
De Chermont, the former managing director of the Asia Pacific division for Richemont brands Piaget, Baume & Mercier and Panerai, is thinking along the same lines. “We will do watches next year in a serious way,” he said.
Shanghai Tang’s jewelry range, which is made by Sandra d’Auriol, a French designer based in Hong Kong, is being expanded and de Chermont wants to get the company into licensed products such as eyewear and fragrance.
Shanghai Tang’s updated approach to fashion is most evident in its collaborations with designers such as Philip Treacy, who made hats of brightly striped fabric and fur for winter. Treacy is working on another collection for spring. A collaboration between Shanghai Tang and Studd by Gabby Harris yielded a line of T-shirts embellished with sequins, beads and embroidery for spring, and there’s a collection of Puma shoes coming in May.
De Chermont hopes all this, along with the new stores, will raise awareness of the brand.
“I see this as a strong lifestyle brand,” he said. “It’s sort of a Chinese Ralph Lauren.”
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye