By and  on April 26, 2006

LONDON — Shanghai Tang is growing up.

The company has unveiled its new store concept on Sloane Street, and it's a slick take on traditional Chinese symbols, materials and colors.

"It was time for the store atmosphere to reflect where the brand is today," said Joanne Ooi, the company's creative director, on reopening day last week.

"This particular store had always been something of a sacred place. David Tang had decorated it himself, and while we still remain very close to David, it was time to move on," she added.

Tang founded the Hong Kong-based apparel and accessories firm as a high-end tailor in 1994, and remains a board member. Compagnie Financiere Richemont, the luxury goods conglomerate, holds a majority stake in Shanghai Tang, which now sells men's, women's and children's ready-to-wear collections, accessories and homeware.

Whereas the old store was an opulent treasure trove of knick-knacks, colorful cushions and fabrics that Tang had amassed, the new space is more streamlined and spare. Swedish architect Johannes Tüll raised the ceilings, which gives the impression of greater space in the 3,500-square-foot store.

"We wanted modern Chinese with Western influences, and less of a 'living room' feel," he said. Tüll's design features black lacquered wood for cabinets, shelves and showcases. The store's overall shapes and lines have a geometric Art Deco feel.

An abstract design of the Chinese symbol for longevity adorns showcases, which are lined with silk in colors such as lime green, hot pink and bright blue. Tüll didn't toss everything out: He kept the store's teak floor and brass fittings.

The Sloane Street store is the first European unit to undergo refurbishment. The company plans to change its European stores gradually, and introduce the new concept to the U.S. in about two years' time. The brand has 20 boutiques worldwide.

Raphael le Masne de Chermont, executive chairman of Shanghai Tang, said in an interview that the shops have been lagging behind the collections in terms of design.

"We're really the first major fashion brand to come out of China. We have no competition. Our challenge has been to make our collections relevant, wearable and modern. We're not just about the velvet Tang jacket anymore," he said.Le Masne de Chermont added that there would be changes on the wholesale front in the U.K. with the brand moving out of Selfridges and into other wholesale accounts — which the company would not yet confirm — for fall 2006.

In other news, Tang is continuing its collaboration with outside talent and has hired knitwear designer Savannah Miller to create a line for fall. Miller specializes in fine-gauge knits, and has done freelance work for Alexander McQueen and Matthew Williamson in the past. She is the elder sister of actress Sienna Miller.

"They just told me, 'Do whatever you want,' which was a complete blessing," said Miller, whose collaboration with Tang is for one season only. She worked up pieces such as knit sweaters with epaulettes and pencil skirts, all in theme with Thirties Shanghai.

In the past, Shanghai Tang has collaborated with Puma, Philip Treacy and Swarovski on special projects. Most recently, it teamed up with Louise Middleton for a cobranded swim collection to be sold in-store starting in May.

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