HONG KONG — Former Ferragamo creative director Massimiliano Giornetti has taken the design reins at Shanghai Tang as the premium Chinese brand undergoes a revamp under new owners, which will result in an increase in prices, the transfer of production to Italy, and expansion into Europe with boutiques.
Shanghai Tang’s ambition to become a more influential and global brand was revealed Tuesday, alongside its spring 2018 collection, featuring an ad campaign with models Estelle Chen and He Cong.
Shanghai Tang, best known for its qipao dresses and Mandarin-collar style suits, was sold by Compagnie Financière Richemont to Italian textiles businessman Alessandro Bastagli and venture capital firm Cassia Investments on July 3 for an undisclosed amount.
Giornetti, who has taken charge of all categories at the house as it transitions, described the collection, which makes abundant use of contrast lining and trims, as “playful” and inspired by original founder David Tang’s jet-set lifestyle.
“The founder, Sir David Tang, was a connoisseur of life. He was living in a global world, New York, London,” Giornetti said. The designer spent 16 years at Salvatore Ferragamo before leaving in March 2016 and remains Florence-based, as does owner and ceo Bastagli, who heads up Lineapiù Italia Spa and the clothing firm A Moda SpA.
Bastagli shared that he had considered Alexander Wang, who is Taiwanese-American, for the job but eventually decided that “to have an Italian guide or taste completes the brand more. The brand already has a strong Chinese heritage; you don’t necessarily need a Chinese designer.”
The entrepreneur said it was imperative for the brand to lower the age of its customers to fall more within the 25- to 45-year-old range. Today, just 15 percent of the brand’s consumers are younger than 45. Shanghai Tang’s apparel and accessories production has been moved to Italy, which will result in an increase in pricing, but Bastagli justified the move by saying it offers superior quality.
“We have the intention to open two boutiques, most likely Milan and Paris,” Bastagli continued. “We are looking at locations and the wholesale business in Europe, and eventually at a later stage in America, Japan, [South] Korea. [South] Korea we already had some contacts and the Middle East, in the mall of Dubai, but unfortunately, [South] Korea with the quarreling now with China has been depressed. But hopefully in the near future there will be a possibility.”
The brand has a network of stores across greater China, Bangkok, Singapore, and a single location within the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Miami. About 80 percent of its sales are generated in Hong Kong, where it operates eight stores, with its flagship store on Duddell Street the best performer “by far,” Bastagli said.
Bastagli’s 25-year-old son Edoardo has been appointed head of product and sourcing.
“It’s not so much the volume of the business but the quality,” Bastagli said. “We’d like to be recognized as a fashion brand. Today, we’re not. In the last few years, we’ve been more of a souvenir. A lot of people, foreigners, come to Shanghai Tang to buy a bracelet or small things or some ladies’ dresses. Very few bags because the quality didn’t meet expectations of the brand.”
He added, “As long as in five years I manage to be recognized as a high-quality brand, luxury brand and affordable prices [I will be happy]. Today we are in line with the five best names in terms of quality. We don’t have it in terms of [branding]. It may be ambitious, but we are manufacturing more or less in the same factories as Chanel, Dior, all the best brands.”