NEW YORK — Shanghai Tang hopes the third time is a charm.

This story first appeared in the June 4, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The purveyor of Chinese designs, which is reinventing itself once again to have more mainstream appeal, recently unveiled its fall collection with a new infusion of Western influences and luxury fabrics. The company was acquired last year by Compagnie Financiere Richemont AG, which brought in Raphael le Masne de Chermont as executive chairman. The former managing director of the Asia Pacific division for the Richemont brands Piaget, Baume & Mercier and Panerai, de Chermont hired a new team of designers and has been working on refocusing the label.

“Shanghai Tang’s mission is to be the modern filter of Chinese culture in all lifestyle aspects,” said de Chermont.

So while the company is keeping traditional Chinese silhouettes and details like the cheongsam, Mao jackets, mandarin collars and knot closures, they are incorporating Western touches such as men’s suiting, leather piping and triple-ply cashmere.

“We needed to produce products that are more relevant to a global crowd of fashionistas,” said de Chermont.

While seeking to keep an authentic Chinese flair, the designs are modernized with slim, low-waisted pants, flared sleeves and deep slits along with elaborate, fine embroidery and cropped jackets.

Retail prices for the new collection range from $350 to $550 for fitted silk dresses with mandarin collars, $295 to $800 for jackets and $150 to $550 for sweaters.

Shanghai Tang is also refurbishing and remerchandising its store at 714 Madison Avenue in order to create a more inviting air. Along with removing an obstructive awning to increase the store’s retail presence on the avenue, they are also shifting the ground-floor merchandise from home products to accessories and women’s and men’s clothing. The 6,500-square-foot, four-story store opened in April 2000, nearly nine months after the company’s mammoth 12,000-square-foot store closed.

The company also is planning to wholesale its products in specialty stores by early next year, according to de Chermont, and is in talks with several department stores. A New York trunk show is in the works in six month’s time at the Madison Avenue store.

While the early response to the line has been favorable, it is too early to tell whether the new direction can revive the brand.

“We’ve shifted the look so that now Shanghai Tang has gone from utterly Chinese to subtly Chinese,” said de Chermont. “Anybody can wear it and it’s not costumey.””

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