'THERE are two things which I cannot stand,' offers David Tang, the charismatic force behind Hong Kong's newest department store, Shanghai Tang, 'lack of humour and shoddiness'. Neither of those things are in evidence at the spanking new retail store in Central. Immediately upon entering the shop's front doors, you get the message loud and clear: traditional Chinese products served up with a modern, funky spin and set in an atmosphere of Old World Chinese elegance. The look: classic hand-knit cotton sweaters dyed in day-glo brights and displayed in an antique Chinese cabinet. Or how about a classic Chinese pyjama, re-dubbed the 'Tang' suit and done in cartoon bright silks or even Glen plaid? The basic button-front Mao jacket, cut in denim, with purple silk lining says it all. Most days you can find Mr Tang in his shop, barking instructions to his in-store tailor in Cantonese (who merely nods and eyes him suspiciously) or chatting to customers and unsuspecting passers-by who, before they know it, are getting a whirlwind tour of the store (and sometimes even, its yet unopened extension) and all the while chomping on his trademark cigar and extolling the virtues of Mongolian cashmere. After about 10 minutes with Mr Tang, one gets the impression of a kid in a candy store. I have to admit, despite his legendary taste, I had my doubts about how involved Mr Tang really was with the actual nuts and bolts of his new business venture. Then just as I was pondering this question to myself, one of the contractors approached us and started to speak to Mr Tang about some lovely brass drawer pulls that he had in his hand. 'No, too bright' he said, handing one to me to inspect. 'They should be more matte.' Then turning back to the contractor, he said something in Cantonese which ended in 'ammonia'. Actually, I hadn't even noticed they were missing, but he was right . . . they were clearly much better.