In the mood for expansion – Italian owner wants to take Hong Kong fashion brand Shanghai Tang global

Alessandro Bastagli says brand will open stores in Paris and Milan, and expand online sales too

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 December, 2017, 5:09pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 December, 2017, 11:07pm

Shanghai Tang, Hong Kong’s home-grown fashion brand, will go global with stores in Paris, Milan and more cities on the mainland over the next two years, according to one of its new owners.

The company, which was bought by Italian textile businessman Alessandro Bastagli and other investors on June 30, will also expand its online sales channels to meet the demands of a new generation of shoppers, Bastagli told the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.

The brand’s executive chairman, he was in town last week to introduce Shanghai Tang’s first collection after the takeover. All the clothes have been designed by international designers and have been made in Italy.

“Previously, many people took Shanghai Tang as souvenir shops for tourists who bought some Chinese style clothes or products when they visited Hong Kong,” said Bastagli.

“I would like to introduce a new chapter, where Shanghai Tang will become an international fashion house providing good quality clothes and accessories, with a Chinese touch, at an affordable price,” he said.

Bastagli, who was born in Florence, has more than 40 years of experience in the manufacture of luxury fashion. He is the chairman of A. Moda, which is a privately held manufacturer, and has worked with the who’s who of the fashion industry, such as Italian label Versace, and made products for many designer brands.

He has also been involved with Asian and Hong Kong businesses since 1973, and has had connections with many big names in fashion, such as Joyce Ma, who is known as “Asia’s empress of fashion”, and Shanghai Tang founder, David Tang Wing-cheung.

“I was impressed by the taste and touch of Mr David Tang, who was the first person to combine Chinese heritage with fashion. It was so sad when he passed away,” said Bastagli.

He said the brand will definitely need to keep its Chinese heritage. Bastagli has added a mascot to the designs for clothes and accessories such as scarves. A dog called Lucky, it is aimed at celebrating the Year of the Dog next year. “We would never abandon our heritage or we cannot go anywhere,” he said.

It was its Chinese flavour that attract Bastagli to the brand, which was established by the late Hong Kong businessman, David Tang, in 1994. The mandarin collar and qipao are among signature styles of Shanghai Tang. The qipao shot to international fame after being worn by actress Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar-wai’s classic film, In the Mood for Love.

David Tang: the colourful life of the man behind Hong Kong’s fashion brand with a Shanghai twist

Richemont Group bought a stake from Tang in 1998, and the company was sold to Bastagli and Cassia Investments, a Hong Kong-based consumer-focused private equity fund, on June 30 at an undisclosed price.

Bastagli said he decided to invest in Shanghai Tang as he believes the company has further room for growth. “Shanghai Tang does not only appeal to Chinese customers – I believe the mandarin collar, and qipaos with a new design, would attract customers worldwide,” he said, adding that he was a fan of the brand and had more than 15 suits from Shanghai Tang, including the one he wore to last week’s event.

Fashion retailer Shanghai Tang sold to Italian entrepreneur

Bastagli said he also wanted to attract younger customers. His 25-year old son Edoardo, who studied Chinese in university, has also joined Shanghai Tang to help with product development and online sales.

“My son is the new generation of customers – he understands what they want. Many youngsters like to do everything on smartphones. This is why we need to expand our online sales channels and social media promotion network,” he said.

At the moment, only 10 per cent of Shanghai Tang’s sales come from online channels, but Bastagli said it could go up to 20 to 30 per cent of all sales in the future. He, however, said the company would continue to open stores as many customers still like to touch the products they buy.

“Fashion is not about buying what you need but what you want. What is important is to create the emotion for customers to buy the products. The stores and online platform are both important to creating the best shopping experience for our customers.”