City Pulse

By Raine Marlowe Graves

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So it’s the Year of the Pig. Bet you thought it would never come didn’t ya? Well this year the celebration lasts until March 14th, and I’m more concerned about what to wear. I will not have it be said I didn’t start off l’annee de Cochon in style! What’s a fashion hound to do? Why … visit the imperial purveyors of modern Chinese-influenced attire–Shanghai Tang (ST) – of course!

A playhouse of color and texture, Shanghai Tang’s Madison Avenue store is a candy shop for the fashionista who loves to wear fabrics from the Orient.

Shanghai Tang’s signature style oozes class and sophistication with a blend of ancient and modern Asian mystique. I sought help from Alexandra Clarke, Tang’s Managerial Director since my Chinese-fashion vocabulary is limited to ‘dim sum’ and ‘cheongsam.’ Alexandra was lovely to share her top fete worthy picks with me.

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She advocated the ¾ length jacket, of which there are several variations – the traditional tailored and the “coolie” and “tang” versions. Available in rich two-toned silks, these figure- flattering toppers are sleek and sexy. The “Skyline Trench” in Dupioni silk, adorned with skyline embroidery and Chinese buttons is a spring must have and a great way to celebrate getting out of bed the day after your CNY celebrations.

Budget-conscious players should check out a few of ST’s best sellers, which include the two-toned silk scarf in its signature “Double Fish” jacquard and the ST umbrellas – I fell in love with the “pig” brolly (especially designed for the New Year), but Alexandra informed me that the “cloud” (with its black or navy exterior and puffy cloud patterned lining) is a customer favorite, with some people buying as many as five at a time! They come in two sizes (travel and regular) and are sure to bring a smile to your snarky self on a wet day.

I could go on all day – the silk “Double Fish” Pajamas, the embroidered Chinoiserie cropped jacket and the embroidered cotton dragon shorts – fabulous attire I would gladly overdraw my bank account for! There is even a master tailor in-house for alterations or custom creations.

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If you decide to host a party yourself, ST has you covered here as well. The “Moonlit Tuberose” Candle is beautiful and fragrant and will transport your city-weary soul straight to the Orient. Throw on “Shanghai Divas, Volume Two” for some kickin Mandarin Pop while the “Emperor and Empress” jewel-colored coasters protect your furniture from beer and wine stains all the while adding ambiance.

Other hot picks are the “Shanghai Romance” cushion covers, which can show how very worldly and fashionable you are and the divinatory “Fortune Sticks” make for a good substitute for the ubiquitous game of “Truth or Dare”. I personally fell hard for the “Niu Niu” line. Designed originally for children, this cute Chinese girl adorns plates, bowls, cushion covers and notebooks. I have the inside scoop that there will soon be a little boyfriend for Niu Niu, but that is still in the works.

To make sure you bring yourself nothing but fortune during the New Year, consider these traditional Chinese superstitions:

Good Luck
• Opening windows and doors is thought to ‘bring in’ the good luck of the New Year.
• Turning on the lights at night frightens away ghosts and spirits of misfortune.
• Eating candy means you’ll have a “sweet” year. (A perfect excuse!)
• Wearing a new pair of slippers that you bought specifically for the New Year means you’lll “stamp on” those who gossip about you (Now you can justify your Louboutin cravings)

Bad Luck
• A hair-cut is considered bad during the New Year celebrations. The word “hair” as it is a homophone for the word “prosperity”. Thus “cutting hair” could be perceived as “cutting your prosperity” for the coming year..
• Washing of your hair is also considered to be washing away one’s own luck (hmm, can’t say I would recommend this one – there must be a countermeasure!)
• Referring to death during the New Year are frowned upon and considered ill advised… (Sorry goth-types!)
• Buying books is bad luck because the word for “book” is a homonym to the word “lose”. (I wonder if magazines count?)

Looking for a place to celebrate? Alexandra’s picks are as follows: Start with drinks at Double Happiness at 173 Mott Street, then for dinner chow down at Congee Village at 100 Allen Street or Dim Sum Go Go at 5 East Broadway.

Shanghai Tang’s New York store is located at 714 Madison Avenue. For further information, call 212.888.0111 or visit www.shanghaitang.com

Originally published March 2007
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