In her debut collection for Shanghai Tang, Victoria Tang-Owen brings her late father David Tang’s storied fashion brand “Back to the Roots,” with a vibrant collection for the next generation of tastemakers
On the second floor of Shanghai Tang’s recently renovated store in Hong Kong's Central district is Victoria Tang-Owen, who is scurrying back and forth across the lacquered floors, perusing her first collection before it is revealed to the public.
She’s eager, and mostly elated, as her autumn/winter fashion line has been a year in the making, following her appointment as Shanghai Tang’s creative director in October 2018.
While Tang is determined to present the label to a new generation of tastemakers, it’s also been a full-circle moment for the entrepreneur, as she found herself following in the footsteps of her larger-than-life father, the late David Tang. In 1994, he created Shanghai Tang and launched China’s first global luxury fashion brand.
During her photoshoot, she recalls spending her childhood with her younger brother, Edward, at the original Shanghai Tang store inside the Pedder Building.
“It was a second home to us. I remember we’d be at the Pedder store after school, sitting around the tailoring room waiting for our dad to be done working,” Tang-Owen says. “He was so specific with everything he wanted. I remember looking at him doing all these things thinking, ‘How and why are you doing all of this?’”
She wasn’t able to answer that question by the time David passed away in 2017. Shanghai Tang, which was then owned by Swiss luxury conglomerate Richemont, went through a series of acquisitions, being sold to Italian businessman Alessandro Bastagli and Hong Kong firm Cassia Investments in 2018. By the end of the year, Shanghai Tang had been sold to Shanghai-based private equity firm Lunar Capital, which appointed Tang-Owen to lead the brand’s creative team.
“I was actually very surprised when [Lunar Capital] approached me,” Tang-Owen says.
Step By Step
But even though she didn’t intend to work with the brand her father built, her professional experiences led her to this point. After graduating with a degree in Graphic Design and Photography from London’s Central Saint Martins, Tang-Owen went on to work in fashion photography, and was a contributing editor for V magazine. In 2015, she joined forces with her husband, Christopher Owen, to launch creative agency Thirty30, which works with clients including Lane Crawford, MaxMara and Dior Homme.
“Having done the whole spectrum of fashion, it makes sense to be a part of this journey [with Shanghai Tang],” Tang-Owen says. “I had to dig back into the archives, the company’s and my own personal archives, and link back to my memories of Shanghai Tang growing up. From a fashion standpoint, I had to think about what made Shanghai Tang great in the first place.”
Completing the Circle
And that’s why she named the collection Back to the Roots, offering up pieces that put Shanghai Tang on the map—art deco-inspired garments blending Chinese and Western design elements—and adding her own modern twist. The result is a vibrant showcase of neon Tang Jackets and Qipaos styled with combat boots, to name a few highlights.
When Tang-Owen was combing through her family heirlooms, she found 1990s silver dinnerware emblazoned with the Shanghai Tang logo, which she then stamped onto her ready-to-wear pieces and accessories.
“To me, it’s not just a logo, but a seal of approval that represents the brand and China,” Tang-Owen says.
When you look at the heritage of Chinese history, you realise that ‘Made in China’ means the quality is top notch
Meeting of the Minds
And to coincide with Shanghai Tang’s 25th anniversary, the brand has partnered with Chinese artist Xu Bing, creator of Square Word Calligraphy—a system using English letters to resemble Chinese characters—which have been incorporated into Tang-Owen’s designs.
“When you look at the heritage of Chinese history, you realise that ‘Made in China’ means the quality is top notch,” Tang-Owen says.
And throughout her latest creative endeavour, she was able to learn more about her father.
“When I was looking through his old business plan, it sounded just like him as a younger man, and he was so clever. Growing up, we never talked about his business, but reading his plans, it was like he was giving me hints of where he wanted to take Shanghai Tang,” Tang-Owen says. “The older I get, the more I realise that he was trying to make a point, to let people know that you should be proud to be Chinese.”
And now she wants to preserve her father’s vision for younger generations. Tang-Owen plans to expand the brand’s homeware and children’s collections, reimagining Shanghai Tang as a more comprehensive lifestyle brand.
“Not only can I inject my new vision into it, my new interpretation: I can reimagine what Shanghai Tang was, and what Shanghai Tang could be. That’s the journey I’m excited to take.”