Published: Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Shiatzy Chen Arrives on Bund
The Bund opening last month marked a bold move by the company, which is successful within Taiwan but little known outside the island, to enter the international spotlight. The shop occupies the first two floors of the three-story Bund 9, which was built in 1901.
"It is the second-oldest building on the Bund, and the only one that had Chinese developers," said Amber Chen, the company's marketing and public relations manager. "We are the only Chinese brand on the Bund, and the only freestanding flagship."
Talks between the brand and the Shanghai government started "one or two years ago," said Shiatzy Chen. "We were only shown this one building, as only this one is small enough for us."
The store was designed by Jaya Ibrahim, and construction took 10 months. Shiatzy Chen did not know the duration of the store's lease, the amount of the rent, or the cost of the renovations, explaining she focuses on the designs. The first floor is dedicated to ready-to-wear, apart from one room containing housewares, and the second floor contains mostly accessories along with additional apparel.
Shiatzy Chen was launched in 1978 and offers high-end, primarily silk designs featuring traditional Chinese motifs. The company has 40 stores in Taiwan, where it does the bulk of its sales.
In 2001, Shiatzy Chen branched into the international market with a store in Paris, and in 2003 opened its first Shanghai unit in the Jinjiang Shopping Center. Beijing and Hong Kong stores followed in 2004, and a second Hong Kong location made its debut a few days after the Bund flagship's opening.
New York is next, perhaps as soon as 2007, along with more stores in Paris and, possibly, in London.
Mainland China remains the primary focus, though, with a factory and an office in Shanghai to open next year, and a target of 50 mainland stores by 2010.
Mainland Chinese, however, lack the enthusiasm for Chinese tradition still held by the Taiwanese, Hong Kongese and overseas Chinese. The growing taste for luxury branded fashion is driven by a hunger to adopt a conceived international lifestyle as represented by European and American labels. Shiatzy Chen agreed that it will be a challenge selling Chinoiserie to the Chinese.
However, she said, "I feel our clothing is very modern. We just have to show people how to wear it ... and that the product is high-quality."
Shanghai's Bund, an imposing sweep of grand buildings that provided the city's financial center during the colonial era, remains dominated by bank offices, but is slowly being converted into an entertainment and shopping destination.