In my former life as a magazine editor, I was lucky enough to see some amazing places. Some of them helped to shape my aesthetic! A recent dive into old photos revealed some pictures I took on the down-low (photos are strictly forbidden). Don’t dob me in!
Welcome to the China Club
The China Club is one of those rare places that lives up to the Design Hype. It's a private city club that sits on top of the old Bank of China building in Hong Kong's Central Business District. It's an unabashed homage to the days before communist China (the 1930s to be exact) when Art Deco style and Chinoiserie were all the rage. Back then, the "Occident Meets Orient" theme was pervasive throughout urban Chinese culture and made Shanghai famous as the "Paris of the East."
Sir David Tang, the brains behind the China Club and subsequent fashion label Shanghai Tang, was a fountain of creativity and boundless energy.
Tang was Hong Kong-born and Cambridge- educated. He was a bon-vivant, notorious wit, and shameless socialite. He died in 2017 of liver cancer, but his particular brand of diplomacy, delivered with a rapier wit and legendary style will be his enduring legacy.
I met Sir David Tang in Hong Kong in 1994. He had just opened the first Shanghai Tang flagship store in the Pedder Building in Hong Kong's bustling Central District. Back then, I was the freshly minted Senior Fashion Editor of the South China Morning Post, so to him, I mattered. At our interview, he was wearing a bespoke (I assumed) brown tweed suit with John Lobb oxfords. The perfect English Gentleman! I often saw him at parties sporting a full-length cheongsam, which he wore with the same effortless ease.
We decamped to lunch at his still newish China Club. He was utterly charming and smoked a Cuban cigar throughout. The thing I remember most about this stylish hurricane of a man is how he spoke (fast). He had a posh English accent and would ask you a very personal (borderline inappropriate) question, then before you could even think of a safe answer, he would laugh at his own absurd question. He was a lot.
Halfway through lunch, he stopped to speak to a staffer replacing a brass lamp. He loudly pronounced it “too shiny” and told the man to find some ammonia to dull the shiny newness into something more patrician. His attention to detail, mingled with an outrageous mix of East/West and retro chic is what David Tang was all about. I loved it, and it's still one of my favorite design destinations. The dumplings aren't bad either.