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Shanghai Daily Tuesday 31 October 2017                                                                                                   Jing鈥檃n C3

                                                                                                                                      100 Years of Hongxiang

                                                                                                                                    Hongxiang鈥檚 history: from a
                                                                                                                                    small tailor shop to a once re-
                                                                                                                                    nowned department store.


Veteran tailor Chen Jian works on a hand-made coat at the workshop on Haifang Road. 鈥?Jiang Xiaowei                                 Model team
                                                                                                                                    Song sisters
Once proud icon restyles brand
of fine tailored women鈥檚 fashion                                                                                                        1950s
We have to                  Li Qian                                               by the Shanghai Federation of Trade Unions to
introduce new                                                                     single out 1,000 exemplary workers.                    1997
blood to our                Hongxiang, a bygone fashion brand,
workshop. We                              is making something of a comeback.         Hongxiang is seeking to revive its fortunes
need people                               A fashion show of its haute couture     by doing what it does best 鈥?fine handmade
to carry on the                           collection was recently staged to cel-  craftsmanship.
old skills, and             ebrate its 100th birthday.
we also want                                                                         鈥淲e decided to hold a grand fashion show
young ideas on                 Founded in 1917, Hongxiang was a pioneer in        after so many years to spark some publicity,鈥?creating new                Chinese fashion and beyond. It redefined the          said Ni Hua, deputy Party chief of Hongxiang.
fashions in tune            classic cheongsam, changing it from a loose-          鈥淲e want to show that our tailors are innova-
with the times.             fitting, straight-line gown to a body-hugging,        tive and can adapt to modern trends.鈥?                            one-piece dress that was highly praised by
Chen Jian                   Madame Soong Ching Ling as a revolution in               For Chen, the only dress of value is one made
                            the women鈥檚 liberation movement.                      by hand. He has devoted 40 years to honing
Senior tailor of Hongxiang                                                        his skills and putting his passion into fashion.
                               Hongxiang was the first couture house in           Some may view cutting, sewing and fitting as a
                            China to hold a fashion show, attracting ce-          boring sort of job, but Chen said he finds great
                            lebrities like Ruan Lingyu, known as 鈥淐hina鈥檚         satisfaction and enjoyment in his work.
                            Greta Garbo,鈥?and movie queen Hu Die to the
                            catwalk.                                                 鈥淵es, it鈥檚 nothing special,鈥?he said of his
                                                                                  skill. 鈥淏ut if you indulge yourself in the world
                               At the 1933 Chicago Expo, six of Hongxiang鈥檚       of cutting and sewing, you will be amazed by
                            silk cheongsam captivated the world with their        the beauty of change. It鈥檚 so exciting to face
                            elaborate, multicolored embroidery. The brand         a challenge, isn鈥檛鈥?it? I feel happiness beyond
                            won a silver medal, a first for China.                description when I address challenge.鈥?
                               In 1947, Hongxiang again attracted attention          To make a perfect garment, Hongxiang tai-
                            with a cloak it made, with embroidered flowers        lors require 26 body measurements and 30
                            in golden thread, for Queen Elizabeth.                techniques, which were listed as part of the
                                                                                  city鈥檚 鈥渋ntangible cultural heritage鈥?in June
                               Over the years, Hongxiang came to be recog-        2007. Among them, 鈥?D tailoring鈥?is what
                            nized widely as a trusted choice for high-end,        made Hongxiang famous, and Chen is an ex-
                            tailor-made garments. In 1993, it expanded            pert in the practice.
                            to a department store, becoming Shanghai鈥檚
                            version of Harrods.                                      Knowing how the body moves, he can shape
                                                                                  the cloth to the wearer so they appear as one.
                               But in later years, the brand began to falter      He can also compensate for body flaws and
                            because of competition from foreign fashion           make wearers seem taller or shorter.
                            houses, careless management and a failure to
                            modernize marketing. It was part of a general            鈥淢any of my customers are older hunch-
                            demise of quality tailors in China.                   backed women,鈥?he said. 鈥淭hey can鈥檛 find
                                                                                  suitable clothes at ready-to-wear stores, so
                               In 2008, Hongxiang lost its premium loca-          they turn to me.鈥?                            tion on the Nanjing Road W. Now, it operates
                            only a small store on Shaanxi Road N. and a              Chen also mentors young people in tailor-
                            workshop tucked away in a residential com-            ing. He has taught more than 20 students.
                            plex on Haifang Road.
                                                                                     鈥淲e don鈥檛 have many young customers, and
                               Still, its allure as a quality brand is not all    we also lack young tailors,鈥?he said. 鈥淲e have
                            forgotten. Hongxiang retains a following of           to introduce new blood to our workshop. We
                            loyal, upmarket customers who still value             need people to carry on the old skills, and
                            good tailoring and design.                            we also want young ideas on creating new
                                                                                  fashions in tune with the times.鈥?                               鈥淭hey became our customers at a young
                            age,鈥?explained senior tailor Chen Jian, 58.             Hongxiang recruits saleswomen who can
                            鈥淭hey know our quality and they trust us.             speak English and Japanese fluently to better
                            They will come from time to time and sup-             serve foreign customers.
                            port us. Every month, we sell clothes valued
                            at about 200,000 yuan (US$30,218).鈥?                     After the fashion show, Hongxiang鈥檚 parent
                                                                                  company, the Kaikai Group, announced it will
                               In September, Chen was honored one of the          set up a 1 million yuan foundation to help
                            94 鈥淪hanghai standouts鈥?under a campaign              promote venerable brands.
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