Style Insiders Guide to London, Shanghai, and New York
Published: December 2009
By Horacio Silva, Martha Huang, Alex Gorton
Three top fashion designers open their secret address books to provide the ultimate guides to Shanghai, London & New York
In Shanghai, Vivienne Tam finds not only antiques shops but plenty of inspiration too
Canton-born designer Vivienne Tam has been making twice-yearly pilgrimages to Shanghai for more than two decades to find inspiration. "In the early 80's, the country was opening up and people were experimenting with new looks. They wanted to be different," Tam remembers. It was just such experimentation that propelled Tam to create some of her most iconic pieces, like her groundbreaking Mao collection, which featured silk screens by artist Zhang Hongtu. On a recent visit, Tam took T+L on a tour of her hidden Shanghai.
"There's so much talent here," says Tam, referring to the designers on Taikang Road, an up-and-coming gallery and boutique area. At Lao Shanghai (No. 5, Lane 210 Taikang Rd.; 86-21/5465-1580), run by three young artists who trained at Qinghua University's Art Academy, Tam—the daughter of Chinese opera fans—spots a dress adorned with painted opera masks. Across town, Duolun Road, the former home to Shanghai intelligentsia, is now an emerging shopping zone, lined with antiques shops and used bookstores. At Guo Chunxiang Family Collection (179-181 Duolun Rd.; 86-21/5696-3948), the memorabilia includes retro vinyl Chairman Mao and Lin Biao buttons; Laiyin Art Garden (158 Duolun Rd.; 86-21/5671-5506) has a collection of Shanghai Deco lampshades. Another favorite: Chinese Classics Bookstore (424-440 Fuzhou Rd.; 86-21/6322-0825), where Tam snaps up reproductions of communist-era comic books and an artist's backpack that fits a sketch pad and a portable easel.
At the sprawling Old City God's Temple market, Tam leads the way past stands selling paper lanterns, tea, and painted fans to the Nan Fang Curio Market (69 Jiuxiaochang Rd.), where vintage clothing abounds. Stalls No. 32 and 33 carry cheongsams in Art Deco prints and a Qing dynasty skirt with embroidered medallions that Tam just has to have. It is here that Tam imparts the first rule of bargaining: "Walk away," she whispers. "If you're lucky, the sellers run after you, but if they don't, you can't go back because then they double the price. But like anything worthwhile, sometimes you have to risk losing it."
Going to the Source
Tam often incorporates elements from traditional crafts into her clothing. The dusty, one-room Chinese Hand-Printed Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall (No. 24, Lane 637 Changle Rd.; 86-21/ 5403-7947) displays samples of batik dating back to the 1890's. All the tools of dyeing are on display, from wooden printing blocks to wax-paper cutouts. Tam, who has translated the designs into black-and-white embroidery, is this time drawn to the wax overlay on the fabric before it's dyed. "I love the white-on-white texture and patterns—so subtle."
"One of my favorite souvenirs is the hand- tinted wedding photographs from the Cultural Revolution. I love the red cheeks! I had my own picture done in the early 1980's just to see what it would look like," says Tam, as she strikes a pose at Wangkai Photography Shop (378 Nanjing East Rd.; 86-21/6322-1098), which still produces the hand-painted pictures. The studio is filled with evening gowns, bridal dresses, even a Korean costume for women who want to dress up like Korean soap star Lee Young-ae. But Tam doesn't need to borrow an outfit: she's brought her own black metallic organza cocktail dress.
In 1918, Wing On was one of four Nanjing Road department stores that helped define Shanghai as the Paris of the Far East. Now it houses Xian Qiang Fang (600 Jiujiang Rd.; 86-21/ 6351-5757; dinner for two $50), which is a perfect balance of old and new, with its green-marble vestibule and Art Deco dining room. In Shanghai tradition, patrons are treated to a show of Chinese opera and Suzhou folk songs while shrimp is cooked at the table over a bowl of hot rocks. Tam gently mimics the performers' hand movements. "It feels like an old Chinese movie." She can't get over the design of Dongbeiren (1 Shaanxi South Rd.; 86-21/ 5228-9898; dinner for two $38), which celebrates the Chinese Northeast, with shucks of dried corn at the entrance. "They carried the idea through every single detail," she says. The food is equally dramatic: stewed lamb shanks still on the bone are stacked like firewood.
Magical History Tour
In the Old City, there's the Old Shanghai Teahouse (385 Fangbangzhong Rd; 86-21/5382-1202; tea for two $6), which is part museum, part teahouse, and part salon. "I came here first because of the owner's huge cheongsam collection, but now I love the whole ambience he has created." For a taste of Shanghai fox-trot glamour, Tam visits the circa 1933 Paramount (218 Yuyuan Rd.; 86-21/6249-8866; admission for two $10). Tonight the lead singer is crooning Chinese torch songs. Tam sings along, sounding just like Doris Day.
Fifty Moganshan Road is a series of warehouses along Suzhou Creek that have been converted into artists' studios and antiques shops. Tam wanders from the Western-owned Art Scene Warehouse in Building 4 (86-21/6277-4940) to Buildings 16 and 18, where ShanghART (86-21/6359-3923) represents some of China's best-known contemporary artists. On the way out, she heads up a rusty fire escape, which overlooks a field of red and yellow calla lilies and empty buildings waiting to be renovated. "Can you imagine how great it would be to have a workshop here?" she asks. "Now that's my fantasy."
• Always carry the Chinese address of your destination—the hotel concierge can write it out for you. "Even I do this in Shanghai, because the dialect is so different," says Tam.
• After a long day of shopping, look for a foot massage stand, often located across from hotels. The cost is about $15 an hour. "It's the best thing for jet lag."
• Pick up the monthly English-language magazine That's Shanghai, available at hotels. Great for the latest hot spots.
From funky markets to lush parks, Alice Temperley offers a peek at her boho-chic London
Alice Temperley is a country girl at heart, brought up on a cider farm in bucolic Somerset, 130 miles outside London. "When I moved to the city, I thought it was grim," says the designer, who came here 12 years ago. But as she built her bohemian fashion line—silk dresses, tailored velvet pantsuits, black lace blouses, and, coming this fall, luggage—the urban life grew on her. Temperley's London is an outdoor place, a city of rooftop restaurants and parks, quaint neighborhoods and open-air markets that she explores by bike ("I have a basket on the front for my little dog, Monkey") and in her classic Citroën 2CV.
On Golborne Road, Portuguese patisseries and Moroccan restaurants sit next to electrical repair stores and antiques shops, while wealthy bankers in stucco houses live side by side with working-class traders in council blocks. "Being so close to such a diverse street culture feeds the mind with constant sources of inspiration," says Temperley. After a stop at Les Couilles du Chien (65 Golborne Rd., North Kensington; 44-20/8968-0099), a trove of quirky treasures ("You never know what you're going to see—I've bought beautiful lights made from a ship's figurehead with antlers coming out of the back"), Temperley wanders a few doors down to Ollie's (69 Golborne Rd., North Kensington; no phone), another antiques-packed magnet for her magpie eye.
Many of Temperley's designs have a vintage feel, so it's hardly surprising that she has a taste for London's flea markets. She searches for hidden gems in unexpected places, such as Church Street Market, held on Fridays just off downtrodden Edgware Road. "It's completely rough and awful," she says. "But there are some amazing French-vintage-furniture shops." Temperley also frequents nearby Alfies Antique Market (13-25 Church St., Marylebone; 44-20/7723-6066), where "there's just so much to look at." Her insider shopping source for vintage clothes is the London Vintage Fashion, Textiles & Accessories Fair (Hammersmith Town Hall, King St.; 44-20/8543-5075), which takes place once every five or six weeks. Also on her retail trail: the Façade (99 Lisson Grove, Marylebone; 44-20/7258-2017), filled with lamps and chandeliers from around the globe, and Coco Ribbon (21 Kensington Park Rd., Notting Hill; 44-20/7229-4904), where she goes for lacy underthings. Temperley's favorite gem shop, for "gold jewelry by a range of current designers," EC One (184 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill; 44-20/7243- 8811), is right near her own store, Temperley London (6-10 Colville Mews, Notting Hill; 44-20/7229-7957).
Temperley loves the capital's vibrant—and growing—restaurant culture, from the eclectic French restaurant Les Trois Garçons (1 Club Row; 44-20/7613-1924; dinner for two $170), near Shoreditch, to Notting Grill (123A Clarendon Rd., Holland Park; 44-20/7229-1500; dinner for two $115), which has "the best steaks in town." In a place known for its tea, Temperley gets her caffeine fix at Tom's (226 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill; 44-20/7221-8818)— "It's the best coffee in London." The Cow (89 Westbourne Park Rd., Notting Hill; 44-20/7221-5400) is a guaranteed fun evening, especially for quintessentially Irish oysters and Guinness. For sorbet and ice cream, Temperley makes a trip up to North London's Marine Ices (8 Haverstock Hill; 44-20/7482-9000).
When she's in need of an escape but can't leave London, Temperley takes long walks along Regent's Canal—a peaceful eight-and-a-half-mile stretch of water that cuts through the heart of the city. She's also a fan of Carshalton Lavender Fields (Carshalton Beeches; 44-20/8404-4880). "They are vast fields of color and scent—and in London, no less," she says.
Art in the City
Having studied at London's most prestigious art schools, Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art, Temperley loves to scope out the city's art scene, "although there's never enough time to see everything." When Temperley has a free afternoon, here's where you'll find her:
• Gagosian Gallery (6-24 Britannia St.; 44-20/7841-9960). "It shows amazing British artists like Damien Hirst and Francis Bacon."
• Tate Modern (Bankside; 44-20/7887-8008), which recently had its first rehang since it opened in 2000.
• Hayward Gallery (South Bank Centre, Belvedere Rd.; 44-20/7921-0813), on the south bank of the River Thames.
• Serpentine Gallery (Kensington Gardens; 44-20/7402-6075). "I always wander across Hyde Park and end up here."
For fashion iconoclast Isaac Mizrahi, there's no place like home—New York, that is
I'm as much a part of New York as the rats," says Isaac Mizrahi, the fashion designer, host of the cable TV show Isaac, and unofficial poster boy for Big Apple-induced ADD. "I never wanted to live anywhere else. But I'm in my forties now and starting to think, Are you really going to stay in the same place your entire life?" Probably. Mizrahi has been known to arrive at the airport only to tell his driver to turn around. Besides, he's too much a creature of habit to ever decamp. "I have my dog, my Yankees, my friends. I love the continuity I have in New York. In my dreams, I go to the farmer's market in Union Square and buy micro greens for dinner. But in truth, I eat out at the same places—Benny's Burritos is an important part of my life." Just as he plays limbo with high and low, designing for both Bergdorf's and Target, Mizrahi lives in the West Village and splits his time seamlessly between Uptown and Downtown.
What's In Store
When he's looking for inspiration, Mizrahi heads to Estella (493 Ave. of the Americas; 212/255-3553), a children's clothing store in the West Village. "It sounds totally random, I know, but I adore the incredible color sense. They never get too twee the way they do in other kids' stores—it's very eclectic and sophisticated in an exclusively New York way." Another favorite stop is Penine Hart Antiques & Art (100 Kenmare St.; 212/226-2602). "I love the idea that a shop like this still exists in New York City—the owner doesn't take any of it too seriously. If you were young and just decorating your first apartment, you could go and afford things." When it comes to Mizrahi's shoes, only the best will do, so he heads uptown for custom creations at John Lobb (680 Madison Ave.; 212/888-9797). "Philippe flies in from Paris four times a year to do the fittings."
Even though he grew up in Brooklyn, Mizrahi rarely ventures outside of Manhattan—except to Klaus von Nichtssagend (438 Union Ave., Brooklyn; 718/383-7309), to see the work of emerging artists. "The gallery feels like the real deal, like there's someone with an actual point of view behind it—even though Klaus von Nichtssagend is a made-up name."
"It's cozy to have a neighborhood place you love, like Sant Ambroeus (259 W. 4th St.; 212/604-9254; dinner for two $110) and return a few times a week," says Mizrahi. "It has a kind of Village glamour, like it's been there for years." The other place he can't live without is Il Cantinori (32 E. 10th St.; 212/673-6044; dinner for two $110), where he has been going since he was a kid. "I had a million first dates there. I've had birthdays there. And I've dined there after funerals. It's full of memories, and the food's good. I eat the same thing almost every time: grilled whole striped bass and cauliflower."
Mizrahi recently taped a segment for his TV show in the wine-cellar room at 21 (21 W. 52nd St.; 212/582-7200; dinner for two $150), a former speakeasy, and was taken by the special bottles that line the walls. "There's a bottle for Elizabeth Taylor, a bottle for Richard Nixon—I don't know what they think they are going to do with that—and a bottle for Jocelyn Wildenstein. Maybe it's her secret elixir—you know, like the one in Death Becomes Her. I should have asked for a shot."
The former Studio 54 habitué says he is too old to go out these days and would rather go somewhere grown-up like Knickerbocker (33 University Place; 212/228-8490) for a late-night soufflé than to some trendy club for girlie pink drinks. "What am I going to do?Hang out with a Brazilian model in a clingy dress or a big tall guy with muscles?They're the last people I want to talk to!"
People Who See People
A fussy patron of the paranormal, Mizrahi chooses his psychics as carefully as his fabrics. "There's my astrologer, Maria Napoli, who I've been seeing since I was eighteen. I go to her every six months for a checkup, like you would a doctor." But since getting an appointment with Napoli is as difficult as getting into the Oscars, Mizrahi also recommends Tony LeRoy (877/818-2700). "I see him for tarot readings two or three times a year. He's a real optimist."
A Dog's Life
A subscriber to writer E. B. White's theory of selective privacy in New York, Mizrahi and his dog, Harry ("part border collie, part golden retriever, part Yeshiva graduate"), like nothing more than to be alone by the Hudson at the dog run by the West Side Highway. "I love it there in the winter because it feels obscure, like no one knows about it."
The designer frequently finds himself strolling down 43rd between 9th and 10th Avenues. "It's so Sesame Street, so happy tenement! I keep expecting a puppet to jump out of a garbage can." His pit stops:
• Mario Batali's seafood restaurant Esca (402 W. 43rd St.; 212/564-7272; lunch for two $70). "I love the crudo, but I can't have it for lunch because it upsets my stomach—God, I sound like my mother."
• The pool at the Manhattan Plaza Health Club (482 W. 43rd St.; 212/563-7001; day pass, $35 per adult), where he has been swimming for more than 20 years.
• Good and Plenty to Go (410 W. 43rd St.; 212/268-4385; dinner for two $24). "I eat at a sidewalk table even in the freezing winter."