updated 16 Feb 2013, 09:35
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Fri, Feb 08, 2013
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Cheongsams get a hip, modern twist
by Karen

She grew up listening to her father recite Chinese poems and was immersed in Chinese culture. Naturally, she wanted to promote it when she grew up.

Ms Tan Sheau Yun - the founder and designer of clothing at Tong Tong Friendship Store, her outlet at Shaw Towers - decided that making Chinese-inspired clothing, like cheongsams, was the best way to go.

"I think I am constantly finding ways of keeping people interested in or aware of the Chinese heritage," she said.

She added: "I really want everyone to be able to wear a piece of Chinese clothing."

But there's a twist. Ms Tan always adds a modern twist to her designs of traditional Chinese clothing.

For instance, instead of embroidery, her pieces feature bright, modern patterns, from stripes to polka dots.

In 2005, even before her shop existed, the first 100 pieces of clothing she designed sold out within two weeks, and her customers were people who'd heard about the collection through word of mouth.

That was when she discovered that there was a market for modern cheongsams and Mandarin-collared shirts that reflect Chinese roots.

"The response was quite good, so I decided to look for a shop unit. I opened Tong Tong Friendship Store in April 2006," said the designer.

Today, there's a rising trend among young people of wanting to have a retro element in their look, yet appear fresh and modern. To avoid looking like a character right out of a period film, Ms Tan's tip is to focus on accessories.

"If you are recycling old cheongsams, wear shoes or carry handbags with colours that clash with the dress. Also, put on accessories that have a modern touch," she said.

And there's no need to pair the outfit with heels, to avoid overdoing the look. Think casual, rather than prim and proper.

Ms Tan explained: "Just imagine that in the past, schoolgirls wore cheongsams with flats and sandals."

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Prices are $129 and up for a top, and $299 and up for a dress at Tong Tong Friendship Store (100 Beach Road, #01-04/05 Shaw Towers). Visit

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