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Sat, Jan 16, 2010
The Star/ANN
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Cheongsam revival

A decade ago, Sunny Ng bravely stepped out of his comfort zone and into a “sunset industry’’ — cheongsams.

Getting more women to wear the cheongsam and finding the skilled workers who could tailor it to time-honoured standards has been a double-pronged challenge. Today, the racks lined with cheongsam and Chinese-inspired designs in Ng’s Shanghai Sun boutique speak of his success in this uphill battle.

All Ng wants to do is to restore the outfit to its glory days, and he’s not done too badly.

“I have customers who even wear cheongsam to work!‘’ he exclaims.

Though Ng likes fabrics such as satin, silk and brocade — all ideal for channelling the inner elegance on formal occasions — he points out that the cheongsam in cotton and other lightweight material can be daily wear.

“I am planning a range in prints such as checks and geometrics that can look good for work,’’ reveals Ng, who produces two collections a year.

For all his passion, Ng’s fashion venture actually began by chance.

“I have always been interested in Chinese culture and art,’’ Ng explains, and so when he returned from England in 1987 after training in the hospitality business, he became an antiques dealer. When the adjoining shop in the hotel arcade fell vacant, he decided to take his passion to another level — with Chinese-inspired clothes.

“Everything has a Chinese element and often a modern touch, such as a bare back. Some customers want an open collar because the classic high-cut is restrictive,’’ Ng says of his designs.

He has travelled as far as Europe and India in the quest to produce cheongsam with a twist, often looking out for unusual fabrics. But, at heart, he remains loyal to classic qualities.

“You can easily find cheap cheongsam but a good one is about fine fabric and workmanship in cut and details that flatter every woman.’’

The specialists he employs are vetted carefully for their skills. A Shanghai Sun cheongsam takes up to three days to make, and a beaded one requires up to two weeks. Ng believes that versatility is the key to bringing the Chinese style back into the mainstream. There’s one for every figure.

Just follow these tips if you’re unsure what would be suitable for you:

·A short woman should avoid boxy cuts and shoulder pads, as they stunt her appearance. A knee-length hemline is best for her. Shoulder pads are also a no-no for women with broad shoulders. They should opt for softer fabric, to soften the silhouette.

·A skinny woman can go for thicker fabrics such as double-ply silk, to give her more form and curve.

·Flabby arms can be covered with three-quarter-length sleeves.

·A short neck can be disguised with a lower collar, to help the neck look longer. A high collar can make a long neck look truly stunning.

·Avoid a high-slit hemline unless you are playing Suzie Wong at a theme party. The standard slit begins 22 in from the waist down.

·Remember also that high heels bring out the best in a cheongsam. Flat heels should be avoided, unless the wearer is going back to school. A cheongsam does not sweep the floor, because it is not an evening gown. It should be ankle-length and reveal the shoes.

·Those with figure issues, such as a heavy bottom and small top, or vice versa, should go for a cheongsam-collared top worn with skirt.

-The Star/Asia News Network

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