Have you watched “In the Mood for Love“, directed by Wong Kar Wai and starring Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung?

I love the film for various reasons including: the unconventional, bittersweet love story; the stellar acting; the gorgeous cinematography rendered in lush, sensual tones by Christopher Doyle; the soundtrack especially the haunting refrain in Shigeru Umebayashi’s “Yumeji’s theme”; the beautiful cheongsams (also known as ‘qipao’) worn by Maggie Cheung.

On the latter note, you can see most of them here – my favourite is the one in white with black floral print, which I loved even more when I saw her running up the stairs in a red trench coat (which I would also like to have)!

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In 2011, I returned to Singapore to get some paperwork done and pack some belongings as I was going to move from Paris to Brussels. In between, AB and I went to Hong Kong for a few days and I was more than happy to show him around one of my favourite cities.

With my impending move to Europe for work, I felt a slight urge to reinforce my Asian-ness and I thought of getting a cheongsam. I had worn this traditional Chinese dress on past occasions but it had been for photo assignments and I didn’t own any.

So while we were in Hong Kong, I went with AB to Linva Tailors 年華時装公司@ 38 Cochrane Street, Central  中環閣麟街38號 to take a look at their cheongsams.

We were going back to Singapore the following day and there wasn’t time to order a custom-made cheongsam. So I looked through the rack where there were several ready-made pieces and tried on a few but nothing was to my taste.

The lady boss, who is the wife of the tailor, Leung Ching Wah, held up a black lace cheongsam with white floral swirls and suggested that I try it. I raised my eyebrows as I thought it looked rather old-fashioned and I didn’t like lacy dresses. AB thought otherwise and enthused over the dress, urging me to try it.

So I did. It fitted like a glove. No alterations needed.

Here’s a picture of it in our hotel room with an amazing view of the Victoria harbour in the background.

Cheongsam from Linva Tailor04lf2

In case you were wondering, we decided to splurge a little and stayed in a Harbour View Room at The Salisbury, a YMCA hotel. This cost a fraction of the price that you would pay at The Peninsula Hong Kong next door – you get the same impressive view, though without the luxury touches that come with The Peninsula Hotels.

I love this cheongsam. Here’s a photo of me in it at the grand (re)opening of Prince de Galles – taken in the macassar wood elevator. (Why didn’t I use my Fuji x100 instead of the lousy Blackberry camera? Beats me.)

La nuit de Prince de Galles - me03c

If you’re interested to learn more about the origins and evolution of the qipao 旗袍 / cheongsam 長衫, check out this blog.

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24 replies on “Made in Hong Kong // 香港製造

    1. I watched 2046 in the cinema when it first came out in Singapore. The cinematography – as you’ve mentioned – is great (I also really liked the soundtrack). But the plot was too abstract for me. Perhaps I’ll appreciate it more if I were to re-watch now.

      1. Yes, it can come across as a tad abstract. What kept me tuned in was the question of what if there was another emotion for lost love and melancholia, but that emotion did not feel as dreadful. Rather, it would feel like, for instance, the memory of a place visited. You are not there any more, but having been there has made you a different person.
        So, you are probably right, the film is not really about love, it is about the act of pondering about love, and that is what makes it feel (so) abstract. Not one of my favourites either, but in terms of clothes, colours, art, symbolism, I loved it.

        1. The tricky bit with memory is sometimes what you remember of it is not what you had really experienced – you might find this talk by Daniel Kahneman interesting: http://bit.ly/19Dc4PF.

          Secondly, memory can change over time, just like you can/would. Certain things that were important in the past may cease to remain strong in the memory years down the road.

          Anyhow, I think I should re-watch the film since my memory from (re)watching In the Mood for Love last year is still fresh. After all, 2046 is supposedly its sequel, so the connections might also be clearer this time round. Thanks!

          1. I fully agree, and Kahneman is one of my favourites. One of the few that drills down to the core.
            BTW, I would not protest if you wrote a summary of your experience of watching 2046 a second time and in a different context. Enjoy!

  1. Haha. Very good choice. Mrs Ha bought a black lace cheongsam (with pink silk lining) for number 1 daughter’s wedding. From Shanghai Tang in Duddell Street. I’ll try to find a picture. You look very elegant. I think it is a shame they are so rarely seen now but practical they are not. I watch loads of canto movies, usually on CX.

    I’ll keep a note of the tailor as ST charged an arm & a leg. About HK$70k I think. Eek!

    1. Mrs Ha looks gorgeous in her dress! I wouldn’t have thought to match black lace over pink lining, but it is beautiful on her. And you guys make a very handsome couple : )

      I’ve another cheongsam – that I bought from Linva on a later trip – that is much simpler but I think I lost some weight since I got it so I had to get it amended in Brussels. Still waiting for the right occasion to wear it, e.g. a nice lunch in summer, as it’s not something I would (dare to) wear on a regular basis! Agree with you that it’s a shame that it’s not as commonly worn.

      I learned about Linva from this NY Times article (http://nyti.ms/1jdHL5o). The shop is just under the mid-levels escalator.

      Shanghai Tang makes really nice clothes, but it’s beyond my budget let alone getting something tailor-made there. Maybe someday!

      Shanghai is another place to go to buy/order a tailor-made cheongsam, or ‘qipao’ as it’s called in China. Many of the older HK tailors who make the dress were from Shanghai and had fled following the communist revolution. CNN has a list of tailors: http://cnn.it/1dHeyeq. There is also the fabric market in Shanghai – but you’ll have to know which of the 100+ stalls to go to for decent simple cheongsams.

      1. Thanks Angelina – all good info if number 2 gets married. Can’t wear the same one twice. ST does make good clothes but the service was pretty awful. We were clearly at the lower end of their clientele and they didn’t mind making that obvious. Getting a suit made is so much easier!

        1. That’s the thing with gowns, especially outstanding ones – people remember you in them! Ah, I can imagine that Shanghai Tang’s service can be rather snobbish.

  2. The cheongsam is beautiful, and doesn’t look old-fashioned at all…to me anyway. 🙂 But as you said, we would be able to tell a lot better if you had taken the photo with the X100 hanging on your shoulder. 😉

  3. I loved both In the Mood for Love and 2046 and this reminds me I need to re-watch them! BTW I just discovered I wasn’t ‘following’ your blog anymore, no idea why! I see I’ve got some catching up to do..
    PS. You look stunning in your cheongsam!

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