How to Do Shanghai Right, With Designers Brian Wolk and Claude Morais

by Charles Manning

Polish up on your Mandarin! Shanghai Fashion Week is around the corner! Over the past two centuries, Shanghai has evolved from a sleepy textile port to a world-class fashion capital populated by international designers, celebrated artists, and brilliant entrepreneurs. The juxtaposition between old and new Shanghai is both jarring and seductive. In fact the Shanghainese’ word to describe this ancient/modern inclusive aesthetic is “HaiPai” which literally translates to East/West. From the romantic Sycamore lined, Art Deco boulevards of the French Concession, to the awe-inspiring space-age skyscrapers of Pudong; Shanghai’s many contrasts and cultures makes it de riguer for any design aficionado’s itinerary. The city is a veritable unabridged survey of 20th century architecture and design — but don’t be overwhelmed — we did the work for you. So sit back, sip some lap-sang tea and enjoy our Shanghai Fashion Week Primer!

View of Pudong from the Bund

Getting There
Bridging the gap between East and West has never been a more flawless experience. Delta Air Lines‘ nonstop flights between LAX and Shanghai Pudong International Airport make this epic journey as seamless and luxurious as the Silk Road itself. Our eastward escapade began the moment we slipped out of our car and were whisked through Delta One’s private entrance at Terminal 5. As we sipped green tea and nibbled on snacks in the VIP waiting area, our dedicated concierge checked us in and escorted us into the beautifully appointed Delta Sky Club where we enjoyed some magical mixology while
we chatted with our fellow guests.

Claude Morais and Brian Wolk

Once onboard, we got a taste of the comfort and luxury that was to come. After settling into our Delta One Suite personal suites we adjusted our ambient lighting to a fine dining glow and enjoyed an Italian feast by Chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of LA’s iconic eatery Johnny & Vinny’s. Our culinary adventure was accompanied by wine pairings selected by in-house sommelier Andrea Robinson. Following our delightful dinner, we slid our cabin doors closed, illuminated our “Do Not Disturb Sign”, and caught up on some of our favorite programming displayed on a compelling 18″ monitor. Before we knew it we drifted off to sleep in our 180-degree flatbed seats, swaddled by our Westin Heavenly Duvets in total seclusion. There is nothing we look forward to more than disconnecting on a long-haul flight, as it provides the perfect opportunity to prepare for the adventure to come. Before we knew it, our 14-hour journey had ended. No detail was overlooked by our in-flight team — our Tumi amenity packs were stocked with fabulous Kiehl’s products for our pre-arrival freshen up.

Staying There
The Classic

The Mandarin Oriental Pudong is a timeless epicenter of style and elegance perched on the Huangpu River in the ultra-modern neighborhood of Pudong. The Mandarin clearly had us fashion folk in mind when planning this incredible property as it is a hop skip and a jump from a bevy of glamorous retail flagships including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, and Valentino.

Upon entering the lobby of the hotel, each of our senses were captivated. The air was delicately perfumed with the subtle scent of sandalwood, and our eyes were drawn to the impeccably designed sitting rooms filled with Chinese deco furniture, illustrious carpets, and hand carved wooden panels. What better way to say welcome than tea time in the lobby with artisan pastries, tea sandwiches and french champagne? Our suite located on the top floor of the hotel was fit for an emperor. The grand sitting room was majestic, and the sublimely designed bedroom was flanked with gorgeous textiles and glass walls exposing panoramic views of the river.

Mandarin Oriental Shanghai Salon

With no time to waste, we were ushered us to the spa for a signature jet-lag relief massage and body treatment. The gym and spa at The Mandarin is one of the largest in the city boasting an olympic size pool and athletic facility fit for a champion athlete. After a post-massage swim we headed back to our suite and dressed for dinner at the Hotel’s
Michelin-starred restaurant. Those hankering for Jiang Nan(south of the Yantze River) cuisine need go no further
than Yong Yi Ting. Entering the restaurant is like being transported into a magnificent Asian pleasure garden. As we traversed through lanterns and chain curtains we arrived at our private banquette ensconced with hand printed dragon tapestries. We took note of the uber-chic clientele coming and going, dining and drinking champagne and sipping the rarest of Chinese teas. Like all brilliant chefs, Tony Lu’s true genius is on full display through the preparation and execution of the classics. His simmered king prawn with urchin sauce was worthy of a standing ovation, but for his encore he truly dazzled us with a warm ginger dessert soup served with red dates and rain flower pebble dumplings, a unique gastronomic treat we have never encountered anywhere else.

Yong Yi Ting

Later in the evening we decided to take our nightcaps in the lobby overlooking the bright lights and neon covered buildings of this larger than life city. As we sipped our Manhattans in Shanghai overlooking the Huangpu River, we truly felt the magic of this 1,300-year-old city.

The Contemporary
Located just north of the historic Bund in Hongkou (the Williamsburg of Shanghai) the W hotel is a 5-star adult playpen where the fashionable of Shanghai come and go wearing the newest Valentino. It’s post-modern decor celebrates the bright lights big city history of this iconic port town featuring highly instagrammable multi-story neon art installations, the sexiest outdoor pool in Asia, ultra sleek lounge areas, and a electrified facade making the hotel a virtual beacon for young creative types throughout the city.

Cloud on the Bund Suite

The young, hip staff at the hotel made our stay flawless from the moment we checked in to the fabulous facilities. We took a deep breath as the elevator ascended 42 stories high to reveal the Cloud on the Bund suite. Struck by the suite’s 30 foot cathedral ceilings and full wall digital displays we soon discovered the crown jewel of this stately accommodation was the 360 degree non-obstructed views of Shanghai from the comfort of our revolving circular bed. Built-in royal purple velvet sofas surrounded the perimeters of the great room providing unlimited access to boundless cityscape from dawn till dusk. After refreshing in our majestic spa-like bathroom we headed downstairs to dinner at Yen, the hotel’s sleek Cantonese restaurant with a pop art inspired decor offering modern interpretations of classic Chinese dishes. Yen truly managed to capture the culinary zeitgeist of the megalopolis through a sensory journey that began with a rose infused Peking duck and climaxed with Emperor prawns coated in crispy cereal served with mild lemongrass cream and Antarctic lobster dumplings. Under the hypnotic aquamarine glow of digitally projected fish tanks we quickly understood the inherent and layered virtuosity of the new generation of Chinese designers.

Cloud on the Bund Suite

No stay at The W Shanghai is complete without experiencing Social Retox, a Sunday Brunch institution held at The Kitchen Table, the hotels’ New York themed communal eatery. An endless ocean of Veuve Clicquot washed over us as we devoured delicacies from the land, ocean and sky including lobsters, oysters, charcuterie, roasted meats, cheeses from around the world and a dessert buffet worthy of Louis XIV. The Gin and Tonic station included dozens of exotic varieties of this classic juniper infused spirit, accompanied by a selection of hand foraged flowers and berries to choose from when customizing one’s social media friendly effervescent elixir.

Shang Art
Shanghai has long been a center for art in China, but over the last 20 years it has become a global center for international museums. Its impressive roster of contemporary art institutions, galleries, and private collections could keep a visitor to
this city occupied for weeks. Our favorites were:

Prada Foundation
The Prada Foundation Shanghai know as Prada Rong Zhai is housed in a meticulously restored historic early 20th Century mansion. The foundation serves as a unique site for a diverse range of artistic activities and emphasizes the luxury brands long standing relationship with architecture and preservation worldwide.

The Prada Foundation

Rockbund Art Museum
Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) is a contemporary art museum which plays one of the finest roles in the creative art scene worldwide. Since its opening in 2010, Rockbund Art Museum has achieved high renown for its exhibitions of acclaimed Chinese and international artists.

Rockbund Art Museum

Power Station of Art
Located in an enormous 19th-century power station, this is Shanghai’s own Tate Gallery. Currently on view is the Shanghai Biennale, comparable to the best in the world, and a must see.

YUZ Museum
Located in the new West Bund Art District, this private museum was founded by Chinese-Indonesian tycoon Budi Tek. The stunning glass and metal structure was formerly an airport hangar, and now is home to the most impressive collection of contemporary art in Shanghai.

Long Museum
Located directly across the street from the Yuz, the Long Museum was founded by taxi-driver-turned-billionaire-financier Liu Yiqian. The collection is comprised of predominantly Chinese art and sits on an incredible waterfront wharf.

Long Museum

Shang Eats
Lost Heaven 
With its name inspired by James Hilton’s story of an Elysian Valley, this romantic, candlelit restaurant located in the French Concession offers a mystic dining experience. A delightful blend of Tibetan, Burmese, and Yunnanese cuisines, Lost Heaven manages to create a symphony of flavors on every plate.

Green & Safe
This high-end organic supermarket, bakery, cafe, and restaurant is the center of neighborhood life in the ex-pat filled French Concession. With its diverse range of prepared and made-to-order foods — and early-morning to late-night hours —Green & Safe quickly became a trusted friend to us.

Brian Wolk and Claude Morais in the French Concession

Located in the heart of the French Concession, D.O.C. is a quintessential Italian style Trattoria. Here Stefano Paci makes a wood-oven pizza that is truly perfetto. All of the Italian culinary classics and neighborhood eccentrics come to life in this convivial spot on Dongping Lu.

Syacamore Trees in the French Concession

We were introduced to this stylish vegan palace by our dear friend and Shanghainese impressario Clement Buyi Zheng, founder of Ontimeshow, the largest and most important Shanghai fashion week trade show. Occupying a century old European-style building on the Bund, the decor of this exquisite vegan restaurant draws on the spirit of Jiangnan Gardens. The kitchen blends various cooking techniques with Chinese philosophies of nourishment to create creative and beguiling vegetarian dishes for their fashionable clientele.

Stepping into Shintori is like sitting front row at a Japanese Kabuki performance in outer space. After we managed to locate the restaurant — there is no sign — and stroll down a mysterious bamboo path, large wooden shogun-esque electric doors glided open to reveal an amphitheater-like dining room. The cast of the kitchen literally took center stage performing foodie feats on an open viewing platform betwixt swirls of smoke and energetic flames of ardor. From the first bite of sushi to the last udon noodle, Shintori will always be the star of our Shanghai culinary adventure.

Shang Nights
Le Baron
The Shanghai outpost of the iconic Parisian Nightclub where privileged fashionable youth mix with artsy “downtown” kids to the beat of old school disco. Le Baron is a must for Shanghai Fashion Week.

Old Jazz Band at the Fairmont Peace Hotel
The jazz bar at the Fairmont Peace Hotel is widely celebrated as a Shanghai institution. Originally conceived as an English-style pub with a live band, the bar was so famous for its jazz music during Shanghai’s roaring 1920s and 1930s ‘Jazz Age’ that it became known around the world simply as “The Jazz Bar.” Reviving the 1930s sounds of the bar, the six veteran musicians — whose average age is 82 — make up the world-famous ‘Old Jazz Band.’ For decades they have drawn an audience of locals, international travelers, celebrities and heads of states such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Justin Trudeau, and Barack Obama.

Old Jazz Band at the Peace Hotel

The Long Bar
The Long bar located in Bund on the ground floor of the Waldorf Astoria earned it distinction for being the longest bar in the world when it was built more than 100 years ago. This glorious 111-foot mahogany masterpiece has played host to Noel Coward, who said while laying upon it cheek-down that he could see the curvature of the earth.

Bar Constellation
The hidden gem of the French Concession, this mixology haven is an institute for exquisitely conceived cocktails. Sit back in your tufted leather lounge chair and enjoy liquid miracles being created in front of you to inspire all your senses.

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