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July 13 2014

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Alfred Dunhill’s Shanghai Show

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Seven months in the making, Alfred Dunhill’s high-concept presentation in Shanghai last week was billed as the biggest event the brand has ever done. One thousand guests, most of them Chinese, took it in at the city’s New International Expo Center, where sounds of birds, crickets, and dripping rain set the mood. A gong and drums cued the handsome British violinist Charlie Siem, who played over a high-def digital animation that depicted a tree and lawn succumbing vividly to the changing seasons.

The 64 models donning topcoats and opening crisp umbrellas accordingly were, significantly, all Asian, albeit layered in gentlemanly clothes that could hardly have been more British: wingtip brogues, cashmere cardigans, leather driving gloves, extra-sharp velvet dinner jackets, and suits made of check-print flannel woven at a 250-year-old Somerset mill.

Since the departure of Kim Jones as creative director in 2010, reinventing the wheel hasn’t necessarily been a priority at Alfred Dunhill. (Somewhat pointedly, Jones still hasn’t been replaced.) And while Friday night’s high-tech spectacle recalls the go-go holographic runway show Burberry put on in Beijing a year ago, its flavoring was decidedly more romantic, more conservative.

But this is menswear. And Alfred Dunhill, which has more than 50 outlets in mainland China and has been established there for 25 years, perhaps has less to prove. “A lot of other brands are doing it to enter a market,” said the brand’s global marketing director (and the event’s designer), Jason Beckley. For the label, he suggested, Asia isn’t as new a frontier as it used to be. “It’s kind of funny. America is our emerging market.”

Photo: Courtesy of Alfred Dunhill

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