The worlds of celebrity and business rarely meet, but both are mourning the death of David Tang. The founder of luxury fashion brand Shanghai Tang “couldn’t speak a word of English” when he arrived in Britain at the age of 13, says Natasha Khan in The Wall Street Journal, but in later life he became well known for his “flamboyance” and as “a lover of luxury and a patron of the arts”. His “legendary” parties, and his promotion of Chinese culture, also led to him being seen as “a bridge between the East and the West”.
Tang “was a magnifico, a plutocrat born to live restlessly and recklessly on a Croesus-like scale”, says Simon Sebag Montefiore in The Times. But while he “adored luxury, gambling and, of course, fame”, he was also filled with “passion and ambition”. No mere “networker”, he was “more of a showman who resembled the actor-managers and circus masters of the 19th century, impresario of his own theatre”. Indeed, his diplomatic skills were so legendary that “he was the only man in the world who managed to be friends with the Queen, the Prince of Wales, Diana, Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York simultaneously”.
He was also a man of integrity. When the Chinese government tried to get movie mogul Harvey Weinstein to change the ending of a film he was producing, Tang “encouraged me to stick to my principles and said he’d help any way he could”, recalls Weinstein in the Financial Times. Despite Tang’s efforts, Weinstein was forced to switch location to London and Thailand, which meant that the film’s budget “ballooned to $50m”. However, despite these setbacks David not only helped out with the costumes designs free of charge, but also “came to Thailand and supervised everything himself”.
Like every playboy, Tang’s love of excess sometimes got him into trouble. During one interview “a call came in from his bank manager warning that he had busted his credit-card limit: ‘a bad night at Aspinall’s’ was his twinkling explanation”, says Martin Vander Weyer in The Spectator. So it’s fair to say that “financial control was not, in truth, his greatest strength”. Still, “his ideas were bold, his repartee sparkled, and I’m forever in his debt as the owner of one of his signature garments, a dark green velvet Mandarin jacket, which even on me looks elegant for every occasion”.
Tang knew the importance of making a stylish exit. Even as he was dying in his hospital bed, Tang was planning “what he hoped would be his farewell party”, sending “a bittersweet invitation asking friends to join him at the Dorchester hotel”, says Keith Bradsher in The New York Times. Ewan Venters, the chief executive of Fortnum & Mason, says he “had a wonderful chat with him about who would and would not make the list”, which turned into “a deep discussion on the difference between friends and acquaintances, and which relationships truly make life richer”. Sadly, Tang died before the party could take place – but he is likely to receive a fitting send-off. With Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell among his pals, “his memorial service is likely to be the most A-list event of the year, as he would have liked it”, as the Evening Standard puts it.
Tabloid money… Prince George will be the most down-to-earth pupil at Thomas’s
• “A very cute, but apprehensive” Prince George started school at Thomas’s, in southwest London, last week, says Fiona Phillips in the Daily Mirror. Every family with children there is “minted, posh… and works in a money-spinning trade such as stockbroking, marketing or investment banking”. It’s all “status-based chat” at the school gate and parents “name-drop to impress”, says Phillips. But George’s parents “have no need to pretend they’re something they’re not”, because they are something. George will be “one of the most down-to-earth pupils in the school”.
• “As I watched my kids Zac and Amara go back to school in new uniforms… I felt a warm glow in my heart – and a sharp pinch in my pocket,” says Saira Khan in the Sunday Mirror. Kids’ clothes are VAT-free, and so should be cheaper than adults’, but often aren’t. “So I felt really sorry for the parents at Ysgol Penglais School, which put more than 400 children into detention for uniform violations”, such as failing to wear bespoke jumpers. “If your school bans cheap alternatives, take the Department for Education tip and call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.”
• ”What would you do if someone offered you 15million dollars… to marry a leading Hollywood actor?” asks Karren Brady in The Sun on Sunday. But if you have ever dreamed of becoming rich through marriage, let actress Katie Holmes’ experience be a warning to you. Rumour has it that after Holmes and actor Tom Cruise divorced in 2012, he inserted a clause in the settlement banning her from publicly dating anyone for five years. Last week, Holmes and actor Jamie Foxx finally appeared in public together after long denying they were an item. “Even if it meant walking away with millions of dollars, I wouldn’t surrender to that kind of controlling set-up for all the tea in China.”