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Mandarin Peony: Charmed by Cheongsam

Jakarta is trending with young entrepreneurs and creative business ideas. Last Sunday, I sat down with two lovely fashion entrepreneurs who partnered in September 2012 and have since successfully glamorized girls all over Jakarta with their tasteful cheongsam.

Apart from their common adoration for famed hunk Joseph Gordon-Levitt and obsession with beautiful fabrics and washes, these two fashionistas disagree on pretty much everything else. And that’s a good thing. The way they tell me, Angela is the girly one (there’s always one of those among us) while Cal has sports a more edgy style. While Angela tends to go more for lighter, softer, and pastel colors, Cal has her eyes on bold and dramatic patterns. Even coming up with a brand name that both Cal and Angela could agree on wasn’t a walk in the park. But both knew they wanted to include elements of “oriental” and “peony” in it because peony—the flowers of riches and honor and the official national flower of China—symbolizes romance and prosperity and is regarded as an omen of good future.

What I absolutely love about Mandarin Peony is they are specific and targeted; it doesn’t try to do too much. With the exception of their new addition of pearl necklaces as accessories to the dresses, Mandarin Peony uniquely sells cheongsam. I think this dynamic duo will go far!

S t y l e  P r o f i l e s

Mandarin Peony

Calvina Tan, 24 (left)
  Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media, UNSW
   Master of Arts in Photomedia, UNSW

Angela Jie, 25 (right)
Bachelor of Economics, UNSW
   Master of Arts in Communications Management, UTS

Mandarin Peony

CL: What was the impetus for starting Mandarin Peony?
A&C: We wanted to do something that’s never quite been done before. Since we’ve been seeing the revival of Batik in recent years, we thought reviving cheongsam would be fitting since we are seeing a heightened appreciation for traditional wear today. {Angela} I’ve always been fascinated with 20s fashion—it’s chic and so well put together.

Mandarin Peony

CL: How did Mandarin Peony begin and how has it evolved?
A&C: Initially, our customers were predominantly moms and aunties who needed cheongsams for functions and most of our sold pieces were in medium, large, and extra-large. But through word-of-mouth and social media, our target market today has expanded and includes young women and girls who buy our pieces in all sizes.

CL: What’s special about Mandarin Peony cheongsam?
A&C: Our cheongsams are personally and carefully selected from all over Hong Kong and China. We are quite selective about our choices, making sure they are all of good quality. Custom-made cheongsams cost around 2 million rupiah, while our cheongsams are in the range between 450K to 900K rupiah, which we think is very affordable. In addition, they are ready-to-wear, which will save consumers so much time. We think it makes more sense to spend less on each piece so consumers can buy different cheongsams for different occasions—weddings, engagements, social events, concerts, etc.

Mandarin Peony

CL: How do you select your cheongsam?
A&C: We are so glad we each have very different tastes, quite polar actually. This allows us to bring in a huge variety of styles in different colors and fabrics for different occasions. {Angela} I tend to pick colors that are “safe”—light, soft, and what I think most people would be comfortable with. {Cal} I’d go more for bolder and more dramatic colors which I personally love and I think other girls would too. We are happy that we don’t have the same tastes, because otherwise we’d just end up buying the same models!

Mandarin Peony

In any relationship—personal or professional—differences can be a challenge, but once shared and overcome, can prove to be powerful success agents. Planning on a joint trip to China in April, Angela and Cal are excited to explore more options and finally select their pieces together as partners.

I first stumbled upon Mandarin Peony at a bazaar. I’m not a cheongsam wearer at all (like, at all), but the Mandarin Peony pieces somehow inspired me that day. So I tried one on, loved it, and was right away grateful that I needed not consider another outfit for Chinese New Year. Here’s the post showing the Mandarin Peony blue floral piece that I wore for CNY this year.  It was my first time wearing a cheongsam on Chinese New Year and got many compliments from it. From then on, I vowed to always wear a traditional Chinese ensemble on Chinese New Year. So if you’re like me, uncomfortable and somewhat weirded out by cheongsam, give Mandarin Peony a chance to change your mind. It did mine.

Twitter @mandarinpeony
Instagram mandarinpeony

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