Fashion Show in Santana Row

If you think Silicon Valley is a place for “geeks” who only wear jeans and t-shirts, not any more! Last weekend, the Annual Fall Fashion Show in Santana Row flashed the runway with the season’s latest style and high fashion – right on the street of Santana Row in a lush garden park setting.

With world beat music and impressive chic models, the fashion show featured the world’s top brands, from leading British designer label Ted Baker, to cross-cultural fashions of Anthropologie, to world-wide renowned fine leather Furla purses and high-end luxury shoes designed by orthopedic surgeon Taryn Rose – all are picked from the neighborhood’s retailers.

The elegant black and white outfits are still the high point of this year’s fashion. Additionally, the combination of vibrant brown and blue color has become my newest fancy for the Fall.

After the fashion show, I cruised into the designers’ shops featured in the show. Among them, I found Anne Fontaine a timeless class. A French designer drawing her creativity from her Brazilian roots, Anne Fontaine’s collection captures the purity and simplicity of white with a touch of feminine and elegance. In her boutique, “each shirt has a story and a meaning, and with each new creation, a new woman emerges.”

Another fun boutique is Pink Stripes – a unique retail concept combining clothes and sweets. Here, you can shop while sampling truffles, chocolates and other sweet treats. It even has a live model in the window! The shop carries the lesser-known lines from Nanette Lepore, Tracy Reese, Rachel Pally, etc. The price is quite affordable ranging from $50 – $150. The place is hip, hot and entertaining!

The Fall Fashion Weekend, highlighting six fashion shows over Saturday and Sunday, is one of Santana Row’s signature events. A must-visit place in Silicon Valley, Santana Row represents a high quality lifestyle that “blends a distinctive mix of living, shopping and dining experiences.”

Please also see my previous post about Santana Row.

Photo source: http://www.dailycandy.com

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Chinese Government Pushes to Increase the Middle Class

It’s ironic that people in the United States are complaining about the shrinking of the middle class, while the Chinese government is pushing aggressively to expand its middle class.

Recently, Chinese Premier ????? has raised minimum salaries and welfare spending as a measure to close the gap between the rich and poor. Rural per capita incomes increased 12% in the first half of this year, comparing to 10% increase in urban income for the same period.

The rising income left people with more to spend on consumer goods. China’s retail sales increased almost 14% in July. Sales of clothing, furniture, building materials and home decoration goods have experienced substantial growth for the first half of this year.

As part of its strategy to sustain high speed growth without relying on export, the Chinese government also encourages citizens to consume rather than save. Its current five-year plan has a heavy focus on improving the fundamental for consumer spending. The government plans to build retail chains and convenience stores in the countryside.

This is not the first time that the Chinese government intervenes in its economy. Recently, when there was over-investment in real-estate, the government exercised a crackdown. Someone told me that the Chinese government is like a water-skier behind a boat, every now and then yanking on the rope to alter the boat direction a bit if it heads off course.

It’s true the Chinese government is very sophisticated and business savvy. It operates very much like a corporation. As James McGregor pointed out in his book One Billion Customers, if the business community is the “old boys” club in the West, the Chinese government is the “old boys” club in China.

Pretty soon, I would expect a case study from Harvard Business School on how Chinese government has successfully run its gigantic business :-).

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The Moon Is Reaching for Me

A landmark attraction in Palo Alto, the Stanford Theater is a cinema treasure by all accounts. Its splendid Greek/Assyrian style interior is dazzling enough; the mighty Wurlitzer theater organ, played during the intermissions, gives an added feeling for nostalgic refreshment.

If you are bombarded by the violence and sex in today’s films, the Stanford Theater is a perfect place to retreat on weekends and enjoy the classic movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age. It showed many of my most favorite movies, from Casablanca, to Roman Holiday, to Gone with the Wind.

Last weekend, we went back to the Stanford Theater for Billy Wilder’s Sabrina (1954), featuring Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. The movie itself is an age-old fairy tale story about a chauffeur’s daughter (Sabrina) falling in love with the estate family’s son. It is ’s timeless charm and beauty that still catches the fancy of millions of men and women.

When I first saw the movie years ago, in addition of being charmed by Audrey’s adorable grace, I was struck by one line in the movie that uttered an epiphany to me:

When her father Fairchild told Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn) that she was trying to reach for the moon, Sabrina responded with such a confidence and demeanor:

“The moon is reaching for me.” *

It was like a ray of gleaming sunlight that enlightened my entire world. I found this line incredibly empowering. Like Sabrina, so often, we are looking for things from outside to fulfill ourselves. We want to find that perfect man, the ideal job, etc., but we neglect the importance of nurturing the light from within. Like Sabrina, when we strive to be the best of ourselves, instead of reaching for the moon, we are letting the moon reach for us.

It was my epiphany then, and still is today. I dream the impossible dreams, and reach for things that are seemingly beyond my reach. I will always remember this line: the moon is reaching for me!

* For those who don’t remember the detail or who haven’t had a chance to see this movie, here is a little background: Sabrina, the daughter of a chauffeur who live in a large estate of a wealthy family, was hopelessly in love with the family’s playboy son – David, who hardly noticed her existence. After her return from Paris, Sabrina evolved into a beautiful and sophisticated young lady and finally won the attention from David. Her father, very much concerned of daughter’s unrealistic infatuation for David, said to her: “You are trying to reach for the moon.” Sabrina replied: “The moon is reaching for me.”

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The Thinker

Is the freedom of my flying soul forever behind bars?

Copyright (c) 2006 Helen Wang

This picture was taken at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. It remimded me of a poem by a Chinese poet: “????????????????????” – Is the freedom of my flying soul forever behind bars?

It was when I first came to the United States almost fifteen years ago. The poem resonated with me strongly. I wish to dedicate this piece to those who are not yet able to have free thinking on their own.

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A Booming Travel Industry

A booming travel industry in China indicates another strong sign of emerging consumers. The online travel sites such as Ctrip, Qunar (???), and Aoyou (??) have all experienced exponential growth in online airline tickets and hotel bookings.

A recent survey conducted by online travel search engine Qunar.com (???) – meaning “where are you going?” – portrayed a typical middle class profile: among frequent travelers, about 88 percent have college degrees; 35 percent own their own condominium or home; more than two-thirds have computers at home; and most amazingly, seventy-three percent are using credit cards to book their tickets.

With increased disposable income and a keen desire to see the world, Chinese consumers are spending their money on travel. I see a dramatic shift in their lifestyle, especially pertaining to leisure travel. The hotel chains in China, offering equivalent service to Best Western with reasonable prices ranging from $20 to $40, make traveling quite affordable.

An interesting characteristic of Chinese traveling is organized group travel. As a benefit, many companies provide group travel service to their employees. It works exceptionally well. For companies, it’s a great way for team building and morale; for employees, it’s a practical way to get discounted prices for hotels and airline tickets. Culturally, Chinese are very social and cost conscious. At least at this point, traveling with colleagues doesn’t bother them very much at all. If this trend continues, it will likely result in mass traveling in China in the near future.

Since a few years ago, my sister and her family have been traveling every summer to different tourist destinations such as Dunhuang????and Jiuzhaigou (???), which makes me entirely envious. It’s all because of the organized group travels!

Before long, Chinese will travel abroad. The survey by Qunar says almost 40 percent of current travelers are expecting to travel overseas for their next trip. The immediate destinations for Chinese travelers are Australia, Thailand, United States and Europe. The Chinese travel industry is predicted to reach $1.6 billion in 2007.

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