Rule Britannia

Image of David Tang

Sir David Tang, entrepreneur and founder of ICorrect offers advice on questions about property, interiors – and modern manners for globetrotters

Do you approve of all the rather fancy decor one sees in the interiors of large yachts? In the glossy magazines, they all look slightly similar. Is there a trend for them to imitate the modern hotel in which the interiors seem to become increasingly homogenous?

It is indeed tediously disappointing to see the same old boring linear designs in gold and silver and marble and fake lacquer, rather than brass and chrome and wood and French polish, that seem to have infested the interior decorations of most of the large yachts that nouveaux riches are able to buy or commission – and they are the only ones with the moolah. The trouble is the virtual absence of romance, when the whole point of sailing or cruising is embracing the magic of the sea, enjoying the breeze, soaking up the warmth of the sun and watching a clear night sky of stars – to the backdrop of a humming engine noise, waves that set the rhythm of a vessel traversing on water, and the occasional swells which lend that frisson of not being on terra firma. That’s why I love a boat that has a funnel that epitomises maritime romance. Hence Savarona with her exotic Turkish delights; Talitha G with her wondrous art deco decadence of the Gettys; Christina O with the extraordinary Aristotle Onassis and Jackie Kennedy and their glamorous guests, who included Winston Churchill; and Kalizma with which Richard Burton wooed Elizabeth Taylor – and of course Britannia, steeped in royal history, and one of the most stylish and elegant boats that had ever ruled the waves. The British are a great nation of seafarers, and they understood how to deck out properly a boat as majestic as Britannia. I had lunch on board her the day of the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from Britain to China, and there was an acute sense of sadness for a setting empire, symbolised by her imminent decommissioning, which was an act of vandalism. I don’t know what she looks like now as a floating aquarium, but any designer of any yacht should study the way in which Britannia managed to get everything spot on – nothing flashy, yet everything functional and sensible and stylish and, need I say, polished.

I am moving to beloved New York where I hope to haunt the art galleries and indulge in lowbrow musicals. I am Asian but am tempted to go for the Woody Allen look, which is my image of intelligent New Yorkers. This means retiring my British and Italian bespoke suits in navy and grey and going for those boxy American jackets and unshaped trousers. Do you approve?

I don’t at all approve of that “hoody” look in which Woody Allen saunters around New York. I had my chances with him when he came into my shop Shanghai Tang soon after it opened on Madison Avenue. I was particularly oleaginous, serving him myself. But he didn’t buy a thing and left with his sartorial disaster intacto. You’d be foolish to emulate him as he gets away with it in ultra-bourgeois Manhattan precisely because of who he exceptionally is. Other ordinary folks like you will fail miserably and look just like another rapper. Why feel contrived anyway? To sacrifice your proper gear and dress down in an attempt to look trendy is reverse ostentation, which is worse than ostentation itself.

I was recently treated to a wonderful evening at your club in Hong Kong. The ambiance, staff, fodder and grog were all first class. But sadly my evening was ruined by one of the paintings of a woman with a meat cleaver in her head. Please could you have it removed before my next visit.

I strongly believe that in any eating establishment, we should not only nourish our bodies but also our souls. All the paintings are hung because I wish to feed the intellect as well as the stomach. I am just sorry that you do not seem to have a proper lining for the former.

Italians also wear brown shoes often even with blue suits. And they can pull off the trick.

I have received a great deal of mail about brown shoes. Having had many more discussions with my friends, I might have to revise my answer. First, I now accept that there are still gentlemen who go around in brown shoes and blue suits in town during the weekdays. Furthermore, to be an über-snob, one should always shoot in black shoes. Lord Sefton and Sir Eric Penn have been staunch proponents of this snobbery. Ergo, the Italians might not be as trendy as they think.

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