Wealthy Chinese fork out for high-class etiquette

Updated 12 August 2013
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Wealthy Chinese fork out for high-class etiquette

How to properly peel an orange, hold an oyster fork, and pronounce luxury brand names — wealthy Chinese are paying handsome sums to learn such skills as they seek to match their high-end lifestyles with high-class etiquette.
A two-week course at the newly opened Institute Sarita in Beijing costs 100,000 yuan ($16,000), but that has not dissuaded dozens of students from across the country from signing up.
Most are women in their 40s whose wealth rose fabulously along with China’s breakneck growth in recent decades, says founder Sarah Jane Ho. Their parents survived traumatic hardships under the late leader Mao Zedong, while their children enjoy privileged lives exposed to Western concepts. And they are caught in a constant culture shock, says Ho.
“Today’s nouveau riche women in China are the first to take on all these roles of wife, mother, daughter, businesswoman in this new drastically changed world. There are no precedents, no rules, no person for them to refer to,” she says.
“What my clients want is really a guide, a new Confucius. What they need is a frame of reference and this is what I provide.”
For many participants, the hefty price tag to acquire such knowledge can seem trivial. Ho says her students “easily spend three times that amount” to acquire the furs or jewellery introduced in class.
Besides learning to dress with elegance, the women familiarise themselves with wine, elite sports such as golf and riding, English tea service, floral art and table decorating. One student erred on a recent lunch hostessing exam when she laid a knife with the blade facing out rather than in, Ho said.
They learn how to help their husbands and chat with their men’s business associates — reviewing acceptable topics of conversation unlike typically blunt enquires such as “How much do you earn?” or “Why did you divorce your wife?” — and how close to stand to others.
“Personal space is something new in China,” says Ho, who tells students to “keep your elbows close to your body.”
The institute, which hosts students at a luxury hotel and formally opened in March, is based on the traditional finishing schools once reserved for young women from well-to-do families in the West, where they have largely disappeared.



Ho, a Harvard graduate who speaks five languages, herself attended the Institut Villa Pierrefeu, often called the last Swiss finishing school.
Many of her students decide they need help after finding themselves stumped at a fancy engagement, often a Western-style meal.
“They don’t dare start (eating) for fear of being ridiculed, for example, with escargot,” said the institute’s head chef, who she recruited from the French embassy.
Jocelyn Wang, 24, says the intricacies of Western dining protocol were among the most valuable lessons of her 10-day course at Institute Sarita.
“I think the way someone eats — how they hold their fork and knife, the way they eat their food — can say a lot about their etiquette and their temperament,” she says, adding that such topics were not widely taught in China.
“My parents may have learned from experience or from TV or the Internet,” she says. “I wanted to be more specialized.”
During her 9-to-6 sessions she says she used rulers to measure the precise placement of forks and knives and toured art galleries, taking notes and collecting class handouts along the way.
But the detailed instruction also impressed upon her the need for non-teachable qualities such as poise, taste and confidence.
There are differences between aristocracy and nouveaux riche, says Wang, who is studying globalization for a master’s degree in London.
“We have a really good life, at least materially speaking, so we can’t just be unrefined.”
Harvard sociologist Martin Whyte said Chinese interest in etiquette was to be expected in a society enjoying newfound wealth but lacking a strong, recent “aristocratic tradition.”
They “recognize that being viewed as ‘nouveau riche’ makes them vulnerable to popular criticism,” he said in an e-mail, likening rich Chinese today to 19th century Americans.
“They feel a need to demonstrate to the world that they are not just crude money-grubbing upstarts, but have some cultural refinement and civility, and thus might be viewed as honorable wealthy, rather than resented,” he said.


Fashion Forward Dubai pop-up store returns to Saudi Arabia

Fashion Forward Dubai will present a carefully curated selection of the best apparel and accessory designers from the region. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 23 May 2018
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Fashion Forward Dubai pop-up store returns to Saudi Arabia

  • FFWD will present a carefully curated selection of the best apparel and accessory designers from the region
  • The pop-up is driven by Fashion Forward’s mission to promote, celebrate and develop the region’s leading fashion talents

DUBAI: Fashion Forward Dubai (FFWD), the Middle East fashion platform, returns for a second edition of their pop-up store in Saudi Arabia’s Rubaiyat department store in Jeddah from May 25 to June 15.

FFWD will present a carefully curated selection of the best apparel and accessory designers from the region including Anaya, Atelier Zuhra, Arwa Al Banawi, Baruni, Beige, Bint Thani, Hessa Falasi, Lama Jouni, Nasiba Hapiz, Sara Altwaim, Shahad Rehami and Sarah’s Bag. 

The pop-up is driven by Fashion Forward’s mission to promote, celebrate and develop the region’s leading fashion talents. Endorsed by the Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC) and supported by Dubai Design District (d3), the initiative is dedicated to supporting the evolving regional fashion ecosystem in its pursuit of attaining commercial success and widening reach into new markets.

“Fashion Forward has decided to partner with the prestigious Rubaiyat for its second edition as we firmly believe in the synergy that this partnership brings to all parties involved. We were thrilled with the success of the designers in last year’s pop-up and are enthusiastic about the opportunity to continue nurturing our designers in growing retail markets, such as KSA,” said Bong Guerrero, CEO and co-founder of FFWD.

ANAYA: Named after the designer’s daughter and inspired by her creativity and drive to follow her dream of building a fashion empire for the power women of the new era. In 2010, Chathuri won the International Young Fashion Entrepreneur award from the British Fashion Council at London Fashion Week for her startup company ANAYA. 

ATELIER ZUHRA: Atelier Zuhra was established in 2015 under business entrepreneur Mousa Al-Awfi, who supported her dream to build a couture atelier in Dubai and dress up women with glamor and perfection. Zuhra passed her dream to her daughter Rayan Al-Sulaimani, who raised the bar by scaling up the designs to a more sophisticated and outstanding quality. 

ARWA AL BANAWI: Like her eponymous label, Saudi-born designer Arwa Al-Banawi is an eclectic mix of contrasts. Designed for the subtle woman, her aesthetic is both classically cool and feminine — earning her recognition from Vogue.com and a finalist position at Jeddah Vogue Fashion Experience.

BARUNI: Created by Fadwa Baruni, the Baruni brand is strongly led by regional and local cultural influences as well as the colors and textures of nature, developing a signature style for the Baruni collection. 

BEIGE: Launched in 2017 by Muna Al-Othaiman, contemporary womenswear brand Beige fuses clean silhouettes with impeccable tailoring, evoking timeless modernity. 

BINT THANI: Inspired by art and architecture since its inception in 2012, BINT THANI offers curated collections that amplify the brand’s DNA of feminine and wearable styles for an international, design-orientated customer. 

HESSA FALASI: An Emirati brand established in 2011 in Dubai and inspired by Arabic culture, where traditional abayas are given a modern twist with a variety of high-quality fabrics, a kaleidoscope of colors in on-trend fashion. 

LAMA JOUNI: Lama Jouni is a high-end ready-to-wear label created in November 2013 in Paris. The name of the brand represents the designer and founder of the company. 

NASIBA HAFIZ: The woman who wears Nasiba Hafiz is not afraid to try new things and is not restricted by background, place or time. She has traveled the world and knows how to inject her heritage into a style that is particularly hers. 

SARA ALTWAIM: Born to a family of art lovers, Sara Altwaim has a passion for everything artistic. She took up writing poetry as a hobby and fashion design as her life’s passion. 

SHAHAD REHAIMI: Shahad Rehaimi’s Abaya collection is extravagantly unique and caters to trendy women. She aims to demonstrate every woman’s perfection through different fashionable styles.  

SARAH’S BAG: Dynamic, passionate and determined, with an epicurean’s delight in beauty and art, founder and creative director Sarah Beydoun designs handbags and accessories that are known for their intricate craftsmanship, attention to detail and vibrant, high-spirited appeal.