Ports 1961: From China to Africa and back again

Friday, February 01, 2008

There is absolutely no point in shopping for international brands while in China – with a 40 percent markup on luxury goods, you'd be crazy to pay local retail prices (even most Chinese don't shop in China - they head to duty-free Hong Kong, where the prices are lower, the selection is bigger and the savings more than makes up the cost of airfare). While I was in Beijing, I kept almost all of my shopping to the local boutiques (like the aforementioned Spin Ceramics, where I wanted absolutely everything. More on that soon.)

The one exception to this rule might be Ports 1961, the international line from Ports International, the formerly Canadian luxury brand that was bought by Chinese entrepreneur Alfred Chan in the 1990s and completely rejuvenated a few years ago by his sister-in-law, Tia Cibani. Because it's now pretty much a Chinese brand, I was curious if it got to avoid the import taxes and would actually be much cheaper to buy in China than abroad (the answer, in a nutshell: I still don't know. The brand's first U.S. retail store won't open until this spring in L.A. – followed by New York in the fall - and the only easy source is the online offerings at Vivre and Saks, which have a much smaller selection than in the China stores and don't give me much to compare. So, in summary: I'm still working on it.)

I had never paid Ports much attention before, but a growing list of glowing press (starting with this highly readable Time for Style article) had gotten me curious. I can't say I was wowed by all the items in the Beijing stores – there's a reason the company is one of the top-selling in China, and that reason seems to be a fondness for beading and trim – but I was pleasantly surprised by the 1961 collection of internationally-aimed clothes, which were exquisitely made and absolutely gorgeous. Some poking around on their site turned up these images for the upcoming Africa-inspired Spring/Summer collection, and I think you can get a good glimpse of the detail and construction they're offering.

Their NY fashion week show is Monday night and very highly anticipated. Plus: It's kind of nice to have a little bit of sunny warmth on an otherwise chilly, rainy Friday morning, don't you think?


Johanna said...

According to Kiki (author of, Sangaree Boutique on M St. in Georgetown will be launching their Ports 1961 collection next Thursday from 6-9pm. I'm *definitely* going and crossing my fingers they have the sheath in your second photo at a reasonable price.

Come! Come!

Ms. Spinach said...

awww, i'll be in new york! what a bummer (though only a small bummer since, after all, i'll be in new york). i'm partial to that amazing majorly oversized clutch myself.

go, drool, report back!

Suzanna Mars said...

These photos have such a Peter Beard vibe to them that in conjunction with an adult-looking model they are very refreshing and look new again.

Nice to see a collection that has some applicability to how a mature woman might dress in a simple, situationally appropriate manner. (In other words, no hulking fur vests on the fifty-something in the produce aisle of the gourmet market).

Will check out their show!

Liberty London Girl said...

I'm a big supporter of the label, after meeting one of the directors at a party in NYC last year. I went off to do a showroom appointment the next day and was mightily impressed with the cut of the pieces. I'm looking forward to shooting them! Enjoy Manhattan! LLG xx

Anonymous said...

I would buy it in Canada. I don't seem to get as much sticker shock when I am in the Vancouver/Toronto store than in China. lol. Also, brands such as Ports (international brands that are more popular in China than almost any other country, like Esprit) rarely go on sale in China. The Canadian locations have much more frequent seasonal sales.

Gloria said...

great post...I had heard of Ports before but didn't know too much about it... clothes look gorgeous though!

hogan said...

i really love Ports since a while, really just from their ads and styling in the lookbooks. or maybe not so much the styling as the kind of modern exotic vibe their clothes and images convey.

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