The Tangerine Road recalls the ancient medieval route of the Silk Road, through which in olden times tea, silks, spices, carpets and above all culture, knowledge, customs and traditions of different and far away people were exchanged. It expresses the idea of a journey, of a story: it represents our adventure from Europe to China, eager for knowledge. " 

There are a number of friends and peers who have left Italy in recent years. Of many, I have lost track. Of others, I can keep track and discover their new fascinating lives in distant places. Among them is Sofia Zanchini. I knew she had left London for Hong Kong, almost like me Rome for Pesaro, but I sensed that she had settled in a different way in the Far East, finding her own new path. With Paola Bianchi, another Italian on the move, she conceived and is carrying on "The Tangerine Road" small fashion brand, which brings together different cultures and traditions through colours and designs on fabrics. To launch a new concept of slow fashion that wants to limit the pollution produced by the fashion industry, Sofia and Paola make use of pop-up stores and presentation events. Sofia and Paola tell us about an adventure that is a beautiful friendship and an example of strong determination. Their story begins separately and joins on the road of the Mandarins.


"I graduated in literature and philosophy in Rome, where I was born and raised with my family. I worked for several years in communication and organization of cultural events and initiatives. I did not know how much this exciting experience would be useful for my future projects. "   "I didn’t even think that I would have travelled the world so widely. About ten years ago, after moving to London due to my husband’s work, I juggled between part-time jobs and the commitment towards my two children. With the arrival of our third child, at the end of October 2015, we started our adventure in Hong Kong. I was not afraid of this move. This new world fascinated me. In fact, the mix of Chinese roots and colonial influences present in this city immediately struck me. Behind the commercial image of the many glass and steel skyscrapers, I discovered a complex and fascinating place. 70% of the territory consists of mountains and natural parks. Looking at the island from the Tsim Sha Tsui harbour, the skyline is the most unique in the world, with tall skyscrapers that climb up through the dense jungle. Not surprisingly, the city is also called " Vertical Jungle ".


"After studying Economics in Florence, I followed my passion for fashion and fashion culture, and I was in charge of Marketing and Communication for Emilio Pucci in Florence and Vivienne Westwood in London. I have always been fascinated by the privileged relationship between fashion and ethnography, a topic that I further studied for my Ph.D. in Economics. "  "With the birth of my children, I chose to dedicate my time to them and interrupt the experience in the corporate world by pursuing a collaboration with a female social enterprise, called "Guri I Zi" that made me discover the possibility of social change through fashion as an engine of female emancipation and sustainable social growth. I am still linked to the project "Guri I Zi": I share its values and I admire its strength and determination. Once I arrived in Hong Kong in January 2016, I was struck by the strong manifestations of the local culture. It was a mixture of signs and symbols that referred to traditions, customs, fairy tales and legends buried over the centuries but still solid and alive among the skyscrapers of Central as well as on the beaches of Repulse Bay. The jade, the colour red, the Chinese mandarin or kumquat – a symbol of prosperity and well-being – the Ginkgo, a plant that symbolizes health and longevity, all this takes on a meaning and becomes auspicious. It refers to contents and experiences belonging to these special people.   I am dedicated to discovering and recognising these hidden signs along the streets and in the neighbourhoods of Wan Chai and Mong Kok, as well as in the faces of the multitude of people who live here. To be a part of all this, together with my husband and two children, is such a unique experience and make me feel more and more at home every day.

P a o l a    a  n d    S o f i a  . . . 

"We met at a friend's house in London, but we did not have much time to hang out. Then, we took separate paths. Paola returned to Milan to give birth to her first child. I still lived in London. For both of us, it was our husbands’ job opportunities to take us to Hong Kong. We both had young children, and our common thought was "now or never." And fate has brought us together once more. Again, a friend was the connection. This time, however, we did not lose sight of each other. Indeed, our children got closer too. Together, we decided it was time to get back on track, or better to follow our common passions and interests. "   "In the first months, while exploring the city, together we discovered the old workers' district of Sham Shui Po, which hosts flea markets, stalls of dried-up fish with pungent smell, shops of silks, fine linens and cottons and even small shops of the 30's that sell buttons and beads of all kinds. We fell in love with this authentic area of the city and from these traces, the stylistic research of "The Tangerine Road" started."

A   g i n k g o   t r e e   o n   t h e   S i l k   R o a d

“The Tangerine Road recalls the ancient medieval route of the Silk Road, through which in olden times tea, silks, spices, carpets and above all culture, knowledge, customs and traditions of different and far away people were exchanged. It expresses the idea of a journey, of a story: it represents our adventure from Europe to China, eager for knowledge. "   "To the brand name, we paired the elegant Ginkgo leaf with its fan shape and its deep and poetic story. The ginkgo is an ancient tree, of which the origins date back to 250 million years ago, and for this reason, it is considered a living fossil. The plant is native to China but then spread to Korea, Japan, Europe, and the United States. The ginkgo tree is the symbol of the city of Tokyo, and it is called the "tree of peace" since one of them survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, in 1945. This tree has always been cultivated in the gardens of the temples and in places of worship: it is revered as a sacred tree because it was believed to protect against evil spirits. "   "The stylistic research and the development of the collection started from the fabrics and styles of the Chinese tradition.   Our first dress, the "Shanghai dress" interprets the traditional Chinese silk brocade with a fresh, contemporary cut and a refined choice of palette. It is a tribute to China and to the richness of its millenary textile tradition. "

R e s e a r c h    i n    t h e    F a r    E a s t

"Our research expanded during our travels aimed at discovering the Far East. During a trip to Japan, we were struck by the Zen elegance of its oriental gardens and we were inspired by this essential and harmonious aesthetics when we searched for fabrics like the "Butterfly print", with which we made soft silk dresses and skirts. "   "In Thailand, we discovered the finest shantung silk, with which we made the “Bangkok shirt” that wraps around the body following its shape and recalls the Chut Thai, the traditional dress worn by Thai men and women.   The beautiful peacocks that strolled undisturbed in the Governor's House of Yangon in Burma were the inspiration of our "Peacock print" with which we made a chemise dress that recalls the tail of a peacock that struts around with vanity in all its beauty. "

C h i n e s e     d r e s s m a k e r ,    I t a l i a n    f a s h i o n   d e s i g n

"If the search for fabrics is linked to our travel experiences, the production of the garments is based on the Chinese sartorial tradition, and our clothes are made by the expert hands of our seamstress. They can be made-to-measure and customized in their details. This makes them special creations, almost unique pieces that showcase a high degree of attention to finishing details and to the choice of accessories.   Working with a Chinese tailor shop has certainly presented a challenge that we had to overcome, due to the linguistic barrier and the cultural difference, but slowly we came to get to know each other, and to work productively and with flexibility.   This production choice limits, at the moment, a strategy of high-volume growth, but at the same time, it determines our positioning as a niche, sartorial and researched brand. "   "The design of the garments is strongly characterized by our being Italian: simple lines and an impeccable cut. It is a "slow-paced" elegance that plays with the liveliness of colours, and unexpected combinations that nonetheless respect the Italian taste for beauty.   Our Asian customers, who recognize an ideal of beauty and poise in Italian design, have welcomed with enthusiasm the style that permeates our creations.   Likewise, our collections evoke an exotic nature and far away countries, and this element has a strong appeal on our European customers."

S l o w -f a s h i o n    a s    a    s u s t a i n a b l e     t r e n d

"To sell our clothes we put on real temporary events (Pop-Up Stores) that sometimes last one day, sometimes a week. It's an easy and flexible system, and it works well for a start-up like ours and in a city like Hong Kong, where rents are among the highest in the world. This system gave us the opportunity to get to know a very supportive and dynamic network of "business mothers". Together,  each woman with her own brand, we organize the so-called "Temporary Events", trying to differentiate each time the selection of products and choosing rented spaces in different areas of the city. "   "We follow the criteria of "slow-fashion" in the sense that we try to have a conscious and wise approach to fashion. Slow is better, and this is the synthesis of the slow-fashion philosophy. In fact, if you think about it, fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Low-cost disposable fashion is among the factors that have caused the creation of real islands of waste in the oceans. It is no longer possible to ignore this fact. With slow fashion, the conscious protagonists of this world have the opportunity to move in the direction of sustainability. "   In our own way, with The Tangerine Road, we aim at creating small timeless collections, giving importance and value to details and not to quantity, by creating garments made with quality and eco-sustainable fabrics. "   "At the moment, only two of us are involved in the project, but hopefully we will soon have the opportunity to enlarge our working group. We organised sales in Milan, Rome and Florence and we are planning to make others in Singapore and London.   On our social media, from time to time, we post photos of friends and customers, because – over time – friendships are strengthened and we enjoy receiving photos of women wearing our "tangerine" clothes.   In fact, we have just made a photo shoot with an Eurasian model, Sophie (with Hong Kong mom and French dad). We selected her because she is unassuming and elegant of a timeless beauty, but above all because her personality gracefully synthesises the oriental and western cultures."

The  connecting  link: our ginkgo leaf, because it comes from an ancient tree with strong roots that was able to spread with the grace and elegance of poetry.

Author:  Valeria Scafetta