"Every woman has a mean streak in them," says local fashion designer Ni Hua, who runs her new clothing line Miss Mean from a 1920s boudoir replete with vintage furnishings.
Mean is an acronym for Mode, Elegance, Amour and Nature, explains Ni, better known as Nio, who returned to Shanghai last year after spending two years in Paris formulating her own style.
The 34-year-old, who speaks English with a thick French accent, believes every woman can relate to these four elements, which she discovered to be essential motifs while travelling around the Gallic country.
"I love the Parisian sense of style. It's so elegant and sophisticated. I visited so many different cultural places and it was so inspiring. I learned how to put these ideas into my clothing," she says.
Fed up with Shanghai's fashion and lifestyle, she removed herself to Paris in 2006 to study the language and complete a course in fashion design at Studio Berot, after which she did work experience under fashion masters John Galliano and Rick Owens.
Now she says her designs are intended for ultra-feminine women between the ages of 22 and 55 who love life and culture. Her threads are structured but with a distinctly vintage feel, part of her ongoing experimentation with different styles.
She recently opened a small boutique on Fuxing Road to promote her collection of women's wear.
Her Autumn/Winter collection (available from October), was inspired by an oil painting by Italian artist Giuseppe Castiglione (Lng Shnng), who spent much of his life as a missionary in China. The painting depicts an emperor from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), an image that she has translated into 20 looks with a distinctly military feel.
"I like to have a Chinese element in my designs," she said. "But I try to steer clear of the traditional Chinese embroidery and buttons."
Paying close attention to detail, she has created a series of woollen garments in tones of brown, cream, blue and gold, with a strong emphasis on the shoulder area. She has also designed sexy evening dresses in rich organza, and a range of chunky gold metal necklaces.
Already looking ahead to Spring/Summer 2010, she has chosen goldfish as her inspiration. Nio wants to develop her label in Shanghai and eventually branch out to high-end lingerie, a move influenced by French lingerie designer Chantal Thomass and Prada.
Beyond that, her ultimate goal is to have a shop next to Lanvin in Paris one day.
"I'm crazy about their clothes," she said. "I dream of the day when designer Alber Elbaz takes my hand and congratulates me on my latest collection."
1458 Fuxing Road M.