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Space in Hong Kong is scarce and real estate prices are high.

Restaurants flock to the upper floors of high-rises where rent is cheaper, young professionals try to find bargain apartments in fringe areas and many bars shut down after a year because they can't make enough to pay the bills. But it didn't seem likely that Shanghai Tang, one of Asia's few homegrown luxury retailers, would face the same kind of rent squeeze.

The former flagship store on Pedder Street, in the heart of Hong Kong’s downtown financial district, was a two-story 1920s Art Deco space characterized by its colourful, quirky details. Earlier this year, Abercrombie & Fitch outbid Shanghai Tang for the coveted property when its lease was up, allegedly offering the landlords $7 million Hong Kong dollars a month, or 250% more than what Shanghai Tang had been paying. Forced out of a historic location – the brand’s first boutique, though it now has more than 40 worldwide – Shanghai Tang turned to Asia's exiles of ages past to come up with a stopgap solution.

Invoking the spirit of Mongolian nomads, Shanghai Tang erected a cluster of Mongolian yurts, called gers, atop the roof of Central Pier 4, which juts out into Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour. It acts like a full-service store until 31 December, while another temporary loft-like location just upstairs from their shut-down boutique on Pedder Street will operate until 20 February. The new flagship will open its doors in the spring of 2012, but the address has yet to be announced.

Despite its makeshift location, Shanghai Tang is not poverty-stricken -- it has seven other outposts in Hong Kong, not to mention plenty of business savvy and a powerful owner (the Richemont Group, a Swiss company that also controls other high-end brands like Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Piaget and Montblanc). But the pop-up shop does have a rugged feel, because it's alfresco, and continues to sell Shanghai Tang's pricey Chinese-style haute couture as well as provide the label's well-respected bespoke tailoring services. The gers also house a limited-edition collection of Mongolian-inspired products, like chunky jewellery, fur-trimmed leather handbags, ornamented enamel picture frames, candles and housewares.

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