Lap Shun – the Fallen Knitwear Giant
York Lo: Lap Shun – the Fallen Knitwear Giant
Law Shiu-lun (left) of Lap Shun Textiles presented with a congratulatory gift by Tai Tung-ngok, chairman of Yau Yat Chuen Development on his appointment as District Councilor of Sham Shui Po. (Kung Sheung Daily News, 1982-11-18)
In the mid-1980s, a wave of major business failures took place in HK and the casualties included major industrial enterprises such as Lo’s Mee Kwong and Conic, both of which were profiled earlier. In November 1984, a leading knitwear manufacturer by the name of Lap Shun Textiles Industrial Ltd (立信紡織工業, not to be confused with another garment manufacturer Fong’s Industries which has the very similar sounding Chinese name of 立信工業) was seized by the banks to whom it owed over HK$700 million and the business was subsequently liquidated. According to Directory of HK Industries, Lap Shun had annual turnover of HK$120 million, paid up capital of HK$50 mil, annual production capacity of 600,000 dozen pieces of garment at the time, making it one of the major players in the industry at the time.
Although Lap Shun Textiles was incorporated in 1971, its sister company Lap Shun Knitting Factory was founded earlier in the 1960s by Law Shiu-lun (羅兆倫) and his older brother Law Fong (羅兆晃 or 羅熀). Lap Shun Knitting had its office at 285-287 Yu Chau Street and factories at 291-293 Yu Chau Street and 244-246 Cheung Sha Wan Road in Sham Shui Po. It manufactured the “ADA” brand of nylon hair band and “Red Stone” brand of nylon socks in addition to other brands such as Mars, Vesper and Far Boat. In addition to knitwear, Law was also involved in importing textile machinery from the mainland through Wing Shun Knitting Machinery Co Ltd (永信針織機械).
Lap Shun grew rapidly in the 1970s as it took on clients from all over the world. By 1973, Lap Shun had over 1700 workers and had emerged as one of the leading knitwear manufacturers in HK alongside firms such as Law’s (whose founder Law Ting-pong was not related to the Law family of Lap Shun), Unison and Unitex. According to industry veteran Ha Chung-fong (founder of Fountain Set Holdings) who counted Lap Shun as his first client in the dyeing business in the early 1970s, Lap Shun was the largest holder of nylon knitwear quotas in Hong Kong at one point. Over time, the group expanded into garment, printing, dyeing and also properties. In 1977, Lap Shun moved into its own newly constructed Law’s Building at 682-684 Castle Peak Road. Newspaper articles from the 1970s show lots of activities for Lap Shun staff included basketball and ping pong tournaments and the firm also donated regular to local charities such as Community Chest. Aside from the brothers, directors of the firm include other family members such as Law’s wife Sum May-lan (岑美蘭), Raychart Law (羅偉澤) and Allen Law (羅偉權) and manager Alex Lui (雷蔭棠)
As a major player in the HK textile and garment industry, Law Shiu-lun was elected chairman of the Federation of HK Garment Manufacturers and HK Woollen & Synthetic Knitting Manufacturers’ Association. In 1981, when the mother of the Law brothers died, the pallbearers included government official Stephen Ip Shu-kwan (葉澍堃,later Secretary of Economic Development and Labor) and garment industry heavyweights Lam Kan-sing (林根成), Frank Lin (林輝波,1927-2013), Fok Wah-pun (霍華彬) and Kenneth Fang (方鏗). In 1982, the HK government decided to establish District Boards (now known as District Councils) and as a major employer in the area, Law Shiu-lun was appointed as an inaugural member of the Sham Shui Po District Board.
Article about Lap Shun’s Chinese New Year party with picture of the Law brothers and their staff in 1973 (WKYP 1973-2-27)
Left: Four banks announcing their support of Lap Shun Textiles in late 1984 (Ta Kung Po, 1984-11-23) Right: Dao Heng filing suit against Law Shiu-lun in 1984 (Strait Times, November 1984)
Access to credit help to fuel Lap Shun’s growth and the firm received funding from all the major banks including HSBC, Hang Seng (whose staff had a ping pong competition with Lap Shun staff in 1975, illustrating their closeness), Dao Heng, Standard Chartered, Bank of Tokyo and American Express. In the early 1980s the real estate market in HK was red hot and Lap Shun like some of its peers in the garment industry such as Lo’s Mee Kwong and Manhattan Garments went big into properties. When the market tanked thanks to the confidence crisis, the profits from the healthy core business of knitwear was not enough to cover the losses. Four of the banks (HSBC, Chartered, Bank of Tokyo and Amex) announced their support but subsequently pulled the plug, sealing the fate of the once mighty player in the HK knitwear industry and 850 workers lost their jobs.
- 華僑日報, 1981-08-10, 1975-12-17
- Directory of HK Industries, 1985
- Chinese General Chamber of Commerce Directory 1964-65
- Xianggang Shikuang, 1968 and 1970
This article was first posted on 15th January 2018.
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