Lee Kung Man (利工民): maker of the Golden Deer (金鹿) and Cicada (秋蟬) singlets and hosiery

York LO: Lee Kung Man (利工民): maker of the Golden Deer (金鹿) and Cicada (秋蟬) singlets and hosiery

Lee Kung Man Iamage Of Fung Sau Fu Founder Of LKM York Lo

Fung Sau-yu, founder of Lee Kung Man

 While many of the prewar singlet manufacturers in Hong Kong such as Chow Ngai Hing, Ngai Sang, Chuen Sun and Lee Yu Hing have long faded into history, Lee Kung Man Knitting Factory and its popular Golden Deer and Cicada brands (with its signature prancing deer and cicada logos) maintain its cult-like following after almost a century of operations since its founding in Canton in 1923 thanks to its high quality and memorable marketing.

Lee Kung Man’s founder Fung Sau-yu (馮壽如, 1889-1952) was a native of Shun Tak who started out peddling miscellaneous Western goods. In 1923, Fung bought six hand operated machines to make hosiery in Canton and he named his firm Lee Kung Man which means “benefiting workers and farmers” to reflect his ambitious goals. From the start, the firm emphasized high quality, using imported wool from the UK and established a stellar reputation. By 1925, a bigger factory was opened at Tung Hing Street in Canton with 20 machines and by 1927 the firm expanded to singlets and opened a distribution branch and factory in Des Voeux Road Central in Hong Kong in 1928. In 1938, the Japanese attacked and subsequently occupied Canton and the Lee Kung Man factory there was destroyed in the process. Fung moved production initially to his native Shun Tak and then later to Hong Kong in 1940 (where the firm registered its Deer trademark the year before). The next year, HK fell to the Japanese and Lee Kung Man operations was suspended. A devout Taoist, Fung stepped up to serve as the sixth head of the Taoist temple Fung Ying Seen Koon in Fanling from 1942 to 1945 during which he provided much needed food and fuel to the temple’s staff and kept the organization going.

When the War was over, Fung returned to Canton to resume the operations of Lee Kung man and handed the leadership of Fung Ying Seen Koon in HK to his friendly competitor Chow Chung-ting of Chow Ngai Hing. Business was good in the post War years in Canton with its Golden Deer and Cicada brand singlets and hosiery flying off the shelves but it turned out to be an Indian summer as the business would be nationalized after the Communists took over Canton in 1949. By this time, Fung had delegated the management of the business to his sons and nephews and spent most of his time in his countryside home in Fanling. However, concerns for the safety of his relatives who remained in the mainland proved to be too much and on August 21, 1952, Fung Sau-yu died after falling from the fourth floor of Lee Kung Man’s main store at 248 Des Voeux Road Central. At the time, Lee Kung Man had a factory at 192-200 Nam Cheong Street in Sham Shui Po (which also had a retail outlet at 200 Shanghai Street) with 120 workers and 100 machines producing 4000 dozen singlets and 3000 dozen socks per month which were sold locally and in Southeast Asia.

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Lee Kung Man booth at the 1962 HK Product Expo

After Fung’s death, the firm continued to thrive under the leadership of his nephew Fung Pak-kin (馮白堅, c1909-1978) and his sons Fung Ka-cheung (馮嘉祥, who ran the main store), Fung Ho-hing (馮浩卿 c1913-1982, aka Fung Ka-hon; he was also a Chinese doctor and Taoist leader) and Fung Ka-chun (馮嘉鎮). Fung Pak-kin, who served as the chairman of Lee Kung Man, lost his father at the age of 7 and was an avid swimmer, a Christian and active in many trade groups such and community groups such as the Shun Tak Fraternal Association. In 1954, a third retail outlet was added at 415 Shanghai Street in Yau Ma Tei, which was later relocated to 505 Shanghai Street in 1964 where it remains. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Lee Kung Man maintained a strong presence at the annual HK Products Expo, bidding for the biggest booths even during the riots of 1967. When the new marketing medium of TV commercial emerged in the early 1970s, Lee Kung Man took a chance and the result was a series of memorable commercials (included an animated one for the Golden Deer brand) which were big hits and played on the air for many years.

Despite cost pressure which had forced most of HK industries up north in more recent decades, Lee Kung Man insists on manufacturing locally and also maintains four old fashioned retail outlets in Sham Shui Po, Sheung Wan, Yaumatei and Wanchai while shipping its products to loyal customers across the globe.

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Left: Lee Kung Man executive greeting Governor Grantham who was visiting the Lee Kung Man booth at the HK Products Expo in 1957. Right: Lee Kung Man booth at the HK Products Expo in 1951  (Source: Lee Kung Man website)

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Cicada and Golden Deer; Lee Kung Man retail outlet

Sources:

  1. Classic Lee Kung Man TV commercial from the 1970s
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1I8kg5Fz90
  3. Lee Kung Man animated commercial from the 1970s promoting its Golden Deer brand
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZibeRh_wKAc
  5. Sources:
  6. http://www.leekungman.com/new1/history.htm
  7. http://www.hkmemory.hk/collections/hong_kong_products_exhibition/booths_in_the_past/lee_kung_man_knitting/index.html
  8. https://issuu.com/fysk/docs/201008/14
  9. http://www.gzzxws.gov.cn/gzws/gzws/fl/gs/200809/t20080909_7007.htm
  10. Kung Sheung Daily News, 1952-8-27
  11. 華僑日報, 1952-05-20, 1953-7-11, 1964-12-08
  12. 大公報, 1954-12-31

This article was first posted on 24th November 2017.

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