Dickson and Hopson: the Tales of Two Handbag Companies

York Lo: Dickson and Hopson: the Tales of Two Handbag Companies

Dickson and Hopson are two players in the handbag business in Central with similar sounding names and over half a century of history but catering to two different segments – the earlier focused on the higher end clientele while the latter caters to the mass market with its own manufacturing operations.

Dickson & Co (特式有限公司)

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Article about the opening of Dickson in 1960 at the Central Building with picture of Dickson Yeung (left) and Lam Man-kit (WKYP, 1960-2-4)

Founded in 1960 by Dickson Yeung (楊廸蓀, 1910-1986), Dickson & Co has been in business for over six decades. A native of Shiqi in Zhongshan, Dickson Yeung was a second-generation retailer as his father Yeung Kwan-chak (楊君澤)co-founded TheMayfair Co Ltd (美華公司), a ladies and gentlemen outfitter and seller of piece goods in 1930. Mayfair operated out of the China Building in Central in the 1940s and 1950s withfellow Zhongshan native K.B. Cheung (張錦波) and Lee Bing-fun of Elite Style (see article) as directors. (Business Directory of HK, Canton and Macao, 1949)By 1962, Cheng Yu-tung of Chow Tai Fook had become the chairman of Mayfair and added a jewelry and watch department that year. As a firm, Mayfair was incorporated in 1934 and dissolved in 2010.

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Left: Sir Shouson Chow (seated) with Yeung Kwan-chak (and likely K.B. Cheung and P.F. Lee) at the Mayfair Co in 1955-9-26); Right: Sir Tsun-nin Chau (center) cutting the ribbon for the opening of the jewelry & watch department of the Mayfair Co with Mr&Mrs Cheng Yu-tung and the directors of the firm in 1962 (WKYP, 1962-9-25)

Outside of business, Yeung Kwan-chak served as chairman of the historic retail trade guild Pok Yik Commercial Society (普益商會), the HK Chungshan Commercial Association and the Yeung Clansman Association (楊氏宗親會) in the 1950sbefore his death in October 1968 at his residence in Yau Yat Chuen at the age of 82 and was survived by 2 sons (1 son predeceased him) and 3 daughters.

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Yeung Kwan-chak (fourth from the left) and other leaders of the Yeung Clansmen Association at their Chinese New Year celebration and senior appreciation dinner in 1961 (WKYP, 1961-3-26)

Dickson graduated from Lingnan University in Cantonand followed his father to HK at a young age. In 1960, he decided to strike out on his own and launched Dickson & Co, one of the first retailers in HK dedicated to handbags at the Central Building in Central. The opening ceremony was attended by over 1000 guests including his landlords the Hui family and Kwan Fun-fat, Lee Yat-ngok, Mr. Gokson of Wing On, Young Chi-wan of King Fook and many others.

The chairman of Dickson & Co at launch was Lam Man-kit (林文傑), who was known for his stint as chairman of Po Leung Kuk and his law practice M.K. Lam & Co, which he started in 1954and is continued by his son Keith Lam Hon-keung (林漢強), former member of the Legislative Council and Southern District Council and grandson Anthony Lam Chi-tat (林志達), renowned civil celebrant to this day.

In 1976, Dickson conducted its 16th anniversary sale featuring new handbags imported by air from France, Germany, Italy and Spain, many of them exclusive in Hong Kong. By that time, the firm also had a branch at the Hang Seng Bank Building on Cameron Road in Kowloon. (WKYP, 1976-2-11)

In 1979, Dickson ran its 19th anniversary sale featuring all kinds of leather handbags with prices ranging from $100 to $9000. (WKYP, 1979-1-24)

Like his father, Dickson Yeung had served as chairman of the HK Chungshan Commercial Association (香港中山僑商會). In April 1986, he died at the HK Sanatorium at the age of 76. His funeral was attended or received wreaths from the who’s who of HK business community including many from Hang Seng Bank as his eldest son in law Samuel Lam Shau-tong (林秀棠) is the fifth son of Hang Seng Bank co-founder B.Y. Lam and also Lai Sun Group founder Lim Por-yen and the sons of Young Chi-wan and his pallbearers included his Lingnan classmates Wong Siu-keung and Leung Tin-sun, both sons in law of Lee Yat-ngok of Local Printing Press (see article). (WKYP, 1986-4-12)

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Obituary of Dickson Yeung in 1986 with his portrait in his later years. (WKYP, 1986-4-9)

Dickson Yeung and his wife had two sons and three daughters and he was succeeded at Dickson & Co by his eldest son Ho-cheung (楊浩璋), who graduated from the University of Calgary in Canada with a business degree while his second son Yeung Kwok-cheung(楊國璋) founded Functional B Electronics (佳捷電子), a maker of radios and speakers in 1969 (although as a firm it was not incorporated until 1981).

Dickson’s eldest son in law Samuel Lam served as managing director of the former Hang Seng affiliate Dah Chong Hong and his sons (Dickson Yeung’s grandsons) include Kenneth Lam (林詩鍵) who is head of Asia shipping finance for Credit Agricole and president of the HK Golf Association, Kevin Lam (林詩棋), a senior executive at Citibank in HK and son in law of Victor Fung of Li & Fung and Owen Lam (林詩澔), who was the son in law of film producer Raymond Wong Pak-ming.

Dickson & Co had moved out of Central Building and relocated to Melbourne Plaza where it continues to operate.

Hopson Handbag (合式手袋) and Hop’s Handbag (合式手袋)

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Ad for Hopson Handbag and Hop’s Handbag in 1981 (KSEN, 1981-1-7)

Although Hop’s Handbag Co and its manufacturing affiliate Hopson Handbag Manufacturingwere incorporated in 1976 and 1977, they were likely founded earlier and are both named after its founder Mrs. Lee Chan Lin-Hop (李陳蓮合).

The firm emerged out of Li Yuen East Street, a small alley in Central named after Li Yuk-tong’s trading firm of Kim Li Yuen in the turn of the century and emerged as the “Central’s Women Street” after the 1950s with the establishment of many stores selling inexpensive clothes, bags and souvenirs to locals and tourists. From the 1981 ad above, Hopson Handbag had its head office on the ground floor of 27-29 Li YuenStreet West and factory at Yuen Long while Hop’s Handbag had stores at 8 and 17 Li Yuen Street East and the ground floor of 517 Hennessy Road in Causeway Bay. In 1974, the Lee family also acquired a 3-story 1930s building at 22-24 Li Yuen Street East and added two more floors to it as storage and the family over time controlled various properties on the Street.

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Left: Smoke filling Central from the Hop’s Handbag fire on Li Yuen Street East in 2002 (The Sun); Right: the former Hop’s Handbag building in Edmonton

In 1993, Hop’s acquired the 82-year-old, 6-story Canadian Pacific Railway Buildings in Edmonton, Albertaand caused controversy when they demolished it to make way for a 2-story new building for a Hop’s Handbag store. The store, which cost CAD4 million to build including CAD500,000 to keep the stone façade of the old building bowing to pressure from City Hall, was opened by the mayor Jan Reimer and created 30 new jobs. Unfortunately, the store only lasted three years before it shut down and the storefront laid vacant for eight years before Design Group as shown in the picture below moved in.

In 2002, Hop’s hit the headlines in HK when a fire broke out at its premises at 22-24 Li Yuen Street East that lasted for over 18 hours, with smokes covering the Central business district and required 100 firefighters to put out using special techniques of drilling holes into the building to release the heat. At the time, Hop’s just sold the property to a developer two months before and rented the ground floor and first floor of the building as storefront, the second floor as offices and the third and fourth floor as warehouse full of highly flammable PVC and leather bags.Fortunately, no one was harmed during the fire, but the firm suffered $2 million in damages. (The Sun, 2002-9-16)

Hopson Handbag Manufacturing operated out of the Hyfco Industrial Building at 20 Fuk Lee Street in Kowloon in 1990s (Business Directory of HK, 1991) but dissolved as a firm in 2004. Kwing-kwong Lee (李炯光) and Yuen-Kwong Lee (李𧨎光), presumably sons of Mrs. Lee, are also involved in the business. In the 2010s, the firm operated out of 12 Li Yuen Street East and according to Fodor’s Guide, also sold all types of luggage from generic to name brands such as Samsonite in addition to handbags.

Sources (other than those cited above):

http://the-sun.on.cc/channels/news/20020916/20020916035839_0001.html

https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/dec-1-1993-building-demolition-a-sore-point-for-aldermen/

This article was first posted on 11th January 2021.

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