Fou Wah Weaving Mills, Kia Fung Textile and Wing Wah Textiles
York Lo: Fou Wah Weaving Mills, Kia Fung Textile and Wing Wah Textiles
Left: Chao An-chung (left) and S.C. Lok (right) in 1963; Right: Chao An-chung at Kia Fung Textile in the early 1960s
Fou Wah Weaving Mills, Kia Fung Textiles and Wing Wah Textiles are three textiles companies founded in HK after the War by three Shanghainese entrepreneurs who were business partners – Shiu-Cheung Lock (駱肇祥), Chao An-chung (趙安中, 1918-2007) andS.C. Lee (李紹周).
Fou Wah Weaving Mills (富華織造廠)
The first of the three firms to be established was Fou Wah Weaving Mills, which was incorporated by S.C. Loh in 1948 to weave silk. Before he moved to HK, S.C. Loh was the factory manager of Fou Kiang Hing Kee Silk Factory (富強興記綢廠) in Shanghai. (Who’s Who in Shanghai in 1941).
In the early 1950s, Lock established Tai Hwa Silk Weaving Mill(大華綢廠) in Taiwan with Legislative Yuan member S.T. Chou (周兆棠, 1901-1973) as chairman and fellow silk mill owners from Shanghai – S.Y. Tung (童省予, 1899-) and T.P. Yeh (葉道本, 1890-?) as directors. The factory, which involved 20 technicians and US$124,361 in investments including machinery and materials, commenced production in 1953 and was one of the top 10 silk weaving mills in Taiwan. In 1956, Lock made a follow-on investment in Tai Hwa through the exports of materials to the firm.
In September 1959, members of the government appointed Electricity Supply Companies Commission including chair J. Mould and members Dhun Ruttonjee and C.J.M. Bennett visited the Fou Wah factory on Castle Peak Road in Tsuen Wan as part of their investigation into the role of electricity supply companies in the industrial development of HK as shown in the article below. According to factory manager Chan Yiu-wong’s explanation in the article, Fou Wah imported silk from Japan and Italy and then wove different silk products based on their own designs with over 300 workers and machinery mostly procured from Shanghai although some were manufactured locally in HK. In July of that year alone, the firm spent HK$55800 on electricity, which was a substantial sum at the time.
Fou Wah factory manager Chan Yiu-wong (first from right) explaining design patterns to members of the Electricity Commission (right to left): Dhun Ruttonjee, Mr & Mrs. J. Mould visiting Fou Wah in 1959. (WKYP, 1959-9-4)
In the 1960s, Fou Wah’s factory was located at 2-6 Sha Tsui Road in Tsuen Wan while its offices were located at the Pilkem House at 45-51 Pilkem Street. (AA Far East Businessman Directory, 1969; Asia Textile Survey, 1940). By the late 1960s, S.C. Lock was supported at Fou Wah by his son Kwan-Bui Lock (駱君弼) and James Nei (倪澄波). (Universal Chinese Overseas Directory, 1969)(Textiles: Hong Kong by Kurt Salmon Associates, 1969; Asian Cotton Textile Outlook, 1992) In 1972, part of the Fou Wah site on Sha Tsui Road was re-developed into the Fou Wah Industrial Building.
S.C. Lock was succeeded at Fou Wah by his sons – Kwan-Bui, Kwan-To and Kwan-Tso Lock. (Members’ Directory, FHKI, 1993)As a firm, Fou Wah Weaving Mills Ltd was dissolved in 2009 and its site in Sha Tsui Road was re-developed into The Octagon (嘉達環球中心) by the K.Wah Group in 2014.
Kia Fung Textile (嘉豐紡織) and Wing Wah Textiles (榮華紡織)
Outside of silk, S.C. Lock invested in cotton spinning via Kia Fung and Wing Wah, which were started by Chao An-chung. A native of Ningbo, Chao started working at the age of 15 in 1933 as an apprentice at a money changer and came to HK in 1949 with a small amount of luggage, US$20 and HK$120 in his pocket and two inexpensive rings. In HK, he worked briefly for a gold dealer before entering the textile business as an accountant for a weaving factory in Kowloon. In 1953, he traveled to Japan to start a trading business between HK and Japan during which he got very sick in Osaka but was helped by a fellow Shanghainese trader S.C. Lee who checked him into a hospital. Unable to compete with the large Japanese trading houses, Lee introduced Chao to jointhe HK branch of Japanese trading firm Gosho Co (江商洋行), a leading distributor of Japanese textile products (such as the synthetic fiber producer Teijin) and machinery as a salesman in 1956.
Attracted by the profits in the production of cotton yarns, Chao with the backing of Japanese cotton spinner and nylon producerKurehabo and trading giant C. Itoh established Kia Fung Textile in 1960 at Lot 452, DD 442 in Tsuen Wan with capital of $3.5 million to produce the “Golden Apple” and “Orange” brand of cotton yarn. (Directory of Commerce, 1963; FEER, 1964) S.C. Lee served as chairman of the firm while Chao managed the day to day operations as managing director. Unable to turn a profit after few years of operations, the Japanese partners decided to wind Kia Fung down (as a firm, Kia Fung Textile was dissolved in 1977) so Chao quit his job at Gosho, stepped up and bought the equipment with the support of S.C. Lee and S.C. Lock and incorporated Wing Wah Textiles in 1965 to continue the business. Given his seniority, Lock was named chairman of Wing Wah but held the position until his death even though he was bought out in 1968 and Lee also had to step aside due to his business ties with the mainland which resulted in the firm being blacklisted by the US government for cotton purchases.
Chao An-chung (center) with colleagues at Wing Wah Textiles
The cotton spinning business recovered in the mid-1960s and in 1968, Wing Wah acquired its factory at Lot 693 on Castle Peak Road in Tsuen Wan and was able to secure financing from HSBC and Chartered Bank for further expansion. By 1969, Wing Wah which was operating of Takshing House in Central had 12000 spindles and produced cotton yarn brands such as “Three Peaches”, “Loquats”, “Purple Grapes” and “Large Oranges”. (Red Book, 1969)
In the early 1970s, Chao decided to move Wing Wah’s production to Bandung, Indonesia and in 1972 opened PT Wing Wah Indonesia Textiles (also known as Wingindotex) with investments of US$300,000 (Pacific Basin Reports). With the support of a childhood friend who was a graduate of St John’s University in Shanghai and his eldest son Chao Hang-hin (趙亨衍, 1943-) who went to university in Australia, Wingindotex commenced production in 1973. The firm survived the depreciation of Indonesian rupiah in 1978 and continues to operate to this date. A frugal man but a generous philanthropist, Chao An-chung donated over HK$130 million to over 160 schools in HK and China, most notably Ningbo University in his hometown, Nanjing University and Zhejiang University from 1986 until his death in 2007.
Sources (other than those cited above):
This article was first posted on 30th April 2021.
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