Fung Cheong Shun (豐昌順) – from Dyeing Factory to King of School Uniforms
York Lo: Fung Cheong Shun (豐昌順) – from Dyeing Factory to King of School Uniforms
Left: Billboard for Fung Cheong Shun fabric using Caledon dye next to A Fong Studio in the 1930s; Right: Fung Cheong Shun ad in 1967 (HK Pun U District Association)
Fung Cheong Shun, the oldest and largest maker of school uniforms in Hong Kong with 30% market share and over 300 schools as clients, traces its origin to the dyeing and weaving mill of the same name founded in Hoi Fung in Chiuchow in the late Ching Dynasty by the Fong family and moved to HK in the early 1900s. The firm is known as the grandfather of all school uniform makers in HK as the founders of leading competitors such asKam Lun School Uniforms (金綸校服, founded in 1959), Victoria Uniform (維多利校服, founded in 1983) and Golden Dragon School Uniforms (金龍校服) all started their careers at the firm.
Fong Yeung-chau – Founder of Fung Cheong Shun and Community Leader
Left: Fong Yeung-chau (HK Epitaphs); Right: Fung Cheong Shun outlet in the early years
Fung Cheong Shun founder Fong Yeung-chau (方養秋, 1883-1941, alias Min-fong綿晃) was a member of the fourth branch of a large family from Chao-an. The eldest branch of the family also had the reputation of being the “first family of accounting” in HK asit produced at least 11 accountants led by the three sons of HK Metropolitan Bank and Moral Training English College co-founder Fong Kai-yan (方繼仁) – Fong Hup (方俠,founder of Kwan, Wong, Tan & Fong which was acquired by Deloitte), Eddy Fong (方正,former SFC and PWC chairman and his wife Nellie was head of Andersen), and Mark Fong (方中,head of Moores Rowland). Yeung-chau inherited the dyeing mill business and moved to Hong Kong in 1903 where he established Fung Cheong Shun Dyeing & Weaving Factory in Kowloon City to make dyestuff and piece goods, making him one of the first Chiuchow industrialists in Hong Kong. In the 1930s, Fung Cheong Shun began the manufacturing of colorful clothes and school uniforms using Caledon dyes produced by ICI in the UK. The factory in Kowloon City was managed by Lam Cheung-tai (林長泰) and hired manyworkers from Chiuchow, one of whom by the name of Heung Chin (向前) organized a labor union at the factory under the name of Yee On (Yee On being the alternate name for Chiuchow). After Heung left Fung Cheong Shun, he transformed his union into the organized crime organization Sun Yee On.
Outside of business, Fong Yeung-chau was a member of Sun Yat-sen’sTongmenghui revolutionary organization in his younger days and financed his many revolutions through the 1920s. As early as 1906, Fong and other leading Chiuchow merchants in HK such as Chan Tin-san and Choi Kit-sze promoted the concept of establishing the HK Chiu Chow Chamber of Commerce although it did not become a reality until 1921 and he served as its chairman from 1924 to 1927. Outside of Fung Cheong Shun, he invested in other businesses such as Lam Chi-fung and Chan Tse-chiu’s coal trading firm of Sze Wai & Co and the vegetarian restaurant Siu Tze Yuen.In 1937, he established Tin Yin Daily at 29 Des Voeux Road Central, but due to mismanagement the paper was absorbed by South China Daily within one year of operations. He was a leader in the Buddhist community in HK alongside Chan Ching-tao of Wah Mei Electric (see article) and Lady Clara Hotung and was friends with the famous poet and writer Lu Bicheng who lived in HK in her final years.
In December 1941, Fong Yeung-chau was fatally injured during an air raid during the Battle of Hong Kong with his son Yip-kwong by his side. Despite of the dire circumstance at the time, allegedly over 1000 people attended his funeral.
Pivot After the War
Fung Cheong Shun ad in 1947 promoting new fabric (KSDN, 1947-6-15)
Fong Yeung-chau was succeeded at Fung Cheong Shun by his son Fong Yip-kwong (方業光,1923-2013, hereafter refer to as Y.K. Fong), who graduated from Lingnan University in Canton with a degree in economics. After the War, Fung Cheong Shun operated its main store out of 114 Des Voeux Road Central (now Shun On Commercial Building 順安商業大廈) on the HK side while its factory was located at 144 Nga Tsin Wai Road (now Kimley Court) in Kowloon City on the Kowloon side. In 1953, Fung Cheong Shun Dyeing & Weaving Factory Ltd was incorporated with Y.K. Fong and Fong Yin-chi (方彥之) as shareholders and with HK$500,000 in capital. (FEER, 1954) However, strong competition from larger factories established by emigrants from Shanghai and political uncertainties forced them to pivot to retail and school uniforms and “dyeing & weaving” was dropped from the firm’s name in 1955 after the family decided to close the factory and its 15000 sq ft site was sold for HK$250,000..
In the 1940s, the Fongsstarted two new businesses – Golden Dragon Piece Goods Co (金龍布行) at 85 Fook Lo Tsun Road in Kowloon City in 1949 and the department store Cambridge Company (金碧百貨)at China Building in Central. Golden Dragon, which was managed by Fong Yin-chi who was also factory manager and chief engineer of Fung Cheong Shun, produced several popular brands of fabric such as “Golden Dragon”, “Navy” and “Air Force” used by many schools and organizations. In 1961, Golden Dragon opened a branch at 194 Prince Edward Road with the family’s longtime business partner Lam Chi-fung of Ka Wah Bank as guest of honor. (WKYP, 1961-4-30)
Cambridge operated until the 1970s and was low key except for July 1950 when a major fire broke out in the morning during business hours. The fire was put out by the firefighters with help from the store’s neighbor Elite Style but unfortunately over $100,000 worth of goods were damaged. (WKYP, 1950-7-28) According to Y.K. Fong, the “King of Ties” Tsang Hin-chi tried to get Cambridge to carry his ties when he started outand it was Fong who picked the current auspicious Chinese name of his Goldlion brand. As a firm, Cambridge Company, Ltd was incorporated in 1947 and dissolved in 1978.
In the 1950s, Fung Cheong Shun had its own mini-football team led by Fong Yip-sau (方業修, presumably a sibling or cousin of Fong Yip-kwong) and its players include Yiu Cheuk-yin (1928-2008) and Ho Cheng-yau MBE (1933-2016), both of whom were major football stars at the time playing also for South China Athletic Association. (WKYP, 1954-8-14)
Article about the Fung Cheong Shun soccer team in 1954 (WKYP, 1954-8-14)
In 1960, Fung Cheong Shun expanded its main store at 114 Des Voeux Road Central and the opening reception was attended by the who’s who of the Chiuchow business community in HK in addition to representatives of Kwong On, Standard Chartered, Wing On and Yau Yue Bank. (WKYP, 1960-8-21)
King of School Uniforms
After the closure of his dyeing and weaving factory, Fong Yip-kwong pivoted Fung Cheong Shun’s business to school uniforms in the 1950s as there were little competition and exploding demand with large number of new schools being set up and schools moving to HK from the mainland. One of his first clients was Ho Chung-chung of True Light Girls School who approached him to produce a qipao style school uniform with three inches below the knee to prevent students from running. Soon orders from other schools such as Belilios, Ying Wa, Rosary Hill and New Method followed. Over time, he befriended many headmasters and headmistresses and became their preferred provider of school uniforms. Fung Cheong Shun also began working with the Shanghai-based manufacturer to make the “Da Di” brand of woollen winter jackets, sending them designs and then market the finished products in HK.
Fong Yip-kwong (middle) being interviewed at Fung Cheong Shun by Wong Yuk-man (right) and Helen Au from TVB in 1996 (myTVsuper)
In the 1970s, Fung Cheong Shun began a subsidies program for students who could not afford to buy their school uniforms, charging half price or giving out uniforms for free with notes from the principals. In the 1980s, Y.K. Fong was joined in his business by his son in law Ho Fu-kwok (何富國) and in the 1990s, the firm opened its 10000 sq ft factory in Weizhou employing over 300 workers. (in the early days the firm outsourced its manufacturing to mom and pop contractors in different parts of Kowloon) In 2008, the Education department mandated that schools opened its school uniform contract for tender and Fung Cheong Shun lost 15 clients in 2009 to lower bidders, only gained 11 of them back later. By 2012, the firm remain the industry leader with HK$37 million in annual sales and 9 outlets in HK and the family’s fourth generation had joined the business.
Outside of business, Fong Yip-kwong was a well-respected historian of modern HK and Chinese literature who had written eight books, usually under his Buddhist name of Fong Foon-lit (方寬烈). He passed away in 2013 at the age of 90.
Sources (other than those cited above):
Next Magazine 2012-9-6 article about Fung Cheong Shun: https://articles.zkiz.com/?rbid=37057
This article was first posted on 1st February 2021.
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