Vincent and Wesintex: two local apparel brands from the 1960s to 1980s

York Lo: Vincent and Wesintex: two local apparel brands from the 1960s to 1980s

Vincent and Wesintex were two popular local apparel brands which were manufactured by Winner Co Ltd and Wu Wei Shing Knitting respectively with similar sounding Chinese names. Both brands have since faded into history.

Winner () and Vincent Shirt (永勝恤)

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Print ad for Vincent shirt in the 1970s; Right: booth for Vincent Shirts at the HK Products Expo in 1965

Vincent Shirt was introduced in the early 1960s by Winner Ltd and was named after its founder Vincent W.H. Chou (1921-2007), who as covered earlier in the group was also the co-founder of Winner Foods, the maker of Doll instant noodles. A native of Suzhou, Vincent Chou started his career working as a technician for a dyeing mill in Shanghai during the Sino-Japanese War and then later established a metal factory which manufactured sewing machine needles. In 1948, he came to Hong Kong where he established Soco Textiles (中南紡織) with his younger brother C.K. Chow, T.K. Ann (安子介,1912-2000, see article) and H.C. Tang in 1951. Two years later, they added South China Bleaching & Dyeing Factory (華南漂染廠) on Castle Peak Road and in 1960, they formed Winner Co Ltd (永南有限公司) to go into manufacturing of garment and fabric.

In 1963, Winner organized a Chinese naming contest for its new Vincent brand of collared and sport shirtsand received several hundred entries. Out of this, they picked “Wing Sing” (永勝), which sounded like Vincent and translates to “Always Win” in Chinese. (KSDN, 1963-6-19) In December 1964, Vincent Shirts participated in the HK Products Expo for the first time. The booth was covered with several dozen shirt fabric and all visitors who purchased any Vincent products were entered into a lucky draw where winners won gold rings.  (WKYP, 1964-12-9)

At the HK Products Expo in 1965, the Vincent Shirts boothshown above won the second prize in the booth competition judged by official Sir Ronald Holmes, architect Szeto Wai andeditor Kayser Sung, only losing to Tingtai Hwachong (see article). (NYSP, 1965-12-24)The booth also attracted a lot of traffic as they hosted movie stars Yu So-chau (于素秋) and her husband Mak Bing-wing (麥炳榮) and Cheung Ying-choi and Mak Kee. (KSEN, 1965-12-21) They also did the lucky draw again but in addition to rings also gave out transistor radios. The shirts were for sale from $12-18 each. (WKYP, 1965-12-14)

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Vincent Shirt salesladies at Shui Hing department store in 1965 (WKYP, 1965-4-21)         

In 1965, Vincent shirts were available for sale in major local department stores such as Shui Hing, Sincere and The Sun Co with dedicated salesladies at the stores and the firm also pioneered the sale of shirts by phone. The same year, Chou and his partners formed Soco Knitters (中南針織廠).

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Movie star Yu So-chau visiting the Vincent Shirts booth at the HK Products Expo in 1965 (WKYP, 1965-12-21)

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Stars of TVB show Enjoy Yourself Tonight visiting Winner to learn about the production of Vincent shirts (WKYP, 1968-6-28)

In June 1968, the producer and the stars of the popular TVB variety show Enjoy Yourself Tonight including Lydia Shum visited Winner Ltd to observe the production process of Vincent Shirts which was making Vincent branded raincoats, trousers and sportswear in addition to shirts. In 1969, Winner, Soco Textiles, South China Bleaching & Dyeing and Soco Knitters were amalgamated into Winsor Industrial Corporation and went public on the local exchange. The firm later also absorbed wool textile producer Hilwin (see article on Oriental Pacific) and East Sun Textiles (see article) and was the largest vertically integrated textile conglomerate in HK at one point. Although T.K. Ann was chairman of Winsor because of his seniority and industry leadership, the lower key Vincent Chou was the largest shareholder of the group and ran the day to day operations as managing director.

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Left: Vincent Shirt commercial in 1980 (VCRBase); Right: Vincent Chou and his wife Ina (Apple Daily)

Winner continued to market Vincent shirts in the 1970s and early 1980s and in November 1982, Vincent Shirts opened a retail outlet in Tower 1 of Admiralty Centre. (WKYP, 1982-12-3) By then, Vincent shirts sold for about HK$75 each. (Fodors Hong Kong and Macau, 1983) In addition to local sales, it was also exported to markets like Singapore. By the 1980s however, Vincent Chou had shifted his attention to other areas such as real estate (Ocean-Land Development and Winsor Properties), food (Doll noodles), retail (KK Supermarket, founded in 1986, sold to Guangnan in 1996) and Chinese medicine (Winsor Health Products,百草堂 founded in 1984). He was particularly obsessed with the last one and did a lot of interviews promoting its “Essence of Mushroom” for cancer protection.

Outside of business, Vincent Chou had served as director of Tung Wah and Po Leung Kuk and chairman of New Asia College at CUHK and was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1975. He and his wife Ina Yim Wan-chun (嚴雲震, 1929-2020) were survived by six daughters.

Sources (other than what’s cited above):

https://articles.zkiz.com/?rbid=22327

http://orientaldaily.on.cc/archive/20050515/new/new_a72cnt.html

TV commercial for Vincent Shirts in 1980:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crOiJwHsu4I

Wu Wei Shing Knitting (胡緯誠織) and Wesintex Shirt (威勝恤)

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Ad for Wu Wei Shing’s Wesintex in 1977 (Xianggang Nian Jian)

Wesintex was a brand of sport shirt and blouse introduced by Wu Wei Shing Knitting Factory, which operated out of 400 Portland Street in Kowloon. Little info is available about the origin of the firm but like many of the other knitting factories in Hong Kong covered earlier such as Lee Yu Hing and Chow Ngai Hing, the firm was started in Canton and later moved to HK and was started before the 1950s. It is unclear as when Wesintex was first introduced but it likely derived its English name from the firm’s name while its Chinese name could be inspired by the similar sounding Chinese name of Vincent Shirts.

The Wesintex shirts and blouses were made out of French silk and like many garment manufacturers at the time, production was farmed out to family subcontractors when capacity of the plant was fully utilized. Wu Wei Shing also made pants and jeans. (WKYP, 1975-6-2) In 1976, the Wesintex shirts were available at all major departmnt stores in HK and selling for between $35-45 each. The daily local sales volume was over 1200 shirts and allegedly the brand was also popular in Southeast Asia although newspaper search in Singapore yielded no results. (WKYP, 1976-8-18)

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Left: Wu Chiu-kei, managing director of Wu Wei Shing Knitting in 1977 (WKYP, 1977-3-14); Right: article about Wu Wei Shing and Wesintex in 1976 (WKYP)

In the 1970s, Wu Wei Shing was led by Wu Chiu-kei (胡超驥), who visited Taiwan, Japan and Europe in 1977 as shown in above article to study the latest trends in the knitting industry and to promote Wesintex shirts.

As a firm, Wu Wei Shing Knitting was incorporated in 1978 and dissolved in 2003.

This article was first posted on 19th April 2021.

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