Survivors of the Industrial Hub of the Past
Hong Kong, where are mother company Comfort Workwear Ltd, and ourselves at Jonathan, come from, has seen an extraordinary change in the past 50 years. For those of you in your mid-50's or so, you may remember owning toys, watches, or small electronics bearing the "Made in Hong Kong" sign. Our blog entry this time will touch on a little history of our home Hong Kong, and how we, at Comfort Workwear Ltd, powered through the changing times.
At the beginning of the colonial times, Hong Kong started off as a simple little place, home to many fishers and farmers. Fast forward through history, Hong Kong has dealt with a series of challenges, from surviving the third Bubonic plague in the late 19th century, to enduring the hardships of the Japanese occupation during WW2. All significant in their own ways, but none with more impact on the manufacturing industry, than the migration of people.
Hong Kong in the 1920's
One of the most significant catalysts catapulting Hong Kong from a mere humble village to a colossal financial powerhouse today is the migration of people during the beginning of the communist era, late 40's. At this point in time, despite WW2 whittling Hong Kong's population to 600 000 people, Hong Kong saw a sudden influx of skilled refugees flowing in from China, bringing the population up to a whopping 2.1 million within the 5 years of migration.
So what can you do with a sudden increase in population? Well, long story short, more people means new settlements, new businesses, ... and a great need for jobs. Here's where the textile and garment manufacturing really solidified itself as a staple industry, that by the time the 60's came around, Hong Kong's textile industry became the most successful in all of Asia. This continued straight in the 70's, whereby Hong Kong established itself as an industrialised city, albeit the movement of factories to the north of Hong Kong due to the opening of the Chinese market.
Hong Kong Kwun Tong Industrial Area in the 1970's
By the time of the 80's came around, the younger workforce of Hong Kong is shying away from the traditional manufacturing industry. Faced with the increase cost of labour and factory rentals, more factories are moving their operations further north, into the Shenzhen and Dongguan. Add on the impact of Black Monday in 1983, many of ageing factory workers in Hong Kong were left unemployed.
This is were we start talking a little about our founder, and her father. Our founder, a humble lady in her young 20's at the time, decided to quit her day job, to open her own factory in the uniform/workwear manufacturing industry so that one real important factory worker, her dad, would find employment, and finish sending his remaining 3 daughters to school. Now, our story isn't all stars and butterflies at the beginning, in fact our founder stumbled quite a little while, until her final attempt in this business succeeded, giving us Comfort Workwear Ltd in 1984. Back then, our factory was situated in Fotan, just off the edge of the "New Territories", with a little team of those middle aged ladies and gents displaced from the migration of factories out of Hong Kong. We are proud to say we were listed as one of the SOLE OFFICIAL manufacturers for boilersuits in HK back then. With interest from customers wanting to do business with the far east, we began manufacturing for many large international brands, producing high quality skilled uniform garments, and exporting them all over the place, gradually growing our company.
Our Founder, Ms Cherry Fung in her office 1984
In the mid 90's, our little manufacturing plant in Hong Kong was unable to cope with the increased orders from abroad, and decided to move north too, building our first factory in Huizhou, China. And when that factory became to small to handle all our orders, we built another factory in Sichuan, China, in 2003. This then increased to 3 factories in Mian Yang, Sichuan, giving us a combined area of 1.7million sq ft of factory space. Today, we have expanded our manufacturing into Laos, and are planning to have yet a new factory further north off Vientiane in Laos next year.
Our factory pre-opening in Huizhou 1997
Our factory sewing room in 1997 in Huizhou
Our factory staff being inspected by clients in 1997 in Huizhou
Our first Sichuan Factory in 2004
Our first Laos Factory in 2018
Our brand, Jonathan came to be in the late 2000's, and have since began providing our services and quality garments back to our home Hong Kong in 2015.
Hong Kong has now became a service industry dominated city, with little remains of the manufacturing history, except for the leftover empty factory buildings and street signs indicating what used to be made in the area. But the spirit of providing the best products remains the soul of our company, and we shall not forget our identity: a humble little family business powering through whatever changes our future holds. That is what it takes to survive the transition.