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Dee Poon Opens Shirt Shop in Hong Kong

In the last 18 months, she opened four small PYE stores in China before opening her flagship in the luxury Pacific Place mall in Hong Kong.

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Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 02/28/2013

HONG KONG — With Dickson Poon, owner of Harvey Nichols, for a father, and Marjorie Yang, chairwoman and chief executive officer of shirt manufacturing giant Esquel Group, for a mother, it seemed inevitable that Dee Poon would end up working in the family business. Instead of choosing either retail or manufacturing, she opted to combine both by relaunching a men’s shirt brand called PYE. In the last 18 months, she opened four small stores in China before opening her flagship in the luxury Pacific Place mall in Hong Kong.

It’s no small feat in a city celebrated for its tailors, not to mention the ubiquity of top international men’s shirt labels, from Ralph Lauren and Ermenegildo Zegna to Brooks Brothers, Alfred Dunhill and Gieves & Hawkes. But Poon felt she was ready to take on that staple of the masculine wardrobe, the white shirt.

“We focus on the white shirt because it is iconic and because it is hard to do well,” she explained. “This does not mean we don’t make colored or patterned shirts. But I like to showcase our white shirts because I hope that people will feel as though if they can get a great white shirt from us, then they would want to get other types of shirts as well.”

What sets PYE apart is that it is probably the world’s first wholly vertically integrated shirt brand. For starters, the cotton comes from Esquel’s own cotton farms in China. Then there’s “the sheer amount of research and merchandising that we put towards the creation of a shirt. As a shirt specialist with a vertical supply chain behind us, we are able to think about shirts in a way that other people may not,” said Poon.

Everything is made within the company, including collar stays and buttons. “I believe it is important to control every part of the supply chain,” she said, “not only because of the quality that we can provide, and the prices that we are able to bring to the market, but also because we can be certain that our products are made in a way that is responsible and align with our values.”

PYE was actually launched in 1984 by her mother as a clothing brand with an East-West aesthetic. Poon decided to revive and work with PYE rather than start a new brand because she didn’t want it to be “completely about me.”

PYE, she said, developed as a China-centric story. “We believe that it is important to be in China to understand the market. Hong Kong is a very international city and a window to both China and the rest of the world, but to understand what is going on in China, one must be there. By entering Hong Kong, I believe we are in a new phase.” A Shanghai store is slated to open this summer.

The shirts are offered in three collections — infinity, executive and classic ranging from $888 Hong Kong dollars ($115) to $2,888 Hong Kong dollars ($373) — in three fits and Poon added that while the main PYE customer is Chinese, Westerners “like our fits. The reality is that every person is different, and the concept of an Asian or Western fit is a generalization. In my experience in Hong Kong, our fits have been able to capture basically all people who are able to buy shirts off the rack. People who have said to me that they aren’t able to buy a shirt from us tend to have to get their shirts tailored. But we continue to capture that data in case one day we want to do a fourth fit.”

PYE also offers a made-to-measure service, but Poon said that “currently our personalization program is less than 1 percent of the business. As we offer so many sizes and so many options, many people prefer to just buy off the rack.”

Poon said customers have reacted positively to the store’s design and original packaging inspired by the art of Chinese paper folding. The sleek and minimalist interiors were designed by Ray Chen, while Stanley Wong handled creative branding. For Poon, packaging is an extension of the shirt and “is pretty much a product in itself. We believe that each part of what you get from us should bring value, and hence we pay attention in the development of the details.”

The white cotton poplin shirt remains the most popular item in the store. While Poon, hailed in Hong Kong for her chic fashion sense, wears her own shirts “both in the day as well as often to bed,” she has not quite decided whether to do a women’s line. “We had a ladies line in China but are in the process of streamlining it into a very small collection. We want to focus on creating the best product, even if that means we must do less.”

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