Kiki Leung Yuen-ki keeps the 138-year-old handmade umbrella brand alive to preserve traditional craftsmanship in Hong Kong.
By Jasmine Lam
Being the fifth generation of Leung So Kee, a famous umbrella making shop in Hong Kong established in 1885, Kiki Leung Yuen-ki only officially became a full-time worker of the shop in 2023.
“It is not like a shop only selling umbrellas, but like an old friend (to customers), ” Leung says.
Waking up every day at 9 a.m., Leung opens the shop at 11:30 a.m. and leaves as late as 8:00 p.m. Her main area is marketing, replying to customers’ messages and managing social media accounts.
“The working hours are more flexible compared to before,” she says, adding that she worked in the leasing industry. She was mainly responsible for dealing with tenancy agreements and leasing residential and industrial properties.
Once Leung joined the family business, she adopted new measures to renew the 138-year-old brand to attract customers, including moving the retail shop to a new site and setting up umbrella making workshops.
By moving Leung So Kee from Sham Shui Po to Tsim Sha Tsui, Leung brings the traditional handmade umbrella shop into the modern world. She has also transformed the brand by using more digital marketing and she has set up a website for the public to order products online since October 2020.
“Social media is important. It is the way with the lowest cost to promote products,” Leung says.
“The pandemic changes everything. It makes me think something more like – You cannot just sit here and do nothing,” she adds.
On top of promoting digital marketing, she initiated an umbrella making workshop in 2021. Customers can make their own umbrellas, with the assistance of staff in two hours.
“Through the workshop, people know how to make an umbrella and how our brand is,” Leung says.
“Making umbrellas is actually an intangible cultural heritage. All our umbrellas are handmade. I want to promote this culture,” she adds.
Also, she wants everyone in her family can contribute to the family business.
“My brother draws really well. And we decided to print his drawings in the fabric of umbrellas,” she says, adding that her brother was diagnosed with Down syndrome.
While many people are leaving the city, Leung, who studied Specialist Economics in the University of Toronto, is determined to stay.
“I used to come back to Hong Kong every year. I love Hong Kong more (than Canada), ”Leung says.
“My parents wanted me to come back. Also, Hong Kong has more job opportunities. The pace of Hong Kong suits me more, ” she adds.
Leung stresses she loves the century-old family business because it is not merely a shop selling umbrellas but a place with many different stories with customers.
“After the pandemic, customers can take the flight back to Hong Kong. Many emigrants come back and talk to us about their stories,” Leung says.
Other than people flying back from the United States, Singapore and Japan, some new customers come because of their social media and interviews published in various channels.
“Like yesterday, a group of emigrants from the U.S. came to the shop. A lady said her son had told her to buy an umbrella here because he spotted our interview online,” she says.
“After buying an umbrella for him, she later returned to buy another one for her other son. All her sons now use our umbrellas,” she adds.
Leung does not have a definite answer for her future plan. She believes there are still many opportunities for her to explore.
“For this moment, I would like to stay here,” Leung says.
Sub-edited by Christine So