The Mills Remembers Hong Kong’s Textile Past and Promotes Its Future

HONG KONG — Like a lot of children who grow up in magnate families, Vanessa Cheung wasn’t so sure she wanted to work for the family business.
Cheung’s grandfather, Chen Din Hwa, founded Nan Fung Group as a textiles business in 1954. It was the days before Mainland China had opened up as an option for global manufacturing and Chen’s business grew quickly, earning him a place in the billionaires’ club and the nickname the “king of cotton yarn.” At its textiles operations height, Nan Fung employed more than 3,000 people to operate in their mills, producing up to 32.5 million pounds of yarn a year.
But the industry migrated across the border into China proper in the Eighties — lured by cheap labor and other costs at a fraction of the price — and Nan Fung shifted gears, focusing instead on developing a property empire across East Asia. The textiles operations faded away and by the time Cheung, who had embarked on a career as a landscape architect, was convinced to join Nan Fung, three of the former six mills the company owned had been turned into residential units, and the other three simply were used as warehouse space.
It was those three

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