Just as Standard Shirts and its Smart Shirt brand faded away from the Hong Kong scene, a firm by the name of Smart Shirts, formed also by Shanghainese businessmen, emerged with a very different business model – private label garment manufacturing for clients in the West. In April 1956, Smart Shirts Manufacturers Limited (新馬聯合製衣) was incorporated with HK$100,000 in paid up capital and offices at the Bank of China Building. The three directors of the firm listed at incorporation were Ma Chung-tat (馬仲達, 1907-1999), a leading exporter in old Shanghai whose brother was the comprador of Unilever; William TL Yao (姚祖亮, 1922-1979) who ran the show and Wong Kam-tim (黃錦添) who supervised finance. Given the timing and the name, it is possible that Smart Shirts took over the HK manufacturing operations of Standard Shirts.
The business grew rapidly as the demand for HK made garments in US and Europe was strong and by the end of the 1960s, the firm had 3000 workers working in a 250,000 square feet new factory in 206-208 Choi Hung Road in Sun Po Kong and exported 1.6 million dozens pieces of garments with 3 garment factories and 1 subsidiary.
In January 1970, Smart Shirts Limited (the holding company for all related subsidiaries) went public selling 25% of its shares in an IPO arranged by Jardine. The chairman of the firm at listing was Y.C. Pei (裴延九) a banker associated with the China & South Sea Bank and Jeff Hu (胡格非), a son of the Bank’s founder was also a Smart Shirt director. In 1970, Smart Shirts was the first firm in Hong Kong to install Century 100 computers from NCR.
After the listing, Smart Shirts continued to grow and moved its manufacturing operations to a larger building (Smart Shirt Factory Building) on 55 King Yip Street in Kwun Tong in 1976.
By the year 1978, Smart Shirts had US$50 million in sales and $3.7 million in net profits.
Sadly in January 1979, the firm’s leader William Yao died at the age of 56 and in his memory, his family endowed the William TL Yao Memorial Scholarship at the HK Polytechnic Institute of Textile & Clothing.
After the death of Yao, the management of Smart Shirts was assumed by Tao-Fu Ying (應道富), a graduate of St John’s University in Shanghai and younger brother of T.S. Ying (應鼎成), the founder of Lea Tai Textile. Business continued to grow and in 1979, it did US$86 million in sales with earnings of more than US$9 million and also held the largest import quotas for shirts entering the United States. On Christmas Eve of 1979. American garment giant Kellwood acquired 30 percent of Smart Shirts for US$11 million in cash. As a result of the acquisition, Pei, Jeff Hu, T.O. Liu (劉天宏, a prominent Shanghainese textile and real estate investor who was a graduate of Tsinghua University) and R.C. Kwok (郭勤功, director of Jardine Matheson and son in law of prominent stockbroker and Exchange chairman Mok Ying Kie) resigned as directors of Smart Shirts in early 1980 and representatives of Kellwood joined the board with Kellwood chairman Fred Wenzel succeeding Pei as chairman and T.F. Ying continued to run the day to day operation as vice chairman and managing director.
For Kellwood, buying Smart Shirts was a smart decision as it desperately need to diversify. Kellwood was formed in 1961 by the merger of 15 suppliers of soft goods to the retail giant Sears and its name was a combination of two Sears executives – Charles Kellstadt and Robert E. Wood. In 1980, Sears still owned 20 percent of Kellwood and accounted for 80 percent of its sales, a high concentration that had hurt its business in the market downturn 5 years earlier. As Smart Shirts the company made high quality shirts and blouses for Gant, Arrow, and Eagle and also counted four big US department store chains Macy’s, Federated Department Stores, May and JC Penney as major clients. The acquisition of Smart Shirts enabled Kellwood to lessen its dependence on Sears.
Kellwood acquired 82 percent of the firm and under Kellwood ownership and Ying’s management, Smart Shirts continued to grow. In 1983, Kellwood bought the remaining shares of the firm and also absorbed the large 5 year old Sri Lankan garment manufacturing operations of Lo’s Mee Kwong Group which it placed under Smart Shirts’ management. In 1989, Kellwood acquired Saipan Manufacturers, Inc., a manufacturer of men’s shirts and sport shirts in North Mariana for export to the United States and once again rolled it under Smart Shirts. By the end of the 1980s, Smart Shirts accounted for more than 40 percent of Kellwood’s operating profits and helped supplant the losses from the rapidly declining Sears. (Kellwood bought out Sears’ stake in the firm in 1984 and also represented less than 50 percent by that time)
Ying eventually retired from Smart Shirts and moved to Vancouver where he was instrumental in the founding of St John’s College at the University of British Columbia to continue the legacy of his alma mater St John’s University.
In 2007, Shengzhou Sunrise textile technology company limited was established, which is the 1st phase of the shengzhou textile manufacturing base, in 2014, the second phase was completed, the base covered an area of 660 mu, the total construction space covered more than 280,000 square meters, with the capacity of Dyed yarn 11,700 tons and high classic woven fabric 50 million meters per year.
In 2007, Kellwood sold Smart Shirts to Shanghai-listed Youngor Group for US$120 million in cash and its real estate assets to another party for US$41 million in cash. At the time, Smart Shirts was doing roughly US$400 million in sales with $10 million in profits and clients included Nautica, Liz Claiborne, Oscar de la Renta, and Perry Ellis with 14 manufacturing facilities located in China, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
To strengthen the leading position in the textile industry and make good use of the internal group advantage, Sunrise group merged the 1st Hongkong Garment manufacturer “Smart Shirts Group”，which originally belonged to “Youngor Group”, so that we had established the whole industry chain integration, in another side, inherited the oversea garment manufacturing base with the production capability of 40 million Pcs and the matured management team.
In 2013, based on the primary oversea garment industry layout, established Spinning Mill in Vietnam with 30,000 spindles of capacity.
In 2014, established the first Mill factory in Vietnam with capacity of 45,000,000 Meters high-class Woven Fabric and 4,000 Tons high class Knits Fabric.
Merged and acquisitioned Vietnam Textile, completed reconstructing joint-stock, realized whole industry chain layout in Vietnam.
Merged and acquisitioned Romania Factory "Trans Euro Textile", dominate the strategy commanding height.