3 April 2007
Staying Ahead(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 04,2007)
Man Tat Wigs Mfg Co Ltd
|Man Tat Wigs Mfg Co Ltd offers thousands of different types of wigs incorporating human hair and synthetic fibres|
Indeed, the company has more than a thousand styles, comprising everything from wefts to ponytails and dreadlocks.
"Highly popular is our renowned carnival wigs range that caters to wannabe-witches and would-be Santa Clauses," he adds. "We also offer hairstyles from the Renaissance period up to those of present-day celebrities."
Cheung reveals a little-known fact about the wigs industry. "Whereas today hairpieces go mostly to women around the world, the industry was kick-started by the women of Africa - not naturally endowed with fast-growing hair," he states.
"We started selling braids," Cheung adds. "At first, we did the natural human hair pieces that Hong Kong had become famous for in the 1960s. I recall how tradesmen from Africa would arrive in Hong Kong with bags crammed with banknotes to make purchases of braids and, later, hair extensions."
As the business expanded to take in the huge potential of markets such as the US, ponytails and full wigs also became features of Man Tat's range. "In addition to natural hair, synthetic fibres also became part of the scene and that saw another boost in demand," he recalls. "Thanks to synthetic materials, trade multiplied by factors of 10-20 as prices dropped to very affordable levels. We manufactured our own synthetic fibre from raw PP pellets, which meant we could offer a very competitive line of PP-related hair products."
Apart from wigs for adults, demand from the US also saw the addition of hairpieces for dolls. "These were the dolls and stuffed toys that preceded the Barbie doll phenomenon," Cheung recalls. "We were selling mostly to manufacturers."
Another avenue opened up serving doll hobbyists and collectors, who demanded high-quality hairpieces. "Germany was a big importer of those hairpieces," Cheung adds, "and Europe is still a big market in that sector today."
By the 1980s, the fashion scene had opened up and Modacrylics took pride of place as the material of choice among the synthetic fibres. "This more expensive material usually went into high-end and more sophisticated hairpieces," says Cheung. "At the same time, natural and imitation/artificial Mohair was in demand for wigs for dolls."
The general manager says that excellent handwork is mandatory in the wigs industry, with machines used for PP fibre, extruding and wefting. "The handwork comes next," he says, "and includes processes such as the stitching of the hair strips onto caps in various styles and using different construction methods depending on the intended finished hairpiece."
Happily, wigs form a growing market. "The demand is very much still there, especially in Europe where we note the use of glued human hair extensions at hair salons - a practice that has become something of a fashion," Cheung remarks.
Man Tat's product categories include fashion wigs for men and women, carnival wigs, instant wigs, hairpieces, synthetic braids, synthetic hair extensions and human hair extensions. "Most human hair comes from India and Hubei Province on the mainland, which has a long history in this trade."
The company produces its lines at a 500-worker factory in Shantou, which overall covers 20 hectares of land including several yards. Man Tat also has more than 10,000 square feet of warehouse and office space in Hong Kong.
"For about 10 years now, the market has also been strongly into carnival wigs, often resulting in mass purchases," Cheung states. "On the downside, this has seen cheap and low-quality items flooding the market. From our perspective, we always try to offer something more and see no point fighting over price. Our competitive edge is on the quality side, and we always take that extra step for our customers. That was my father's philosophy, not to give less but more, and it remains my policy today."
He asserts that quality is a key ingredient. "While today, budget-priced wigs are widely available, we are constantly told by our European clients in particular that quality is what they want. They come to the right place, as that is exactly what we provide. We have been here a long time and we see ourselves being here for a longer time to come."
TEXT BY TONY HENDERSON
Man Tat Wigs Mfg Co Ltd