Profile: Dee Poon | South China Morning Post
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Profile: Dee Poon

For fashionista turned shirtmaker Dee Poon it's the details that count, writes Divia Harilela

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2013, 9:27am
 

Dee Poon is the closest thing to fashion royalty in Hong Kong - her father Dickson Poon is the owner of luxury department store Harvey Nichols while her mother Marjorie Yang, runs Esquel, one of the world's largest manufacturers.

So when the time came for her to enter the fashion business, she knew she wanted to create a brand that was relevant and would last generations. The answer came in the form of men's shirting brand PYE which recently opened its first store in Hong Kong at Pacific Place.

"Men's dress shirts are an interesting business. Women's is more about fashion, but men's is about style and functionality. Plus men's is less about me - it's not the Dee Poon story. I am not a designer, I'm more like the conductor, so it makes it all the more fun.

"I saw an opening in the market, especially in China, between the high end and super mass. The Chinese consumer is maturing - more people want clothes that are about quality and lifestyle. I want people to know that what they are getting from us is a great shirt that is modern and stylish and that will work for their lives," says Poon.

While it may surprise some that a 30-year-old fashionista would gravitate towards such a seemingly unadventurous item of men's clothing, shirts have played a large part in Poon's fashion education. Three years ago she joined her mother's company, one of the largest producers of premium cotton shirts in the world. During that time she learned every facet of the business and developed a solid foundation from which to grow her own brand.

"We start from cotton farming and research, all the way to making our own product. It's a vertical model which is why we are so good at it. We have a lot of information to work from, especially in Asia. We know how to fit the Asian body well," she says.

Many locals will recognise the name PYE, which launched as an East-meets-West clothing brand in 1984 by Poon's mother. Over time it evolved into different categories, before Poon joined three years ago. She rebranded it 18 months ago and there are now four boutiques in China and the Pacific Place store. The sixth opens in Shanghai in June.

The Pacific Place store marks a new era for the brand, not least because it's Poon's first boutique on home turf. She has gone all out with a sleek and chic design by acclaimed designer Ray Chen and creative branding by Stanley Wong, which includes packaging inspired by the art of Chinese paper folding. She even enlisted New York-based olfactory branding company 12.29 to design a scent exclusively for the boutique.

The majority of the space, however, is dedicated to dress shirts which come in three collections - infinity, executive and classic, in three different fits. The infinity is considered the ultimate in dress shirts thanks to its ultra high thread count and stylistic and functional details including mother of pearl buttons, a hand-ironed French placket and invisible seams. Prices range from HK$888 to HK$2,888.

Most styles are available in up to eight fabrications, while the colour story changes seasonally (although there is always a classic blue and white palette available). There is also a selection of casual shirts that are more trend-based as well as a customisation programme with more than 100 combination options. Even with so much on offer, Poon says the bestseller is the simple white dress shirt in classic poplin, which PYE employs a special method to produce.

"The difference between us and tailor X is that most of them cut and sew whereas we are a fully integrated shirting company. Our designers and merchants are 100 per cent in control of each aspect of the shirt, while having access to the latest technology through our factories. For example, we use a patented nanotechnology to keep a cotton shirt wrinkle free. All the fabric is natural and developed by our speciality yarn and weaving divisions, which gives us the room to change the fabric from within," says Poon.

When the new Shanghai store opens, Poon will introduce speciality items such as Drakes ties, scarves made from yak fibre and a special candle by 12.29. That said, she intends to keep shirts as the primary focus.

"What we are doing is not fashion play," she says. "Because we have one product, it becomes more complicated. When you are building a full clothing collection, you get distracted because you focus on what styles sell or how to merchandise the line. For us, everything is about room for improvement, down to each and every technical detail."
 


How to choose the perfect dress shirt

  • Know your proper collar and sleeve measurements.
  • When you move your arms the front placket [where the buttons are] shouldn't gape or pull. The collar should be tight but loose enough to fit a finger between it, so when you wear a tie it fits well without choking you.
  • Properly cut sleeves change the line of a shirt and are often overlooked. They shouldn't look too voluminous or balloon.
  • The fit at the waist is personal, but Poon suggests a trim fit to look modern and clean. Dress shirts are made to be tucked in so when you try it on, raise your arms to make sure it doesn't fly out of your waistband.
  • Watch out for details such as darts. Anyone can shove darts in the back to make it appear like it fits. A shirt should be cut right and drape properly.
  • Buttons are a small but important detail. A lot of manufacturers cut corners with buttons.
  • Try on your shirt with and without a tie so you can use it for any occasion.
     

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