(Translated from Cantonese)
JESSICA LEUNG: Those who are familiar with the Red A brand probably know us through our plastic basins, pails, and colanders, which are our most popular products with the widest range. Red A’s injection-moulding, mould-making, and blow-moulding machines are second to none in Southeast Asia.
Under the brand name ACE, Red A’s main product lines were brushes and hair brushes. From 1956 to 1957, the brand gradually repositioned itself to manufacture plastic household products. In 1959, Star Industrial Co., Ltd was established and the Red A brand was born.
At that time, Red A products were practical no-frills items used by every household, like basins, pails, and colanders. We also made other household products, like the faux-crystal product series. Glass products were fashionable back then, but, like crystal products today, the price of glassware was relatively high. So we tested the market before rolling out the faux-crystal series that is still in production today.
The design was derived from a simple soap box. My father thought that rather than just printing a random design on the products, why not try and turn those lines into a design based on varying angles and geometric principles? To create the angle between intersecting lines, our design team devised a certain computation method for the pattern. Back then, of course, we didn’t have computer technology to help us, so we drew every one of the patterns manually. It’s worth noting that besides drawing the length of every line in various angles by hand, the moulds were created by hand chiselling, using a nail in one hand and a hammer in the other.
With our current machinery and technology, we can absolutely recreate these effects. But the beauty of imperfection would definitely be lost. When you see the manpower, ideas, and human touch that we put into our products and consider how products are made today—I’m not saying these qualities are absent in today’s products, but these things are hard to come by in this day and age. And the aesthetics… It would be hard for products today to top the achievement of this series.
We began exporting our products in the early 1960s. Our major markets were the Middle East, Europe, the United States, South America, and Africa. The Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo (HKBPE) was a major event that helped to open up new export markets. The aim of this event was to promote Hong Kong industries and factories and production in Hong Kong. My grandfather used to join dozens of members from the Hong Kong Plastics Manufacturers Association to visit Europe, the US, and the Middle East to exchange ideas, visit exhibitions, or attend talks, not just to promote their brand, although brand promotion has been important. They have also promoted the manufacturing and brand of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong plastics industry as a whole.
So ‘made in Hong Kong’ is something precious. But how one represents it is something I am still thinking about. Generally, products ‘made in Hong Kong’ are made with a human touch. This is how I would define it at this point.
In 1949, the Leung family founded Star Industrial Co., Ltd in Hong Kong. From their 1970s headquarters in San Po Kong, Star Industrial now produces over 600 items. They are best known for their in-house brand, Red A. Many of their Red A designs are now recognised as iconic examples of ‘non-canonical’ design that represent Hong Kong’s vernacular culture.
Toothbrushes, Buckets, and Everything in Between
The family business, which started out making toothbrushes and other brush products, soon grew to include other household goods, such as plastic buckets and containers. The company enjoyed great prosperity during Hong Kong’s post-war industrialisation and the export and manufacturing boom from the 1960s to 1980s.
Hong Kong and Beyond
Red A products, known for their quality, durability, and affordability, continue to be sold locally and internationally. Part of Red A’s success comes from the company’s ability to adapt product lines to the needs of the times and for different markets—particularly markets in developing countries.
This video was originally published on M+ Stories.
- Produced by
- Curatorial Research
Jennifer Wong, Chloe Chow, Tina Pang
- M+ Video Production
Lara Day, Chris Sullivan
- Special Thanks
Jessica Leung, Alex Lai, Vincent Au-Yeung, Aric Chen