Any grandma in Hong Kong will speak fondly of the local ‘Two Girls’ cosmetics brand Kwong Sang Hong (KSH)…
Back in 1898, only a handful of rich families and expats could afford foreign cosmetics. Seeing a gap in the market, Fung Fook Tien launched KSH. Legend has it that Fung’s branding was inspired by two beautiful women he spotted in the street, whilst another version suggests they came to him in a dream. Either way, Hong Kongers loved the brand, if only because it cost ten times less than its competitors.
The girls featured on early labels and advertisements were actually men disguised as women, since – in feudal society – women were rarely allowed outdoors and models were impossible to find.
The success of the brand attracted many counterfeits and deliberate imitations though Fung pushed numerous landmark copyright cases through the courts to protect his business.
By the 1920s, KSH’s value had grown six-fold and real women were then being used in their advertising campaigns – it’s quaint posters were considered ‘art for the commoners’. Even throughout the Japanese occupation of WWII, the brand remained profitable despite their factory being burned down and stores being seized by the occupiers.
In the era of post-war austerity, the brand diversified into property and finance. It now boasts several hundred lines and remains a cultural icon for the city. Posters of the girls are often bought by tourists on Temple Street and Cat Street for about HK$10.
Blog posts charting Hong Kong’s colourful past…
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More links at the epic, new Hong Wrong Mega-Index.