Fri, Aug 18, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Canvas makers offer distinctive styles

DURABLE:One well-known store, Yung Sheng Canvas, used to produce canvas bags for banks that did not need replacing for 20 years because of their strength

By Wang Chieh and William Hetherington

Known for its rich and vibrant culture, Tainan is home to many industries. One of these is canvas manufacturing, with three well-known companies founded in three different eras offering three unique styles.

Yung Sheng Canvas (永盛帆布) is best known for its durable and practical products, with Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (李安) among its loyal patrons, third-

generation owner Tseng Sen-yung (曾森永), 61, said.

His paternal grandfather opened the store during the Japanese colonial era, which was then known as Lai Fu Canvas (來福帆布), Tseng said, adding that the store gave birth to the rise of the canvas industry in Tainan.

“Lots of people learned how to make canvas products from my grandfather and then opened their own stores,” Tseng said.

The store offers many types of canvas products, including handbags, car canopies and rain gear.

Tseng joked that his products’ durability is the company’s shortcoming, as they do not need to be replaced.

“We used to make canvas bags that banks used to transport banknotes,” he said. “The bags were so strong that they lasted 20 years. Only their zippers needed replacing.”

Yung Sheng’s flagship product is its Thoth-brand handbag priced between NT$700 and NT$900, depending on the size.

Her Cherng Canvas (合成帆布), known for its lightweight cotton and canvas printed handbags, was founded in 1956.

Third-generation owner Hsu Chin-chia (許晉嘉) said that his grandfather had worked at Lai Fu Canvas before opening Her Cherng.

Hsu said his grandfather, who only speaks Japanese and Hoklo (commonly known at Taiwanese), had always refused to use synthetic materials, such as nylon and plastic, even though they were increasingly being adopted by other manufacturers.

Her Chern started out specializing in schoolbags, which were used by students at about 100 elementary and junior-high schools in western Taiwan from Pingtung County to Taichung, Hsu said.

Schoolbag sales later fell off due to the introduction of cheaper bags made of synthetic materials and the nation’s declining birthrate, Hsu said.

Today, the 60-year-old company largely caters to tourists, Hsu said, adding that its best-selling product is a NT$950 casual bag.

Guan Fu Hao (廣富號) is a relatively newcomer in the market, five years of history and several outlets throughout Tainan.

The company’s colorful bags and various styles are aimed at fashion-minded customers, said owner Lee Hsiao-po (李小柏), who previously worked as a subcontractor for European fashion brands, a portion of which were handmade.

“Many European clients will not accept things that are not made by hand,” Lee said.

German car manufacturer Mercedes Benz joined its clientele this year, Lee said.

The company’s flagship products change every year, but generally focus on outdoor and environmentally friendly items.

One of the company’s products, a NT$4,000 waterproof backpack, won an award at a Japanese competition, Lee said, adding that the waterproofing makes it easy to clean off dust and oil.

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