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In Vancouver’s Chinatown, tailor Bill Wong sewed his way to success

JUDY STOFFMAN, 19 May 2017

After the Second World War ended, Bill Wong graduated from the University of British Columbia as a mechanical engineer along with his brother Jack, a civil engineer. A recruiter from City Hall came to the campus to offer jobs. What he said when he addressed the class in 1948 was crushing to the hard-working Wong brothers, and they never forgot it: “Tell the Chinese boys in the back not to bother applying or we’ll all be embarrassed.”
Instead of applying elsewhere to work as engineers, they retreated to Modernize, the thriving tailor shop their father opened in Vancouver’s Chinatown in 1913. Having worked there part-time since they were teenagers, they were on familiar terms with its ancient Singer sewing machines, antique button-hole maker and enormous steam iron. In its heyday, the shop employed 20 people and stocked hundreds of bolts of high-quality suiting material. Read more…

Bill Wong sits at his sewing machine in the Modernize tailor shop. Mr. Wong died of heart failure last month, aged 95, after a decades-long tenure at a family business that became a Vancouver institution. COURTESY OF MAURICE WONG
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