Modernize Tailors was opened in 1913 by Wong Kung Lai. His sons Bill and Jack Wong took over the business and kept it going decades after other Chinatown tailors closed. The two brothers became Chinatown legends when, in the 1940’s, they were the go-to tailors for zoot suits – a man’s suit of an exaggerated style, characterized by a long loose jacket with padded shoulders and high-waisted tapering trousers, made popular in the 1940s and increasingly desired by Vancouver’s teenagers. I wonder when the last custom order for a zoot suit was? Over the years international film stars such as the dapper Sean Connery, local and loyal patrons frequented Modernize Tailors.
I had the chance to photograph Bill working at Modernize Tailors earlier this year and a quick peek into a storeroom full of vintage fabrics.
These images are part of Chinatown R-Evolution a photographic project on Vancouver’s Chinatown – This project received assistance from: Vancouver Foundation DTES Small Arts Grant & Historical Chinatown Tours
Sadly, both Jack (89) 2013 and Bill Wong (95) 2017 have passed away.