New York design studio Project Projects has worked with typographer Aurèle Sack and fashion designer Mary Ping to create a new visual identity for Hong Kong shirt brand PYE. The minimal system features a bilingual logo and custom typeface inspired by the brand's mathematical name.
PYE was founded by Margie Yang as a retail arm of Esquel, one of the world's largest cotton shirt manufacturers, in 1984. The label now has stores in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou plus two in Hong Kong and is managed by Yang's daughter, Dee Poon.
Project Projects was introduced to Poon by friends and regular collaborators Mary Ping, a US fashion designer and architect Dominic Leong. (The studio has collaborated with Leong's practice, Leong Leong, on several exhibition and spatial projects and worked with Ping on her conceptual label, Slow and Steady Wins the Race).
Chris Wu, associate principal at Project Projects, says the identity was developed "to support the brand’s introduction to the international market" and communicate its core values: "on the one hand, precision in crafting men's dress shirts, yet on the other, whole-systems thinking – managing the entire process from the cotton seed to the sewing of a shirt detail," he says.
The new logo features the PYE symbol – which combines the mathematical symbol Pi and the Chinese character for flair – alongside a wordmark in bespoke typeface PYE Brown, created by Project Projects and Swiss designer Aurèle Sack.
"The custom typeface centers on the unique upper case Y," says Wu. "The slanted Y is sometimes seen in modern European sans-serif typefaces and vernacular street signs. ...Here, the slanted uppercase Y breaks into the negative space created by the bowl of the P to create an asymmetrical balance in the logotype; in addition, the angular stroke activates the geometric relationship between the three letters, which responds to core brand values (sharpness and precision) and speaks directly to the mathematically-derived brand name (PYE=π).
"Aurele delivered a perfectly-drawn custom letter Y, and also embedded the logotype PYE and the Chinese symbol ‘派' into the glyph set of PYE Brown. As such the typeface can be used at all levels of the PYE corporate communications, from the Hong Kong headquarters ... to invoices that are output in the brand's retail stores around the world," he explains.
The typographic system is also used on shirt labels, tags and packaging, as well as the brand's website, brand book and look books. Publications were created with Ping, who acted as creative director, and combine images of PYE's production and manufacturing process (it owns its own supply chain and has been working to substantially reduce its energy consumption in recent years) alongside some more abstract shots of its products.
"The core concept for the look book and brand book is to always juxtapose the raw versus the refined: in the brand book, images of the brand's own cotton fields and factories are sandwiched within beautiful fashion shots; in the look book, process images are placed on the inside cover," says Wu. "This visual strategy derives directly from one of the unique qualities of the brand – they begin making a shirt by growing a cotton seed."
It's a smart new look, and one that perfectly captures the company's understated aesthetic – from its minimal stores to its products, which include white, coloured, striped and checked dress and casual shirts in a range of classic fits and collar styles. Project Projects says it will continue to work with the brand on new ventures and publications, and has just completed a book promoting its Spring/Summer 2016 collection, launching some time in the next few weeks.
"On the interactive side, we are also helping to consult on the brand's e-commerce development. At the same time, we are part of the evolving brand strategy, and are collaborating with PYE to think of interventions and projects with artists, a publishing endeavor, and other new ideas," says Wu.
"Project Projects has a long history of working on branding and identity projects in the cultural sector, primarily with major museums, institutions, and architecture firms internationally, [and] PYE was a great opportunity, because it is a fashion label that is also very culturally-savvy – through Dee's vision, the brand has partnered with contemporary artists and designers in smart ways. We've always followed fashion closely, so it's an interesting new arena for us," he adds.