Dame Vivienne Westwood once said: “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.” With fast fashion becoming more prevalent worldwide, textile waste is piling up at an unpredictable scale as new trends urge us to shop for whatever is hot and throw away our old clothes. But it takes 7,000 litres of water to create just one pair of jeans, and the industry altogether accounts for five percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Yikes.
But many fashion brands are taking action to alleviate the harm that fast fashion brings to the environment. For instance, Stella McCartney has promoted sustainability by launching eco-friendly collections, while many new ethical brands such as Reformation, Gabriela Hearst and Re/done are making a major mark on the fashion scene. Tired of flashy and unsustainable fashion fads? Take a look at Hong Kong’s sustainable fashion pioneers, and start to build a greener wardrobe with some staying power. By Angel Hong
7 sustainable Hong Kong fashion brands to know right now
Angus Tsui is a true pioneer of sustainable fashion. He might have caught your attention when he made Chinese New Year envelopes out of old Cathay Pacific cabin crew uniforms, but the designer’s upcycling and zero-waste initiatives inform every piece of edgy men's and women's clothing he makes. That’s just one reason why celebrities and fashionistas have fallen in love with his work. The brand launches trans-seasonal collections once a year to slow down the pattern of mass consumption, while made-to-order is available at its studio. Among other side hustles, he runs an educational charity project devoted to sustainability.
Basics for Basics is an online sustainable clothing brand created by Kayla Wong – daughter of Hong Kong actor Michael Wong and supermodel Janet Ma. Putting environment as its top priority, the brand seeks to reduce its carbon footprint by using surplus fabrics, organic cotton and sustainable materials in all the basic essentials it produces, like T-shirts, Sunday dresses and tank tops. If you’re a fan of minimalism, Basics for Basics is a great choice.
The old-school qipao is making a comeback, and Classics Anew is giving it a modern and sustainable spin by using organic cotton, linen, denim and more. Referencing vintage elements from the cheongsam and qipao – even those as small as buttons and mandarin collars – the brand crafts a vintage collection with a contemporary twist. Think contemporary cuts and patterns. Besides its retail store located at Central, Classics Anew also has a showroom at Hung Hom where it regularly leads qipao-making workshops.
Cosmos Studio is an ethical fashion brand founded by two Millennials. Having seen how textile dyes cause serious water pollution to the planet, the partners insisted on using eco-friendly cottons and colour pigments with zero discharge in all their trendy, washed-down shirts. Their GiDelave colour diffusion innovation uses 98 percent less water, 70 percent less chemicals and 50 percent less energy than normal dyes. Not to mention it yields zero wastewater.
If you’re looking for chic and iconic pieces to accentuate your individuality, the eponymous fashion label launched by designer Kay Li could be your cup of tea. Working as a software engineer in her early years, Li is skilled at machine operation and calculation, which has paved the way for her to master the tailoring of different textiles. Wanting to help make fashion a force for good, Li launched partnerships with local fashion schools to empower the next generation of designers – she donates excess trim to these schools, too. She champions fair pay and waste reduction, as well as a ‘less-is-more’ and fur- and skin-free approach to design.
Love sunglasses? Check out Paper Shades when you’re shopping for your next pair. This ethical eyewear label uses sturdy and durable recycled paper to produce eco-friendly sunglasses. The UV 400 lenses are paired with frames and adjustable arms available in many different designs ideal for any occasion – you’ll surely find something that suits your own style and face shape. If you want to dispose of your shades in the future, rest assured that they can be recycled rather unloaded into a landfill.
Born from Redress – the Hong Kong-based environmental charity aiming to reduce textile waste – The R Collective sources excess fabrics from luxury fashion brands and manufacturers worldwide, and then transforms them into quality garments of higher value through upcycling. As it donates 25 percent of the proceeds back to Redress, you can help fuel local sustainable fashion by shopping for their collections, or drop your unwanted clothes in the Redress’s recycling boxes available at these Zara branches to give them a new lease of life.