Michelle Bang is the Hong Kong finalist for Chivas Regal’s The Venture, a global search to find and support social enterprises and ‘extraordinary startups’ that ‘are using business to create a positive change’. The organisation, in fact, has a US$1 million fund to invest and Bang is hoping to impress the judges and claim her share. The Hongkonger’s fashion brand BYT aims to transform textile waste from luxury brands into beautiful sustainable clothing that’s affordable, original and luxurious.
Every season, fashion designers around the world pursue and purchase mountains of materials for their new collections. While a large portion of these materials are generally used, a significant amount, when you consider the sheer volume of production, may end up in the bin. And the accumulation of all this waste is shocking, say the experts. They reckon that the fashion industry is now the second biggest polluter in the world, second only to oil. Many say that these unprecedented levels of consumption and production are the result of the ever-growing global throwaway culture that is becoming increasingly detrimental to our environment.
Bang, who learns whether she’s been successful in The Venture in July, tells us that it’s high time the world reacts to all those mountains of clothing waste and that people battle this ever-growing throwaway culture. She says: “We are moving towards a world where we must be more resourceful – where we must find new and innovative ways to make designs more sustainable.” BYT, says Bang, addresses these issues of waste and sustainable design by offering an alternative to textile waste. She tells us: “Instead of having the leftovers wasted, we actually upcycle the fabric. We transform pre-consumer unused fabric into affordable and luxurious fashion.”
‘Upcycling’ is the idea that you can reuse objects or materials that may otherwise have been discarded to create high-quality products that are both sustainable and environmentally friendly. Bang’s design process is therefore quite unique, as she describes: “Rather than designing right away, we start with the selection process of the fabric. We choose the most beautiful and luxurious fabric to begin with. It’s a unique process that really lends to being resourceful and creative.”
Currently, Hong Kong-based BYT is working together with Lane Crawford in refining their projects. Bang is also a judge for the global Eco Chic Design Awards, where the winner is set to join BYT. The first BYT collection is also scheduled to be launched during Redress the EcoChic Design Award Competition in September. Bang says: “Fashion has to be inherently sustainable in the future. Our hope is that we no longer have to use the word ‘sustainable’, though, in the future. We’ll just call it fashion, design or just creativity.”