Passion Points: Green/Eco
With its ever-passing fads and elaborate production and distribution, the fashion industry is not one of the world’s most eco-friendly institutions. But Hong Kong–based Christina Dean hopes to change that—at least in Asia. Upon learning that Hong Kong alone has more than 250 tons of textile waste daily (all of which ends up in landfills), Dean founded Redress (www.redress.com.hk), a charity on a mission to drive positive environmental change in Asia’s fashion industry. “An important part of our mission is to confront the issue of waste in the textile and fashion industry,” says Dean who has worked as a dental surgeon and journalist before founding Redress. “I believe that fashion is a powerful vehicle to deliver messages about sustainability.” Dean has organized several high-profile fashion shows, called EcoChic, as well as launched a prestigious EcoChic Design Award competition that features the most cutting-edge developments in sustainable fashion design, particularly recycling, reconstruction and zero waste techniques. Indagare spoke to Dean about EcoChic events, about the future of fashion and why being eco-minded is imperative.
What is the mission of Redress?
An important part of our mission is to confront the issue of waste in the textile and fashion industries. In October we held our first EcoChic Swish, an event encouraging people to renew their wardrobes through swapping instead of shopping. Hong Kong’s textile waste is around 253 tons a day, which all goes into landfills. You can only begin to imagine how this extrapolates into China. Our intention is to make a start by raising awareness among consumers so that they can relate to it on an individual level. Through our HK Food Bank we intend to do the same with the food industry in Hong Kong.
This year, we are organizing the EcoChic Design Award Hong Kong which is a high-profile competition highlighting sustainable fashion and designs. Hong Kong designers will be challenged to utilize textile waste and create funky, young eco-fashion. As we are based in Hong Kong, it is natural for us to work with the factories of the world in China. We are in a powerful position to raise awareness and utilize textile waste from a large number of manufacturers. Our intention is to build on our various initiatives to create an eco-brand which we will retail in China and beyond to highlight our message.
What is the main environmental issue that you feel most passionate about and devote most of your time to?
I can answer this categorically: it is the wasteful nature of mankind. Whether it is waste of energy, water, textiles or food – and whether it is in an industrial context on a global scale or on the micro level within my own personal household. The idea of waste infuriates me, especially given the huge environmental, economic and social cost of production. When juxtaposed against the fact that such a significant percentage of the world’s population is living in poverty and hunger, it makes no sense.
What inspired you to launch the EcoChic campaign?
I started EcoChic because I believe that fashion is a powerful vehicle to deliver messages about sustainability. Fashion is emotive and it has a powerful ability to portray peoples’ emotions, aspirations and beliefs. Through EcoChic, I hoped to portray strong visions of sustainability and to use a creative educational medium. I had little fashion industry experience when I launched EcoChic. In fact, I had only ever been to one fashion show before I organized our first show, EcoChic Jakarta! However, what I lacked in experience I more than made up for in passion and determination.
As our events gathered more success and we were able to reach out to the public with strong messages about sustainability, I became increasingly educated about the serious negative environmental and social impacts that the fashion industry exerts on the earth. This level of understanding has shifted our focus from consumer-awareness to providing much more lasting and meaningful dialogue within the fashion industry itself.
What criteria have you adopted in forging partnerships for EcoChic fashion shows?
We invite eco and ethical fashion and accessory designers to showcase their work via our EcoChic events based on their overall ethical standards, from a social and/or environmental perspective. We review ethical designers’ company philosophy, ask designers key questions about their production standards and review the designers’ authority in sustainable design. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we review the aesthetic look of their designs. What underpins the success of sustainable fashion is that it also looks hot. We are currently reviewing our selection process to make it more streamlined – which is in itself a challenge since the exact definition of what makes fashion ‘sustainable’ still varies from country to country and designer to designer.
What do you think about Asia’s potential in developing sustainable fashion?
Hong Kong fashion designers are in an amazingly powerful position to become leading sustainable fashion designers through re-using, or ‘up-cycling’ textile waste from China’s apparel industry. Whilst the exact volume of textile waste generated in China is not known, estimations are mind-blowing. Daily in Hong Kong, there are 253 tons of textiles sent to landfill, for example.
Can you talk about your own commitment to protecting the environment?
Without a viable environment, we have no viable future. Urbanization and the drive of a consumer society has precipitated a disassociation with our natural environment. It is of great importance that people come to realize that without deep and lasting respect for the environment our future is uncertain at best, and catastrophically bleak at worst.
On your travels, do you choose resorts for specific eco-friendly reasons?
Yes, absolutely. I also often choose eco-resorts because of my children. I find that eco-resorts provide a more holistic holiday experience for my 3 kids. For example, the kids’ club offers pottery and feeding camels rather than Disney!
What are some eco-friendly resorts that you love?
What is one of your top destinations in the world?
I was in Rajasthan for 2 weeks in April and was again blown away by India, a place I truly love.
What is next fro you and Redress?
We are currently collaborating with Esprit on the EcoChic Design Award, Hong Kong’s first sustainable fashion design competition. The winner will design a capsule collection for Esprit for retail in Hong Kong. The clothing in the collection will be made using approximately 20% recycled denim fibre and 35% recycled cotton jersey fibre. The recycled component of the finished garment will be generated from Esprit’s own garment manufacturing waste. To do this, Esprit will collect denim and cotton jersey cut and sew waste, which is smaller pieces of waste fabric generated during the garment cutting stage and which has never left the factory floor. The capsule collection will be in Esprit’s Hong Kong stores in October 2011. Whilst this first collection is for Hong Kong retail only therefore the numbers of pieces in the collection are smaller to reflect this, the collection will lead to the direct recycling of 1200lbs denim waste and and 2000Ibs of cotton jersey waste. The implications for the mass market fashion industry to utilize such recycling methods is very significant and encouraging.
We are also collaborating with Harvey Nichols and Miele on a high-profile fashion show taking place in mid-June. For this, 15 prominent Hong Kong fashion designers will reconstruct pre-worn clothing into unique fashion garments, which will be retailed from Harvey Nichols in late June 2011. This really goes to show how the well-heeled of Hong Kong’s retail are open to such stylish ways to recycle pre-worn clothing.
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