With fast fashion on the rise, discarded garments are filling landfills at an alarming rate. In 2018, more than 300 tons of textile waste were tossed out every day in Hong Kong landfills. Globally, the fashion industry accounts for 10% of annual carbon emissions. Fashion brands are now scrambling to promote sustainability and ethical practices in their operations. Here are 15 ethical and sustainable Hong Kong fashion brands.
Basics for Basics
Established by Kayla Wong, Basics for Basics is driven to minimise fashion’s carbon footprint, using surplus fabrics and organic cotton to create simple essentials ranging from graphic T-shirts, Sunday dresses and tank tops to hoodies and sweaters.
To ensure fair trade, the brand is also enhanced with a volunteer rewards program supported by Hands On Hong Kong.
Spearheaded by Jeffrey Man and Davy Chan, Cosmos Studio incorporates patented waterless and waste-less processes into their garments. The brand adopts GiDelave colour diffusion technology to create washed-down shirts, such as their signature Bottle Tee, each one of which is made from nine plastic bottles, 50 grams of bamboo, and colour pigments with zero discharge. The immediate result of this pioneering approach is a 98% decrease in water, 70% decrease in chemicals, and 50% decrease in energy, compared to normal dyes.
To safeguard the interests of employees, Cosmos Studio utilises only fabrics created within cruelty-free programs including the Better Cotton Initiative. Their Shandong-based manufacturing partner is also BSCI-protected.
Launched by sibling entrepreneurs James and Madi Chu in 2018, Paper Shades is an eyewear label that designs and manufactures customisable sunglasses from durable and sturdy recycled paper. The UV 400 lenses are paired with biodegradable frames and adjustable arms, available in a variety of designs to suit all face shapes and occasions.
Source: Paper Shades
The R Collective
Born from Hong Kong-based charity Redress, The R Collective advocates for a circular fashion system and does so by upcycling waste materials- excess fibres, fabrics and fasteners- sourced from luxury fashion brands across the globe and then morphing them into versatile quality garments for women. Through rescuing fabrics, the brand has potentially reduced the emission of over 34 000 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent and 65 500 yards of fabric.
The collective donates 25% of its profits back to Redress as part of their engagement with environmental fundraising activities.
The global resale platform Vestiaire Collective also champions the notion of circular fashion but in a different way. Through facilitating the buying and selling of second-hand designer brand items, the platform extends the average lifespan of clothing by nine months, reducing the carbon, waste and water footprint of each item by 20-30%. That way, consumers may give their wardrobe a second life by purchasing vintage luxury goods whilst simultaneously getting rid of their own items!
With a similar mission to extend the life of well-crafted pieces, the online marketplace The Hula sells an edit of pre-owned authenticated designer clothing and accessories. According to founder Sarah Fung, a minimum of 5% of net profits go to partnered charities spanning environmental to human trafficking NGOs, and members are also given the chance to donate at time of purchase. The marketplace currently has a showroom in Wong Chuk Hang.
Source: The Hula
Helmed by Hong Kong businesswoman Dee Poon, dress shirt specialist PYE produces classic men apparel with a sustainable fashion seed-to-shirt philosophy. From farming their own cotton in Xinjiang, spinning the yarn with Extra Long Staple cotton, to cutting and sewing their patterns, the brand offers an eco-conscious alternative to typical formal attire. Without compromising on aesthetics, PYE has reduced its water and energy consumption by 57 and 43% respectively over the last decade.
In 2012, local fashion designer Kay Li founded her namesake ready-to-wear design label catered to women. Kay Li’s commitment to sustainability is reflected in its trans-seasonal designs that can be worn year-long, minimising textile waste. Produced in small batches, all products are fur and skin-free. Extra trims, scrap pieces and end-of-roll fabrics are donated to local schools to support art and textile programs.
The label is based out of Hong Kong, and manufacturing is carried out in Dubai where workers are paid and treated fairly under a ‘less is more’ economical model.
Dedicated to bridging high fashion with environmental sustainability, the eponymous fashion brand Angus Tsui is known for its futuristic and experimental designs. Many of its collections upcycle textile waste while applying zero-waste and eco-printing techniques. The designer has previously joined hands with H&M to create upcycled uniforms and accessories using sustainable processes.
If you’re looking for vintage clothing, Classics Anew is your cup of tea. Founded in 2014, the brand gives the traditional Qipao a contemporary twist by blending materials such as organic cotton, linen and denim materials with classic Chinese elements like mandarin collars and buttons. Apart from their retail store in Central, qipao-making workshops are regularly held at their showroom in Hung Hom.
Source: Classics Anew
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Curated by Net-a-Porter, Net Sustain allows one to purchase clothing, shoes and jewellery products that support human, animal and environmental well-being. Every item on the platform aligns with at least one of their eight key attributes: locally made, craft and community, considered materials, considered processes, considered ingredients, reducing waste, animal welfare, and vegan.
For sport lovers, here’s a Californian activewear brand based in Hong Kong. RUMI X designs colourful active apparel using sustainable fibres from recycled plastic bottles and used coffee grounds. Every pair of bottoms sold saves up to 16 PET bottles from being dumped into landfills.
Most bathing suits are primarily made of polyester and nylon, which can actually be replaced by recycled plastic. Wathaa actualises this idea in its production of beachwear collections for women, men and children, creating swimsuits that are 100% plastic.
While the brand is based in Hong Kong, the fabric is made in Italy, recycled polyester yarn in the US, and the stitching factory- operating under a labour philosophy certified by BSCI- in South China.
Traversing beyond the apparel landscape, Holenga crafts cruelty-free lifestyle accessories, including passport holders, luggage tags and customisable mugs. To curb waste, the company prints-to-order as customers purchase their wares. In particular, their award-winning signature ECO Can Plus- made of corn with zero plastic yielded- is biodegradable and heat-resistant.
Good Days Activewear
Good Days was born during the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 and centres itself around sustainable practices and values- be that the materials that go into the products or the labour that goes into producing the goods. It uses a range of recycled fabrics, including recycled polyester, nylon and cotton blends. It also creates fabrics using recycled plastic bottles, fishing nets and nylon carpets, all of which would otherwise end up in a landfill.
Source: Good Days Activewear
By collectively turning the spotlight on ethical businesses, we challenge the status quo of manufacturing practices. These Hong Kong sustainable and ethical fashion brands are changing the industry for the better; hopefully, the demand from consumers will drive a global industry-wide push to become more mindful of their practices.