On May 19, Earth.Org had an online conversation with Edwin Keh, the CEO of The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), an organisation dedicated to the research, development and technology transfer in the fashion and textile industries, including sustainable fashion research and solutions. He has extensive experience working with supply chain operations as well as holding multiple IPs which won several international invention awards. Some ongoing projects HKRITA is currently involved with include a partnership with the H&M Foundation that sees old garments turned into brand new clothing.
In the fireside chat, we talked about several topics, including:
- The current unsustainable business model and supply chains in the global textile and fashion industries, and the subsequent environmental and social implications.
- The biggest drivers of the growing fast fashion culture and mass production, such as financial incentives and shifting labour intensive processes to developing countries (often in the East).
- The areas in which we can target to alleviate the ongoing fashion crisis, whether the responsibility lies with producers and manufacturers or with consumers.
- The scale and capabilities of textile recycling today, and other potential solutions or opportunities to reduce apparel and textile waste in the first place.
- Current projects and collaboration happening at HKRITA, including the award-winning Garment to Garment recycling system (a small-scale, demonstrative model that turns post-consumer garments into new ones adopting a mechanical treatment that does not require any water or chemical), the Green Machine that recycles blend textiles into new clean and wearable fibres, and the Open Lab – where researchers and industry partners can share ideas and technologies, and experiment in real time.
- How to direct sustainable fashion research and development ideas into the marketplace.
Edwin believes that tackling the fast fashion crisis is not a technological challenge, but one that is systematic that starts with the business model. There needs to be a fundamental and behaviour changes to reduce mass production and consumer demand. Today, people treat clothes as a “disposable commodity”. We should bring back the culture of treating clothing as long-term and functional investment, almost like heirlooms. He is also inherently optimistic about the future of the fashion and apparel industry, and that humanity will not be extinct because of our fashion choices. But, greater investment and changes are needed, and quickly, to rapidly reduce the damages and impacts to the environment.
You can check out the full length video of Earth.Org ‘s conversation with Edwin Keh below:
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