Hong Kong is Asia’s second most sustainable city according to the Sustainable Cities Index, and for good reason – even in the urban jungle, there’s a growing community that consumers aren't aware of.
Tatler dives into just how local designers and manufacturers are spearheading a sustainable fashion movement in Hong Kong – exploring how these clothes are being designed, manufactured, and marketed sustainably; and the challenges that arise within this production chain.
Although it seems logical in retrospect, consumers often don’t realise that the sustainability of a product is locked in the design stage: this includes the fabric used, or details within the garment – if garments can avoid buttons or even a polyester label sewn in; the ability for a garment to be recycled becomes significantly easier.
Designers are minimising fabric wastage via more efficient patterns – which refers to the template of each garment: such as the sleeve, front, and back of a shirt. When cut on fabric, the pattern will often leave gaps between each piece, leaving behind an abundance of textile waste, especially if clothes are produced on a large scale. Patterns can then be adjusted to make better use of the fabric given, allowing for less textile waste.
When creating fabrics for designers, factories in Hong Kong are including more environmentally-friendly fibres – alpaca wool being a favourite. Wool, in general, is significantly more sustainable as clothes can be unravelled after their use is finished. Local factories such as UPW Limited are beginning to include information on their colour cards for designers who aren’t as knowledgeable about fibres, allowing them to choose more sustainable options even if their garment were to be produced in large quantities – scalability being a problem that many larger brands face.
However, sustainable designers cannot mix fibres – even a 2% nylon and 98% cotton shirt is no longer biodegradable. “As soon as you blend fibres like that, it becomes almost impossible to recycle, whereas 100% wool is widely recyclable,” says Grace, a Redress Design Award finalist and knitwear designer at UPW Limited, a factory based in Guangdong.