Cover Christina Dean is changing the way people think about clothes (Photo: Redress)

More fashion brands are taking on sustainable practices internally, but an often overlooked aspect is the logistics required to get items to us

The word “sustainable” has been used so often in recent years that it almost feels devoid of meaning. People have different understandings of its definition: is it about what materials are used or how they are sourced? Should it be on the company or the consumer to drive demand?
 
“The term itself is beautiful and wonderful in its philosophy, but it’s complicated when you try to explain it,” Christina Dean said in an interview with Tatler Hong Kong over video chat.

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Her mission, as founder of environmental charity Redress, is to reduce textile waste and change the culture surrounding clothing in Hong Kong, where garments are often seen as disposable.
 
To Dean, sustainability means anything you can do to minimise your impact on the environment while maximising personal style. She’s at the forefront of reducing pollution caused by the city’s fashion industry; one of the key pillars of her company is the Redress Design Awards.
 
 

 

In its 11th year, the competition generates hope for the future by educating designers and creating a space for sustainable designs to be commercially celebrated. This year, entries will be accepted from designers around the world, with hundreds of garments being sent to Hong Kong for the grand finale on September 11.

But how can a competition promoting sustainability sustainably transport clothes?

Dean explains the concepts of fashion miles, saying, “Consumers don’t consider how materials move or the sheer complexity of logistics. Each component of the garment has a far-reaching supply chain. Therefore there’s a carbon cost that includes plastic, shipping and more.”

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This is where Lauren Zhao comes in. As managing director UPS Hong Kong, she works to develop and implement greener strategies, and has been working with Dean to ship the entries in, in a partnership that is integral to the growth of the competition.
 
The UPS Carbon Neutral programme, Zhao says, is committed to reducing CO2 levels for each package that is shipped. To reduce the negative effects of shipping pollution, UPS uses electric vehicles and cleaner fuel. They have a goal of powering their facilities with renewable energy by 2035; in addition they planted 15 million trees between 2015 and 2020, and plan to reach 50 million trees planted by 2030.

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As a result of Covid-19 lockdowns, there’s been an increase in e-commerce, especially shopping for clothes online; people no longer shop just because they need or want things, but to pass time. But there’s a huge gap in consumer awareness of the environmental impact of sending and returning garments.
 
While she prefers shopping online, Zhao says, “People don’t know that choosing multiple items [in different sizes] has a negative effect on the environment,” adding that the volume of paper and plastic required for packaging, as well as the distance these things must travel, is often more than we realise.

So what can we do individually to practise sustainability when shopping?
 
Look out for brands and websites that have eco-friendly packaging options and carbon offsetting commitments. Also use third-party verification to check brands’ sustainability claims.
 
The solutions are not the same for everyone or every situation, so Dean encourages people to try to practise as many forms of sustainability as possible; for example, she challenged herself to wear second-hand clothing every day for a year to expand her sense of personal style.
 
Ultimately, she says, “Buy less, buy better, wear [what you own] more, and love your clothes.”

Here is where you can watch the Redress Design Award 2021 Grand Final fashion show livestream on Saturday 11 September at 6:30pm (HKT).

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