Our August 2019 cover star Ronna Chao is pioneering a waterless textile upcycling process that has the potential to revolutionise the fashion industry

Glowing, radiant and make-up free, Ronna Chao arrives at her first-ever Tatler cover shoot fresh off the plane after a long weekend in Bali. “I’ve never taken this much time to get ready,” she laughs as our make-up artist and hairstylist fuss over her before we head to the set to shoot first looks.

We can hardly blame her—Ronna’s personal style embodies a natural, low-key elegance: the modern polish and halo of Hong Kong coupled with an ease earned from nearly 20 formative years spent traversing the US, from New England’s best boarding schools to the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, later to Goldman Sachs, and then west to Stanford.

She’s been busy saving the world ever since—these days as chairman of Novetex Textiles, CEO of Novel Investment Partners, director of Novelpark Investments and CEO of the Bai Xian Asia Institute, an educational organisation created and guided by her father, Ronald Chao.

We met with Ronna to talk about The Billie, Novetex’s new water-free textile upcycling process. Ronna has long been an outspoken advocate for environmentalism, recycling and quality of life in her hometown.

We bring up a letter she wrote to the South China Morning Post in 2006 detailing a family summer boat trip to Stanley amid “floating debris, mostly plastic and other non-biodegradable rubbish,” at the beach. “It is high time that Hong Kong had a mandatory recycling programme,” she wrote to the newspaper’s editor.

Ronna laughs at the memory. “My most famous letter to the SCMP was about public toilets,” she says. “It’s hilarious. There was one time, I remember, at one point I was quite active writing letters to the SCMP, and my brother wrote in—in refutation to what I wrote. I said, ‘Why did you do that?’ But we’re like that.”

See our exclusive behind-the-scenes video with Ronna Chao:

Above Video: Kevin Cheung/Hong Kong Tatler
  • PhotographyVinci Ng
  • StylingJustine Lee
  • Stylist's AssistantGennady Oreshkin
  • HairGloomy Kwok
  • Make-UpJasmine Chan