How to be More Sustainable with your Fashion Choices. A Shopping and Recycling Guide for the Eco-Conscious Fashionistas
In today’s world it’s becoming increasingly popular to be more eco-conscious in our fashion shopping, but how easy is it you might ask? What simple changes can you make to ensure you’re being more ethical and sustainably conscious as a consumer?
Reading the title of this article you might also be thinking “Hold up, I live in Hong Kong…where could I possibly find sustainable clothing here?” Fear not good people of HK, yes, unlike some other big cities, Hong Kong has always seemed to lag a little behind the eco-friendly, vintage and secondhand trends for the retro fashionistas out there but we are here to help you.
It even took us a while to adjust to the lack of op-shops, vintage stores and general awareness of sustainable clothing but after some serious digging, we’ve found Hong Kong is not in fact a lost cause. You’d be surprised by some of the great brands, shops and events out there offering the sustainable conscious girls, guys and kids a place to shop, sell and recycle.
What to look for when shopping?
First thing to know about shopping for sustainably conscious clothing is that you won’t be able to know 100% about the item upfront. Sure a company may stick a ‘sustainable’ or ‘eco’ label on the product but how can you guarantee that it actually is? The truth is there is no one size fits all definition of sustainable; it differs company to company which makes it difficult for the consumer. There are however a few hard and fast rules you can stick by when shopping.
- Branding: This can be hard to do sometimes when you see that bag you just have to have, but ideally, before making a purchase, read up about the brand you are buying from. Most good brands will have a company profile on their website and you can gauge a lot about their commitment to sustainability and ethical fashion from their website. The companies who care AND actively make a difference will give you a good background as to how they actually achieve this.
- Make and Made: A lot can be told from the make or a garment. Those products with better quality stitching and finishing tend to be made in better conditions. Also keep a lookout for where the product is made – if they are made domestically they are generally better, but also, the better a company is at caring for the health, safety and wellbeing of their workers, the more they want to shout it from the rooftops.
- Material: Another obvious sign as to whether something is sustainable or not is the material and quality of the product. Material is a huge environmental impactor and the companies more aware of this and doing something about the make of their material will generally state it (or at least publish so on their website) because companies want to promote their conscious efforts. Some more responsible materials include linen, hemp, Tencel (lyocell), organic cotton, alpaca and recycled or organic non-mulesed wool. To reduce their impact on the environment, some companies will also use vintage or deadstock material for products.
- Sustainability Report: A little harder to assess while shopping, but companies should produce a ‘Sustainability Report’ as part of their annual or quarterly reporting systems in which the public can access. The reports (generally available online) are often a good indication of the progress a company makes and their intended goals in the area of sustainability. For example you can find H and M 2015 Sustainability Report here.
We have also compiled six simple steps you can follow to become more fashion conscious and sustainable in your day to day life.
- Get Informed: The first step in the process is becoming more aware and learning more about brands and companies that are focused on ‘green’ and ethical clothing.
- Buy Less but Invest More: Start by slowing down your purchase rate at fast fashion outlets. You can put the money you would normally spend on a weekly shop at your favourite store into one item a month that you absolutely love and will truly care for and cherish.
- Buy Handmade and Support Local Brands: Buying from the big chains means your clothes are most likely made in large factories in China or India in poorer working conditions. Buying locally from a designer means you can talk with the designer on their working practices in person. Most likely, the products will be handmade and/or locally made in small industrial areas where the lifestyle of the workers is at the forefront of the owners’ and designers’ minds.
- Care: It takes a lot of energy to grow, manufacture and transport that cotton t-shirt you want to buy—but did you know that the most energy goes into caring for it? One load of washing uses 150L of water and one load of drying uses 5 times more energy than washing. By caring for your clothes you provide a longer garment life. You can also reduce your environmental impact by thinking about how you launder your garment. More info can be found here.
- Rewear: Rather than throwing your old clothes away, sell or give away those pieces that can be reworn. Someone will love getting a new piece to their wardrobe and it will give the garment a whole new life. There are a number of companies set up locally and globally to collect clothes and old textiles to aid these processes.
- Reuse: Clothes and textiles that cannot be reworn can be turned into other products such as cleaning cloths.
- Recycle: Recycling is a great way to help reduce the natural material sourcing. Recycled clothes are those unable to be reworn or reused and turned into textile fibres then used for things such as insulation.
Where to buy sustainably conscious clothing?
From local brands promoting sustainable fashion to sustainably driven major labels, we have compiled a list of some of our favourite stores and online shops for fashion conscious shoppers.
Price Range: $$
An idea formed between two friends sitting down over lunch, The Closeteur is an online shopping experience for vintage and secondhand clothing based in Hong Kong. It is a community for fashion lovers to buy, sell, support and appreciate pre-loved fashion. For each item, they feature the Closeteurs on the site, to model and share the story behind each piece so you can see how they have been loved in the past.
Price Range: $$
Local company A Boy Named Sue started with a mutual desire between founders to find sustainable clothing. They have built their brand around the sustainability triangle focusing on Eco, Social and Local products. They only stock from Eco-conscious designers who promote environmental stewardship through careful analysis of their production chains, choice of materials, reduction in energy input and closed loop waste disposal, to reduce their ecological footprint. They choose brands that have a people-driven cause and they collaborate with local independent designers in Hong Kong; to support creativity and encourage the use of eco-friendly practices and sustainable materials.
Where: 90-92 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong Island
Price Range: $$
For the active shopper out there, this lifestyle and athleisure fashion store is committed to making active and mindful decisions when it comes to its products and its store. Everything from the yoga apparel and swimwear to the mannequins and lighting in store are chosen based on sustainable practises. They only work with brands that are eco-friendly in their products, mindful in their manufacturing process, and overall proactive in their business practices.
Where: Shop 8-9, UG, CC Wu Shopping Arcade, Wan Chai (MTR exit A2) &
G/F, No 168 Queen’s Road West, Sai Ying Pun (MTR exit A1)
Price Range: $
You can pick up high-quality vintage fashion at Green Ladies in Wan Chai and Sai Ying Pun. This is a well organised store with a pleasant shopping experience – no rummaging through piles of tatty clothes to find one gem. Green Ladies is a consignment store that takes on-trend, lightly used fashion and gives it a new lease of life. If you’re clearing out your closet, you could give some items to Green Ladies on consignment, if an item is sold within 2 months you will receive up to 30% of the purchase price.
Price Range: $
The folks at RETYKLE understand it can be an expensive process buying children’s wear when your little ones constantly need new sizes. They created a platform for parents to buy and sell great quality baby and kid’s clothing as convenient and as stylish as buying new. RETYKLE only feature a selection of higher-end clothing brands, and the quality and condition of each item is carefully checked before it’s posted on their site. Your little tykes can rock that designer look for a fraction of the price, and do their bit for the planet at the same time!
Large Eco Conscious Labels:
Where: Worldwide In store and Online
Price Range: $
H&M are a big player in sustainable fashion. They launched their H&M Conscious range in 2011 as a collection comprising of high-end environmentally friendly pieces, aiming to move H&M’s fashion and sustainability development towards a more sustainable fashion future. They have also been running their garment recycle scheme since 2013, which encourages shoppers to recycle any clothing of any brand or condition through their drop off boxes in store to then receive a coupon for shopping in the store. Since starting the initiative they have collected more than 32,000 tonnes of garment to give a new life.
Where: in Store and online
Price Range: $$$
Stella is well known in the fashion biz as a strong advocate for ethical and sustainable fashion. Standing against animal cruelty, she doesn’t use leather or fur in her designs – instead her line is completely vegetarian and we are all for it!
Where to buy, sell, swap and recycle vintage and secondhand clothing?
With rental prices through the roof, they generally aren’t somewhere that meets the eye, but Hong Kong has a number of great secondhand and vintage stores and initiatives around where you’re bound to find some bargains and perhaps sell on some old clothing of your own to make room for that summer wardrobe!
Where: 9 Li Yuen Street West, Central
Coming recommended by a friend, this hole in the wall place is a treasure trove of secondhand goods. Racks of stuff to browse and lust over – best be in the mood for some digging.
When: March 5
Where: Soho Yard, 19 Old Bailey Street Central
These markets started as a small group of friends in Australia, selling old beloved clothes in a laneway next to a rug shop (hence the name). They moved to Hong Kong and held their first Rug Lane Markets last November, offering a cool space for people to come sell and buy vintage and secondhand clothing. They are back in March at a new, bigger location, ready for a great day of selling, shopping and socialising. At just $50 entry fee for buyers (including free drink), it’s a bargain to even just come have a look around!
Where: Fashion Pop Ups and Secondhand Sale Events (keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming events)
Founded in 2007, Redress is an NGO promoting environmental sustainability in the fashion industry by reducing textile waste, pollution, water and energy consumption. The team educate and nurture emerging designers, inspire and inform fashion consumers and provide a platform for industry collaboration to create a more sustainable future for fashion through engagement programmes. You can get involved by donating or through their consumer events all found on their website. The 2017 EcoChic Design Awards organised by ReDress are also open now for applications and will be exhibiting around later in the year.
Where: You can donate at collection points at Pure Yoga, Pure Fitness, Metta and Eaton House between 1-9 March 2017.
A wonderful initiative run by Friends of the Earth(HK) and Women in Finance, Suits for Success is an event which aims to donate professional clothing to young adults in need. Grab that old jacket you never wear to work anymore and pass it on to an aspiring young adult to help start their professional career.
Where: Family Stores around Hong Kong
The Salvation Army has been around for what seems like centuries but they offer such an easy and great way to donate your secondhand clothing and know it will go on to have another life. The family stores, located around Hong Kong, are a great place to do some secondhand and vintage shopping yourself at discounted prices as well.
Founder of Rug Lane, a concept destination exploring fashion, music, lifestyle and pop culture, Billie-Grace Dunk is part engineer/part blogger with a passion for sustainable and ethical fashion. She has lived in Hong Kong for 2.5 years and runs the Rug Lane Vintage and Secondhand Markets.