Elegant, stylish and sustainable

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 July, 2011, 12:00am


At 20, Amanda Ericsson was a model in London. But the glamour of the fashion industry and catwalks did not excite her.

'We spent hours having our hair done just to sell a shampoo brand. A lot of clothes were produced and transported across continents, only to be worn for the season. I thought to myself: what a waste!' says Ericsson, now 29.

After two years, she left the modelling business and went home to Sweden to study textile engineering. In 2005, she came to Hong Kong Polytechnic University to continue her studies. 'I wanted to see how clothes were produced in the factories in China, so I came here.'

And, after seeing the huge amounts of pollution involved in producing mountains of clothes, her passion for promoting 'ethical fashion' was fuelled.

'Ethical fashion has been the talk of the industry in recent years. It means being a responsible manufacturer or consumer of clothes, not just for the environment but also for you and your community,' she says.

Ericsson began to collect old clothes from friends and others, and re-make them into comfortable wear with a modern twist. She uploaded the pictures of her 'new' clothes on the internet while promoting the concept of recycling old clothes. Soon, she attracted a lot of interest and received orders, and started her own online recycling project, 'Dreamandawake'.

'It is hard to stop people wanting to buy [altogether], but we can stop people buying new clothes only to throw them away. I'm trying to give life back to old fabrics and help people create a different relationship with their clothes.'

To promote her belief, Ericsson developed a course called 'Responsible Fashion Company' for The Swedish School of Textiles. She also travels the world to work with students in different schools. Between May and July this year, she was the artist-in-residence at Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity and taught a group of students how to turn old clothes into new, usable ones. Her sculptor-friend, Fiel Dos Santos from Mozambique, also joined her, bringing art pieces made from metal or old war weapons.

Miso Fok Ying-tung, 18, and 17-year-old Chloe Leung Shun-kiu were among some 20 students who participated in Ericsson's workshop. Both girls have experience making DIY products and selling them online. They were inspired by Ericsson's passion and her sustainable fashion philosophy.

'Amanda made me realise that I didn't have to buy new things,' says Miso, a Form Six student at the school. Miso has a up-close experience regarding over-consumption in Hong Kong; she lives with a shopaholic mother.

'My mum buys constantly. She'll buy something cheap and wear it once or twice, then she'll forget it. She even opens up storage spaces for all her clothes. She keeps buying new clothes rather than looking through her piles to see if she can still wear things.' Miso says her mother's behaviour has made her reluctant to buy clothes herself, and is why she identifies with Ericsson's recycling idea. 'I think her idea is very inspirational - if only everyone could try to recycle more and stop buying, [then] there would not be so much waste around us,' says Miso.

As for Chloe, the workshop has given her some new ideas for her DIY dresses. Instead of using only new fabrics to make her dresses, she now tries to turn old dresses into new ones, too. And she has tried it on her parents. 'My parents were both surprised and delighted when they saw what I did with their old clothes. They didn't even remember them!'

She has even taken it one step further by collecting some electronic parts from friends and putting a few wires and other pieces on her dresses. 'People in Hong Kong like to throw away broken computers and phones, but the parts are re-useable. In fact, everything can be re-used for something new,' says Chloe.

Ericsson's exhibition with students at the school, The Universe of SHE, will run until the end of the month.