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Fashion in Hong Kong and China

Five Hong Kong swimwear brands that are a mix of stylish, sustainable and affordable

From the mix and match separates of Mint Escape to ocean-conserving items from Transcend and men’s swimwear label Mazu, there are plenty of reasons to buy local when it comes to your essential beachwear fashion

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 September, 2017, 5:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 September, 2017, 11:45am

With its international clientele of expats, tourists and well-travelled locals, business-friendly tax system, world-class infrastructure and proximity to the manufacturing hubs of China and Southeast Asia, Hong Kong is an excellent place to start a fashion business. Throw in its hot, sunny weather for six months of the year and lifestyles that revolve around the beach, junk boats and swimming pools, where could be better to launch a swimwear brand?

The last few years have seen a number of home-grown swimwear brands start up. One of those is Mint Escape, launched by Hong Kong resident Diana Vo with her friend Anna Biller in March this year.

“The long summer days in Hong Kong means having a variety of swimwear in your wardrobe is essential for fashion savvy Hong Kong ladies,” Vo says.

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Both women had experience sourcing and developing collections for international apparel brands and private labels before starting the company. For them, Mint Escape is about creating reasonably priced swimwear that doesn’t compromise on quality or style, which they do by staying ahead of fashion trends.

They also place an emphasis on mix and match separates, for which they found there was a gap in the market. “It is nearly impossible to find a lifestyle shop with sophisticated and modern swimwear in Hong Kong where you are able to mix and match sizes and styles according to your body shape,” Biller says.

Petra Greening, founder of swimwear brand Hollow and a resident of Shek O, also had a career in fashion before launching her label earlier this year. She too struggled to find stylish swimwear at an affordable price point in Hong Kong, and decided to create a range of stylish bikinis with a minimal aesthetic.

“I didn’t want my swimwear to feel like it was wearing my consumer,” Greening says. “I wanted to create something timeless and classic in beautiful understated colours not typically classed as a summer palette.”

Hollow’s swimwear also has a sustainable element, she explains. “With the large junk, water sports and beach-going community we have in Hong Kong, I’ve noticed that the ocean is dear to us Hongkongers. It’s thus very important to me to create as little waste as possible, so I created reusable bags to enclose my swimwear instead of one-time-use unrecyclable plastic packaging.”

Another Hong Kong-based swimwear brand with a focus on protecting the oceans is Transcend, launched by actress, television host and model Jocelyn Sandstrom earlier this year via Kickstarter. She and her husband Antony use an Italian pure nylon material called Econyl, which is made from regenerated fishing nets and carpet, to make their elegant and sustainable range of bikinis.

“I am passionate about the planet and green living, so I thought it would be perfect to combine the two,” she says. “If we don’t protect and take care of our oceans, we won’t have beautiful oceans to swim in. Both go hand in hand.”

Adam Raby, founder of Hong Kong-based men’s swimwear brand Mazu, also highlights ocean conservation. In particular, he wants to raise awareness for the Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin, or Chinese white dolphin, of which – because of overfishing and pollution – there remain just 60 in the waters surrounding Hong Kong.

“In a bid to raise awareness about their plight to survive, we created the Indo-Pacific Humpback, Ringo, Tai O and Pearl River patterns for our shorts,” Raby says. Proceeds from each pair of these shorts sold goes to the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society.

Raby launched his brand in 2014 to showcase Asia-inspired luxury resort wear to the world after noticing a gap in the market for an Asia-based men’s swimwear label. He is now working to source sustainable materials – such as recycled fabric blends and bamboo – to use in upcoming designs.

“A sustainable purchase is one you are going to have for a very long time, which is why sustainability isn’t cheap,” he says. “It’s important to me that Mazu Resortwear as a company is aware of its carbon footprint and responsibility to sustain our environment.”

Hong Kong-based e-commerce brand Grana has also just started competing in the swimwear market, having added men’s and women’s designs to its range in June. The brand, founded in 2013, based the decision on requests from the 3,000 active consumers that form “GranaLab”, a sharing and feedback network.

Grana is known for disrupting the traditional retail model by selling high quality fabrics direct to the consumer. It has maintained its usual mark-up of two to three times in the swimwear category, significantly lower than the traditional retail mark-up of six to eight times.

The men’s pieces are crafted from a specially formulated polyblend called “Taiwanese Tech” that is smooth, lightweight and fast drying. The women’s pieces are made from a material called “Italian Sensitive”, known for its quick drying abilities, super smooth feel and “second skin” fit.

“We looked at the market price and fabrics used by mid- to high-end brands and [we] sourced high-quality fabrics,” says brand CEO and founder Luke Grana. “We lowered the market cost by 20 30 per cent, fitting into our sweet spot for millennial customers.”

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Hong Kong’s swimwear start-ups are proving that they are not just fashionable, but also ethical and affordable. So with a whole host of stylish and sustainable swimwear offerings on your doorstep, why not buy local?