Give clothes - and the environment - a second chance

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 August, 2013, 10:10am

Last week, a few friends and I held a clothes swap, and donated a big bag of unwanted clothing to the Friends of the Earth clothing bank. But do you ever wonder where it all ends up? Unlike in Britain, charity clothing shops are virtually non-existent in Hong Kong. The idea of wearing recycled clothes, or even vintage, has unfortunately not permeated the common consciousness here.

Mostly these clothes end up being divided and shipped to developing countries, but recycling can also be done more effectively closer to home.

Redress Hong Kong, an ethical fashion organisation is shedding more light on the matter - pointing out the importance of reducing fashion and textile waste. Its founder, Christina Dean, is halfway through her year-long 365 Challenge. For each day in 2013, Dean will wear 100 per cent dumped, discarded or donated secondhand clothes to draw attention to the matter.

Promoting the "Redress it, don't bin it" concept by showing people how to extend the lifecycle of discarded fashions, Dean is exposing our city's huge problem with waste. With fashion consumption estimated to have increased by 60 per cent during the past 10 years, landfills have been overwrought with the extra burden of added textile waste. In Hong Kong, we have a big problem with our attitude to fast disposable fashion. In 2011, Dean says, around 217 tonnes of textiles were dumped into our three landfills - every day.

Kate Jones, trained designer and founder of consultancy At Liberty, styled Dean for June. She says that the Challenge is important for Hong Kong because "here people look at clothes as a short-term fix, there's a lot of emotional buying and they don't know what effect all this has on the environment".

"At the start, I was scared that I wasn't going to find anything, at least not enough for 30 outfits. But I saw so much great stuff," says Jones. "I was surprised that stuff was thrown away, sometimes for silly reasons like small stains or small tears."

Jones cleaned up some of the stains and stitched up small tears, easily finding a stylish month's worth of outfits for Dean. "We found a beautiful Elisabeth & James silk dress, a Marni coat, and some items still with the tags on."

Fashion and activism don't always go hand in hand, but Dean is one of Hong Kong's most prolific. For this project, the stylish eco-warrior is styled by a different guest stylist each month who pick outfits from discarded and donated clothes from the Friends of the Earth warehouses. All are posted on Instagram (@getredressed) so that fans can track Dean's recycled year in style.

A selection of favourite outfits will even be sold at auction to raise funds for Redress.

The point of the challenge is also to show people that reusing secondhand items can still be stylish, reminding Hongkongers to be more eco conscious when it comes to fashion. On one day, Dean dons a gorgeous printed summer dress, on another it might be a short silk gown.

I love the outfit Dean is wearing in the photo (left): a black and white tartan sports jacket with black sleeves over a button-up shirt, skinny black jeans and grey V-neck sweater. This cool androgyny is very on trend and wouldn't look out of place on a street style blog.