Brief encounters: Denise Ho

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 9:52am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 9:52am

Celebrity stylist Denise Ho talks about why it's crucial that we turn to sustainability and more ethical fashion.

"Things pretty much started by being aware of what's going on with the world and asking the right questions. I used to have a children's wear brand (called A for Apple) and being in trade shows just made me depressed as there was way too much junk out there.

I eventually stopped my brand and got into fashion sustainability. The idea of reselling clothes for charity came when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines and now it's become a continuous project.

I've also joined [an organisation] called Luxarity and we organise charity sales once or twice a year. The next one is actually this coming Saturday and Sunday at The Space on Hollywood Road. Then there is Redress Hong Kong, which promotes environmental sustainability in fashion. I love working with them and I style all their fashion shows and shoots. I am also trying to promote Fashion Revolution, which focuses on ethics and responsibility in fashion.

What is wrong about the fashion industry today? Oh my, where do I start? First is the fact that fashion has become so disposable. The amount of unworn items that we get from donations and from trash bins is shocking. The industry is creating more waste than ever. It is getting very scary. Also, the demand is for quantity instead of quality. Since fast fashion became popular, I have appreciated quality much more. That's why I love vintage clothes so much - it's hard to find the same level of craftsmanship and handiwork they had back then.

Obviously, digital media has changed the industry a lot in terms of instant demands. The popularity of "selfies" has pushed people to focus on themselves more than ever, which is why it is important to do good things for other people. It seems like Instagram has changed everything in fashion, especially in Hong Kong. I know people get upset over it but the world will move forward no matter what. It's a matter of how to embrace the good and get rid of the bad. Maybe it's time to not take it too seriously.

I think anyone who is trying to make a difference in the industry is amazing. Doing a little something is better than doing nothing. I understand that it is tough because it is a business and it is all about profits. But I would say designers who stand their ground and continue to make quality clothing that lasts are very respectable. For example, Yohji [Yamamoto] made it clear he is not a fan of fast fashion and I think it takes a lot to make a comment like that, especially when Comme des Garcons did a collaboration with H&M.

Yes, there is a growing movement towards sustainability in Asia, as it is in Asia where most of these problems are happening. Even though we can blame Western countries, the situation can be improved by education and building awareness. I believe people do sense the problems but just don't know where to start.

Educating people [about ethical and sustainable fashion] is the biggest challenge in Hong Kong, because it's still quite new for the most part. It is not like in Europe and America, where you are surrounded by people talking about it all the time.

As told to Jing Zhang