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Fashion in Hong Kong and China

Have Hong Kong designers made world’s ‘most sustainable shirt’ – despite knowing nothing about fashion?

Entrepreneurs Jeffrey Man and Davy Chan apply new dyeing and processing technology to create eco-friendly fashion for their Cosmos Studio brand; their first collection so far has just one style, but they have big plans

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 January, 2018, 1:15pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 January, 2018, 5:48pm

There is no shortage of fashion brands that market themselves as eco-friendly or sustainable. Hong Kong-based label Cosmos Studio, however, is hoping to stand apart from the rest by launching what it calls “the world’s most sustainable shirt”.

Childhood friends Jeffrey Man and Davy Chan are the first to admit that they know nothing about fashion – Man studied psychology at London School of Economics while Chan was an economics student at the University of Hong Kong

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However, a meeting with a friend’s father, who is a major textile manufacturer in Hong Kong, gave them the idea of creating a truly sustainable and ethical fashion line.

“Everyone knows that being sustainable is the only way forward for the industry, especially if they are to survive in the long term,” says Man. “Our philosophy is to use completely sustainable technologies in manufacturing all our collections.

“When people talk about creating a sustainable brand, they mention fair trade, organic cotton or ethical sourcing. We want to do all that but also aim to tackle the most hideous and neglected part of textile manufacturing – the dyeing and processing.”

At Cosmos Studio every step in the production chain is designed to be sustainable and eco-friendly. While many brands will use pre-dyed fabrics, the Hong Kong pair’s clothing instead utilises an exclusive colour diffusion technology called Gidelave that prints colour onto the cotton threads first, before they are woven into a piece of fabric.

They also use BCI certified cotton, which is environmentally friendly, non-toxic and fair trade. The dyeing process, which uses a neutral enzyme, saves 95 per cent of the water used in traditional manufacturing, produces 95 per cent less effluent and uses just 53 per cent of the energy, according to the company.

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Once the fabric is dyed, it’s then manufactured in Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) certified factories in China that adhere to 12 ethical principles covering issues including child labour, fair pay and safe work environments.

While Cosmos Studio has the science down to a pat, the product and how it looks and feels is also important.

Their first collection is extremely limited and features just one style – a unisex tailored shirt – which was chosen because it is a daily essential with universal appeal. The shirts, which are available in four colours, have a washed-out vintage effect.

Man says the first collection, which is available exclusively online, is an experiment to test the market. He does have plans to evolve the brand into a fashion-focused line solely for men, starting with short-sleeved T-shirts, polo shirts and shorts this summer, and more unisex pieces in the autumn.

“A lot of sustainable brands out there lack essential design elements because sustainability is the biggest priority. We want to focus on both equally and execute them at the highest level. Right now we are looking for a designer, and our upcoming collections will be more than just essentials and basics,” says Man.

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Man and Chan’s ambitions, however, go beyond just creating a fashion line; their vision is to make universal the manufacturing technology they develop.

“If one day manufacturers start producing with our technologies, it will bring about an extremely high level of clean and sustainable production at a global scale,” says Man.