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Responsible Shopping Trends: the Hong Kong Update


• In the face of urgent environmental issues, Nissa Cornish, executive director of Redress, shares three key trends that are shaping Hong Kong’s responsible shopping arena.


You’ve probably heard of responsible shopping – it means considering the impact of your purchases on the wellbeing of the environment, society and yourself. With more and more brands offering sustainable options, it’s easier to make responsible choices these days. But while we’re on the right track to create a circular economy that keeps reusing and recycling resources, there’s still a lot to be done.

“The fashion industry faces two big challenges,” says Nissa Cornish, executive director of local charity Redress, which promotes responsible consumption through initiatives like their Circular Fashion Programme, Get Redressed Month and the upcoming 24-hour “sort-a-thon” at Taikoo Place. “It has an incredibly complex and long supply chain, and there simply aren’t enough sustainable material providers.”

“There are many great innovations happening, from mushroom leather to pineapple fabric made from waste pineapple fibre to recycled and upcycled textiles,” she continues. “But it can take 10 years for a concept to go from lab to wardrobe.”

Environmental issues are urgent matters, though. So while we wait for these creative solutions to be realised, what’s the update in the Hong Kong responsible shopping arena?

Shopping Local

The pandemic has limited international shipping ability, but one positive outcome has been the increasing support for small local brands. “There are a lot of emerging designers who really embed sustainability into the core fabric of their brands,” says Cornish. “Compared with big brands, they have more control over their design and production, so they can be sustainable from the beginning.”

In Hong Kong, many independent brands are creating clothes from eco-friendly materials. Love from Blue, for example, is a knitwear label that uses waste yarn from knitting factories. Angus Tsui is another local designer who uses excess fabric stock and other organic fabrics. Meanwhile, Classics Anew makes long-lasting clothes and accessories solely from upcycled waste material.

“Eighty per cent of garments sustainability is locked at the design stage, since that’s when you decide the materials and processes involved in the production,” says Cornish. “It’s wonderful to support these small, local businesses who are able to create beautiful, wearable and sustainable products.”

Shopping Pre-loved

When it comes to shopping responsibly, new doesn’t mean better. And in Hong Kong, there’s a growing appetite for second-hand shopping, as shown by the success of platforms such as Vestiaire Collective. “People now prioritise other values like sustainability over newness,” says Cornish. “We can attest to that as we regularly hold pop-ups selling preloved clothing, and we’ve certainly seen a growth. In fact, the value of the worldwide second-hand apparel market is projected to reach US$64 billion by 2024.”

In fact, the demand for pre-owned items had been so great that Redress decided to open a permanent shop, The Redress Closet, in Sham Shui Po earlier this year, which has been incredibly popular. “We’re happy to see return customers on a regular basis. It’s encouraging that people are receptive to second-hand shopping,” she says. “I think Hong Kong is poised for better consumption habits if we give people the access to high-quality preloved clothing. It’s not necessarily a dusty basement thrift shop experience!”

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Shopping with Transparency

“In the past couple of decades, some brands might have been trigger-shy about communicating their environmental targets because of the fear of being labelled as ‘greenwashing’,” says Cornish. Things have been changing, though. As we become more aware of the impact of our consumption behaviour, it’s only natural that we want more transparency from companies.

“People generally support brands that talk about and offer sustainable options,” she adds. “Companies are opening up those lines of communication and take consumers on the journey with them, rather than waiting until they’ve got everything right. It’s about having a two-way conversation, which I’d say is now a trend, but will soon become necessary for any companies to stay in the market.”

To Shop or Not to Shop?

There are many ways to shop responsibly, but what’s the most sustainable item that you can wear? “The one that’s already in your closet,” says Cornish. “Understand that clothing has a purpose and make sure it isn’t treated as a disposable product. Sometimes, the most responsible way to shop is not to shop at all.”

Determined to live more sustainably? Besides shopping responsibly, you can also help by reducing waste – here are 4 ways to repurpose food waste.
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