China is estimated to produce more than 26 million tons of textile waste each year. Up against it all is a growing league of designers promoting environmental friendliness and sustainability through the fashion cycle, all the way from their initial sketches to the purchasing decisions of a stylish shopper.
Hong Kong based NGO Redress has been seeking out the newest and best of these designers through its EcoChic Design Award. Now in its fifth year, The EcoChic Design Award is preparing to announce the 10 finalists who will go on to participate in a runway show at Hong Kong Fashion Week in January, where those selected will display collections that feature either zero-waste, up-cycling or reconstruction techniques.
Thirty semi-finalists were selected last week from a list of applicants that, for the first time, were sourced from all over Asia and Europe. This year, five of them are from mainland China. On September 15, an international panel of judges, including fashion writer Susie Bubble and ELLE China Fashion Editor Stephanie Zhuge, will narrow down the selection once more to five designers representing Asia, and five designers representing Europe. They are competing for prizes that include the opportunity to design their own capsule collection with Richemont-owned Shanghai Tang using up-cycled materials, a mentorship with British sustainable fashion designer Orsola de Castro, and a chance to design an outfit for Hong Kong supermodel Janet Ma to wear.
The competition has partly influenced an increase in universities looking to Redress for help arranging sustainable fashion-focused lectures and classes that give students access to resources on the industry. It's also in line with a retail scene that is responding to a growing demand for independent brands, making room for eco-friendly labels. Multi-brand shops like D2C in Shanghai and Hangzhou are among the platforms increasingly supporting designers with eco-friendly practices, and high-end sustainable and organic fabric brands like Beijing-based NEEMIC are even doing their own education for consumers.
Of course, there are also the talents who participated in the competition that have gone on to do further creative projects and collections, and their careers are gaining momentum. In preparation for the coming announcement, here are a few EcoChic alumni who are making names for themselves:
A 2012 competition finalist, the Hong Kong born designer who is now based in mainland China took her experience with EcoChic and released a zero-waste and up-cycled focused collection under her brand Tiffany Pattinson. Her multi-functional design approach attracted a following that was boosted by her spring summer 2014 runway shows in New York and Connecticut.
Winner of The EcoChic Design Award Hong Kong 2012 People's Award, Angus Tsui is increasingly gaining attention for his sustainable marbled printing techniques and zero-waste design methods for womenswear that has adorned Hong Kong celebrities like Shiga Lin, Yu Chiu. His self-named brand launched last year and is now available in Hong Kong's Cocktail Select Shops.
This Hong Kong based designer and founder of former fashion label Mutt Museum in 2010 was the first recipient of The EcoChic Design Award in 2011 and went on the following year to work with Esprit to create tees and patchwork denim dresses using the brand's own scrap materials from its factories. Lam now shares a retail space in Hong Kong with other local independent designers at PMQ, a hub for trendy shops and galleries, where she sells her Classics Anew brand, which re-imagines traditional Chinese styles like the qipao using upcycled distressed denim from factory waste in mainland China. Her latest collection, Quē, moves into even more wearable territory, featuring chic slate gray and white pieces with stylish asymmetrical cuts.