Cover A mountain of textile waste. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tatler’s man about town discovers that being sustainable no longer means falling out of fashion.

Over the last year, I rummaged through a lot of my storage and the bulk of the stuff was, you guessed it, clothes. I used to buy like it was (retail) therapy and accumulated much more than I would ever be able to wear. Taking stock kind of made me feel ashamed, so I decided to make a plan of action and change my ways. Here are my tips on how to tackle this daunting task;  I also celebrate two eco fashion heroes I admire. We can be sustainable and still enjoy luxury in fashion, I promise.

Cleaning

I used to spend a fortune on dry cleaning. It’s not only very expensive, but the chemicals used aren’t great for clothes, your skin or the environment, let alone the amount of wasteful plastic wrapping involved. I have raved about this appliance before but I have to say again how much I love my Samsung AirDresser, a digital cupboard that sits within your closet and cleans and straightens your clothes once placed inside, meaning more wears in between professional cleans. It has paid for itself, many times over, with the tens of thousands of dollars saved on dry cleaning.

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Repairing

Despite years of neglect, many items in my wardrobe are still very attractive and wearable but just need some repairs or tailoring tweaks to update them. My favourite seamstress is Gorgeous by Lydia; she really is a whizz at giving my clothes a flattering new silhouette. Whether removing bulky shoulder pads from retro jackets or letting out a couple of inches due to weight gain, she can repair almost anything magically to make it perfectly wearable again.

Find her at 3/F, Yuen Yick Building, 27-29 Wellington Street, Central (Tel: 2522 5788).

Giving away

For the clothes that didn’t quite have a place in my slimmed-down closet, I considered giving them away to my friends’ kids. I hesitated a bit, thinking, would they really want Uncle Peter’s hand-me-downs? To my surprise, they were thrilled to take them and thought my style was cool! It was nice to see something I don’t use spark joy for someone else. Also, don’t forget there are many local charities that accept donations, including The Salvation Army, Friends of the Earth, The Conservancy Association and St James’ Settlement. The latter partners with Green Ladies and Green Little, the first eco-social enterprise to operate a consignment model in Hong Kong when they started in 2008. 

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Selling

Almost all of my pieces are designer, and it was surprising to learn that there is actually a very strong second-hand resale market in Hong Kong. I have made a small fortune selling pieces that were just sitting in storage for years. My go-to site is Vestiaire Collective and I have sold hundreds of pieces that I would never wear or miss. For second-hand designer clothes consignment, my friends and I go to drop off items at La Place on Lyndhurst Terrace (laplace.com.hk). It mainly focuses on womenswear but I have sold many bags and more unisex designer pieces for top prices.

Buying differently

My friend once dared me to not buy any clothes for a year. I chickened out but that was years ago when I used to buy like clothes were going out of fashion. I shopped with a vengeance weekly, sometimes daily, and if I was on any trip, it was always a licence to shop. I have grown wiser; I shop much less now and not so impulsively. I have changed my approach and shopping habits. Sustainability factors into my decisions now: a recent purchase was a Prada Re-Nylon jacket. The brand launched this project in 2020 with Aquafill, a company that produces regenerated nylon yarn from waste materials. This was a brilliant move as the nylon is such a recognised element of the brand DNA, reinventing an iconic product for a more conscious era. 

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Fashion Eco Warriors

These two green champions have made me think differently about my consumption habits and inspired me
to become less of a shopaholic—no small feat indeed

Denise Ho

The first person who ever talked to me about fashion sustainability many years ago is my friend Denise Ho. She is passionate about sustainability and promotes restyling the same piece over buying multiple different garments. She recently launched Kitdo, a restyling accessory that she claims can add more than ten looks to your closet staples. Available in gold and silver finishes, this large, sculptural clip is made to be a feature of the restyled garment, not hidden away in the folds. It uses magnets that hold layers of fabric together, creating new looks through looping, bonding and cinching, but can also just be worn as a beautiful brooch.

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“To me, true sustainability is about not making and buying anything new,” Ho says, citing psychologist and founder of wardrobe consulting business Inside Out Jennifer Baumgartner’s finding that that the majority of people wear only 20 per cent of their closet 80 per cent of the time. “We need to educate consumers to shop and restyle their closet more often than not,” Ho adds. To order, email itskitdo@gmail.com

Toby Crispy

A friend recently introduced me to Toby Crispy (love her name), the founder of Fashion Clinic by T. After more than 20 years’ experience in the fashion industry—from being editor of a fashion magazine to design manager at agnès b.—Crispy started her first upcycling label in 2013, demonstrating the many ways clothing can be given a new lease of life through creative tweaks. Her company offers a redesign service and collaborates with NGOs, art groups, brands and businesses on exhibitions, workshops and events. Recently, we met to explore upcycling a winter coat of mine, and it was such a fun process. I loved the creative ideas she came up with, and I can’t wait for my new, one-of-a-kind, upcycled coat to be finished.


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