Your insider’s guide to Hong Kong

Green is the New Black

Cutting waste and making fashion sustainable is Redress founder Christina Dean. Johannes Pong catches up with her on a typical day

Photos: Calvin Sit

Christina Dean & Angus Tsui
Christina Dean with former EcoChic Design Award winner Angus Tsui.
Christina wears a Shanghai Tang top made using material from surplus collections

Christina Dean is an ardent advocate of sustainable style and founder of Redress, an NGO committed to cutting out waste from the fashion industry. The busy mother of three splits her time between London and Hong Kong.

I meet her in Hong Kong’s Chai Wan district, inspecting piles of fabric in a warehouse. Much of it is from China and will end up in a landfill, but Dean is taking samples and some will be used by BYT, Redress’ affordable luxury up-cycled fashion brand.

“What we’re looking at is a monster industry, which is actually not sustainable,” Dean says in the cab ride back to the Redress office in Central. “We think it’s our right to buy cheap, cheap, cheap, and more, more, more. It’s quite a selfish act to constantly consume like there’s no tomorrow.”

Named by British Vogue as one of the “Top 30 Inspirational Women,” Dean credits her barefoot upbringing on a South African farm for her environmental awareness. Her dedication to public health derives from her previous incarnation as a dental surgeon.

“Waste and pollution in the fashion and textile industry is a public health issue,” Dean says. She adds that not only is the cotton, textile and apparel industry one of the world’s biggest, it is “unfortunately” also a big polluter. “Sadly, people don’t want to think about fashion like that.”

Also a former award-winning journalist, Dean is asked to describe an average day. “Every day is utterly different, but essentially, when I’m not on the computer doing budgets, pitching and hassling people, I’m meeting people, trying to persuade them to do stuff.”

Christina Dean Christina Dean & Janko Lam  Green is the New Black

Christina inspecting fabric in a warehouse (top) and meeting with inaugural EcoChic Design Award winner Janko Lam at Amber Bar (bottom left)

She’s scheduled a meeting at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental’s Amber Bar with Janko Lam, whose contemporary cheongsam made with old denim won her the inaugural EcoChic Design Award. Launched by Redress in 2011, it is the world’s biggest sustainable fashion design competition for emerging designers.

Before meeting Lam, Dean decides on a change of outfit and emerges from the ladies’ room in a sleek navy ensemble with undulating ruffles, made from surplus collections of Chinese luxury fashion house Shanghai Tang. Designed by Pat Guzik, winner of the EcoChic Design Award 2015/16, the collection is available at Shanghai Tang stores.

Afterwards, Dean sets off for Pizza Express on Wellington Street for an appointment with Angus Tsui, another EcoChic Design Award alumni. Known for his edgy designs, the young designer has just launched an eco-menswear label, Astra Tailoring, which strives to incorporate sustainability into the whole supply chain, from sourcing to promotion and even after-sales services.

Sitting alfresco, the pair share a pizza, for which HK$8 is donated to Redress. “There are a lot of similarities between food and fashion, two things we do every day,” Dean comments. She adds that Pizza Express also hosts DIY workshops with Tsui, taking over the restaurant for an evening, at which clientele bring in old clothes and are shown how to up-cycle them.

“It’s great fun and our partnership brings the sustainable fashion discussion to the table.”

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