Christina Dean remembers the precise moment she realized attitudes about clothing in Hong Kong were finally shifting.
As the founder and board chair of Redress, a nonprofit that tackles the problem of waste in the apparel industry, Dean had spent more than 10 years chipping away at what appeared to be an insurmountable issue.
Roughly 340 metric tons of textile waste are dumped into Hong Kong’s already-brimming landfills every day, according to the Special Administrative Region’s Environmental Protection Department. Clothing sales, it noted, have soared by 60 percent just during the past decade. There were times, Dean admitted, she felt like the tragic Greek figure Sisyphus, condemned to forever push a large rock uphill, except instead of rolling back down, it just got heavier.
But a speech in September by Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Hong Kong’s chief secretary of administration and its most senior principal government official, offered some measure of relief.
At the opening of the second annual Hong Kong Fashion Summit, which organizers—Redress among them—billed as Asia’s largest sustainable-fashion event, Cheung formed a link between the rise of cheap and disposable “fast fashion” with “irreversible damages to our environment.”
He also affirmed the the semi-autonomous territory’s commitment to promoting sustainable fashion development, promising that the government would continue to throw its support behind the development of new technologies to “facilitate green making and marketing of fashion products.”
Indeed, despite Hong Kong’s 1997 return to China, a country often pilloried for the glut of cheap products flooding Western markets—at least until production fled to still-cheaper climes—the territory has taken pains of late to position itself as a hub for sustainable apparel innovation.