Alexandra Foster knows all about taking chances. When she took a chance on relocating from her native Melbourne in 2016, the designer hoped to fill a void in Hong Kong’s sustainable fashion industry. Just three years later, her vegan, gender-neutral fashion label ACF is at the forefront of a local movement that’s steadily gathering momentum.
“When I moved here, [sustainable fashion] was non-existent across the board,” she says. “Luxury was more of the focus. But there was a small community that was passionate about bringing sustainability to attention, and in the last few years the trend has really boomed.”
Foster’s focus on sustainability extends to the people making her products. “A lot of smaller labels and startups here are based around ethical manufacturing, in terms of giving back to the artisans and training people who are less fortunate to actually make the product,” says Foster.
ACF collaborated with the Australian Fashion Council in late 2018 to bring seven emerging Australian fashion designers to Hong Kong for a 10-day pop-up. At the end of this year it plans to do the reverse – bring young HK designers to Australia.
Foster’s contemporary streetwear also has a charitable focus; ACF strives to use 100 per cent of its fabric wastage for philanthropic purposes. Again, Foster is no longer alone in such pursuits, proven by her selection of like-minded boutiques and labels around the city, whether bricks and mortar or strictly online.
Founded by Lane Crawford veteran Sarah Fung, Hula calls itself “an online marketplace for pre-owned designer womenswear”. “It’s basically a luxury-fashion resale site, a bit like Vestiaire Collective,” says Foster. “They’re primarily online, but they’ve just opened a designer warehouse on the south side of the island.” In keeping with its sustainable mission, Hula donates five per cent of its net profits to partner charities such as Redress and Habitat for Humanity.
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An environmental NGO devoted to promoting zero waste in the fashion and textile industries, Redress launched its own label a few years ago. “It’s a spin-off of a fashion design competition they do every year,” says Foster. “The winner becomes the designer for their R Collective [label] the next year. They focus on zero-waste fashion, using upcycled and recycled fabrics.” Redress sells online as well as through luxury retailers such as Lane Crawford and Barneys.
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Kambodja Giving Brand
Cambodian expat Linda Quach founded this socially responsible accessories brand, which brings fair job opportunities to Cambodian workers and donates a portion of its profits to providing education to disadvantaged communities there. “She actually goes over there to train local women to make the products,” says Foster. “She doesn’t have an actual store, but they do lots of pop-ups.” Calling its style “exotic minimalism”, Kambodja brings a strong French influence to its colourful accessories, which range from tote bags and clutches to blankets and collars.
KBEN & HOL
Founded by Helene Ang, a Cambodian native who grew up in Australia, Kben & Hol is a Hong Kong-based label that employs skilled Cambodian artisans to craft handwoven fabrics with original patterns and exciting designs. “It’s more like homewares and accessories,” Foster says of the online retailer, which is stocked by Lane Crawford. “Cushions and throws and things like that.” The products are a modern, ethical twist on traditional Cambodian silks.
Another Hong Kong-based business with an emphasis on zero waste, Unfold sticks to dead-stock fabric and materials, which are ethically manufactured in the same factory used by Foster. “They’re a fashion brand, but also really focused on sustainability,” she says. Anchored by a line of classic white shirts, the company has also branched out into similarly minimalist skirts, pants and outerwear. Unfold offers custom embroidery as well – a hand-stitched touch by the brand’s founder herself.
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