Header image courtesy of Stephanie Teng (Redress)
Living in the consumer paradise that is Hong Kong means we have easy access to the latest fashion pieces and accessories. However, this convenience comes at a price, and our collective track record on fashion consumption habits doesn’t look very pretty. Here are some ugly truths revealed by a study commissioned by environmental NGO Redress, and what you can do about them.
Surprisingly, a whopping 11 percent of Hongkongers’ monthly expenditure is spent on clothing, which is more than the percentage spent on health and education. Turns out Hongkongers’ thrifty nature—egged on by the city’s pervasive retail scene—is to blame, as discounts were listed as the number one purchase trigger for the average resident.
Almost a third of the clothing in Hong Kong wardrobes is never or rarely worn. Two key reasons for this regrettable phenomenon include impulse buying and having purchased clothing in the wrong style. Boy, does that sound familiar…
Always one to chase after the latest trends, two in five Hongkongers only hold onto clothing for one year or less. To make things worse, many of these unwanted clothing items are discarded in the rubbish instead of recycled or donated, contributing to the 196 tonnes or so of clothing that joins Hong Kong’s landfills every day.
As everyone continues to stay at home for long stretches of time, many have reported that they've reflected on things they took for granted, including their usual consumption habits. Two out of three Hongkongers reported changes in their fashion consumption behaviours because of COVID-19, such as being more practical with clothing purchases, re-wearing the same clothes more often, and donating surplus clothes to charity.
Still, there’s a long way for Hong Kong to go before a more sustainable fashion industry can develop in the city. Christina Dean, the founder of Redress noted, “Our study shows that in Hong Kong, people’s clothing behaviours are not at all aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.” Nevertheless, the study also suggests that Hong Kong consumers are beginning to recognise their excessive fashion consumption habits: for example, 53 percent of those who said they had changed their habits realised that they had enough clothes.
Whether you’re completely innocent or guilty of some of the points above, there are easy steps you can take to improve the sustainability of your wardrobe and help the environment. That’s what environmental NGOs like Redress are here for! To encourage a circular economy and change mindsets and practices about the waste that fashion produces, Redress is hosting a “Get Redressed Month 2020” this October to promote their cause.
To kick it off with a fun competition, wear your oldest piece of clothing and share a photo along with a short story about it on Redress’ Facebook, Instagram or website. The ten most inspiring entries will receive vouchers for pre-owned designer clothing store HULA, and five other entries will win a copy of the book Dress [with] Sense, Redress’ consumer guide to keeping a more environmentally conscious wardrobe.
Speaking of old clothes, maybe you’ve got a heap lying around in your closet. It’s time to finally clear them out! Head to one of Redress’ clothing drives in 50 locations around Hong Kong, where your clothes would then be carefully sorted for resale, re-use, recycling and downcycling. Finally, Redress is hosting a variety of talks on sustainability in fashion, and have released an online educational toolkit for kids, parents, and teachers who want to drive positive change in fashion-related issues. Do keep an eye on their socials for tips on sustainable consumption, information on upcoming activities and events, and more!