China is clear about the facts – that if it wants to be around in 20 centuries’ time and be a leading country, it needs to focus on keeping its environment and citizens healthy, and minimizing pollution as a cost to its GDP. Despite all the press about how bad pollution and air quality is in the country, it is spearheading the game in sustainable development and reversing climate change. Currently, China is already recognized as the largest investor in domestic renewable energy, investing USD$102 billion (HK$795.6 billion) in 2015, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance – more than twice that was invested domestically by the US and about five times that of the UK.
What would this mean for the fashion industry? Widely cited as the most polluting industry in the world second only to oil, China has its fair share of say given it remains the top apparel sourcing destination in the world. The perception on ‘Made in China’ has shifted some in the past decade, with ethical fashion labels such as Everlane and Grana being transparent about their Chinese factory’s decent working environment and worker wages. But what more could us consumers do aside from supporting these fashion labels?
Writer Anuschka Rees once wrote an article accompanied with a pyramid infographic (which I spotted on The Fashion Law's Instagram) showing practical ways of how one as a consumer could build a more ethical closet at any budget.
The bottom and widest level: treasure and re-wear what we already own; second: buy less and choose well (extracted from an original quote by Vivienne Westwood “Buy less, Choose well. Make it last”); third: go for clothes that are durable; the fourth: buy vintage/ second hand; and finally the last: support ethical brands. To truly carry out the rules laid out by this graph – it takes convincing people that it is okay to be seen in the same dress twice (or twenty times), that therapy could be found in something other than retail, and that it is not a stigma to buy second-hand clothes – as popular as this concept is in some countries, this is still foreign and unthinkable to some locally in Hong Kong and China. But when it comes to doing what’s best, it doesn’t always mean doing what we have always been used to – we need to change some minds: something my father has warned me against doing since I was a child: don’t hope to change people. He didn’t say it was impossible, he just said it’d be very difficult. Adapting yourself to the world is easier.
All I know is that to reverse climate change, one of the following needs to be redesigned: our mindset (which also dictates our economic system and government regulations), or laws of nature. I could at least tell him I didn’t pick impossible.
First published on The Standard on Sept 14, 2017.