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From fast fashion to slow: The R Collective paves the way to sustainable retail

Glamour and fashion don’t have to come at an environmental price when shopping in Hong Kong. Slow fashion advocates at ‘The R Collective’ source, create and showcase high-end clothing made from waste products.

Fast fashion and the environment

Retail therapy. Clothes shopping. Fast fashion. For those among us who are conscious consumers, who try to buy from responsible sources and who try to do their bit for the environment, these terms might sit heavy. Equally, those who have watched documentaries such as ‘The True Cost’ – which reveal the dirty secrets of the fashion industry – might feel an element of guilt buying from high-street stores. Across the world we are slowly learning about the social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry.

The reality is, we buy 400% more clothes than we did even 20 years ago. What’s even more shocking, is that the clothes we buy end up spending much more time in landfill than actually in our possession (let alone on our backs). Fittingly, our habits of purchasing cheap, on-trend clothing influenced by catwalk looks and mimicked in high-street stores at incredible speed, can be understood as ‘fast fashion’. Today’s consumption habits are also ‘fast’ because we can buy our clothes at such affordable prices. Thanks to cheap clothing, many of us can get away with wearing our items only a handful of times before disposing of them. One statistic from the UK revealed that approximately 235 million pieces of clothing were sent to landfill in 2017.

Aside from waste, fast fashion also has a number of other environmental costs. Toxic dyes released into waterways and microfibres from fabrics are ingested by sea life. Cheap textiles made from Polyester are derived from fossil fuels, meaning that the industry contributes considerably to global warming. Even natural components – such as cotton – require massive quantities of water and pesticides on farms. Resultantly, this causes not only drought but also a decline in biodiversity and soil quality, mostly in developing countries where it is commonly grown.

Photo credit: The R Collective

A shift towards slow fashion?

So, if we should avoid fast fashion, what might slow fashion look like? A Hong Kong based, social impact up-cycled fashion brand, is on a mission to show you. Founded in 2017, the brand was created by Christina Dean, who is also the founder of Redress; an NGO which works to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Working tirelessly to design clothes which can stay in the fashion loop for as long as possible, the social impact fashion brand wants you to love your clothes for longer. Their website says it all:

‘We really want you to fall in love with clothes. Recently, we think clothes have become too throwaway and so we want to ramp up how much we respect and value clothes…You can call us fans of SLOW fashion if you like.’’ The R Collective.

Creating stunning products that people want to keep forever is one way the brand share their worthy message. However the actual sourcing and production of the clothing itself is perhaps the most admirable aspect of the Hong Kong based business.

Photo credit: The R Collective

Waste to want

By harnessing the creativity and passion of young designers, The R Collective works towards transforming the modes of production associated with the fashion industry. Exploring innovative and environmentally friendly methods, the Hong Kong brand aims to catalyse a circular fashion revolution. Challenging almost everything that fashion is built upon and made of, is at the heart of this mission.

Whereas fashion is built – and thrives – upon an image of brand new shiny products, The R Collective uses leftover textiles and fashion waste from other clothing companies. But waste doesn’t have to connote low quality, undesirable, distasteful or unappealing products; it’s much more glamorous than that. When 92 million tons of textile waste is generated each year by the fashion industry, one has to wonder what could possibly be wrong with so much fabric. In fact, often coming from some of the world’s leading luxury brands, fabrics used to produce The R Collective’s clothing are excellent quality and highly desirable. Chipping away at the fashion industry’s ‘waste’ one sheet at a time, the company creates high-quality, high-end products.

Completely turning the fashion industry on its head and unwinding our deeply entrenched beliefs about what clothing should be, is a speciality of The R Collective. It’s all about innovation, extraordinary imaginations and up-cycling; a recipe which seems to not only please its fashion-faithful customers, but also assist in reducing the environmental impacts of the industry.

During your time in Hong Kong, have a browse of The R Collective’s extensive range of sustainable clothing online. Their new limited edition denim collection ‘Denim Reimagined’ supported by Levi’s, will get your heart racing! If you see something you like, you can book an appointment to try before you buy at their Sham Shui Po studio. Conscious consumption has never been so personalised and totally glamorous. 

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