Hong Kong Fashion | Tog Wears

after
which an item will no longer be expected to retain its original value,
due to poor-quality materials and manufacturing. The companies pay
no price for such revelations, nor do most customers experience regret
in tossing out clothes based on this principle. Leticia, a Hong Kong office
worker, did, however, have guilt pangs: “I fill up big garbage bags
of things and then throw them away. It is a lot of wasted goods—some
284 Annamma Joy, John F. Sherry, Jr, Alladi Venkatesh, Jeff Wang and Ricky Chan
of which I may not even have worn more than once. I do feel guilty, but
I have a small apartment and I cannot keep them.” She rationalizes her
actions on the basis of limited space, but shows no attempt to reducing
her shopping sprees. Alexa, a Hong Kong teacher, took specific steps to
assuage her guilt: “I give all my clothes to my maid...she is always in
fashion after I’ve had my fill with these clothes. But at least I don’t feel
guilty. It is recycling!” Hong Kong has a recent history of bringing in
domestic workers from the Philippines, and, unsurprisingly, they have
a reputation for dressing well (Constable 2007). Catherine, a Canadian
office worker, noted, assessing an image she chose of escalators:
Toronto artist Michel Awad captures urban movement in his panoramic
photographs. This picture captures images of escalators at
one of Canada’s busiest shopping centers on one of the craziest
shoppingdays—Boxing Day. Lots of people are conveyed in and
out of the same place every hour, every minute, and even every
second. This is exactly like the fashion industry; varieties of style
are put on and off the shelves at the same time.
Cynthia, a Hong Kong lawyer who had selected an image of a kaleidoscope
among her choices, pointed out:
Pop Art favoured figural imagery and the reproduction of existing
and everyday objects. This movement eliminated distinctions
between good and bad taste, and between fine and
commercial art techniques. On the other hand, a kaleidoscope
is a tube of mirrors. Once the tube is rotated, the tumbling of
the coloured objects presents the viewer with varying colours
and patterns. The main feature of both Pop Art and the kaleidoscope
is the alteration of an existing object to a small extent—in
the form of a silhouette, color, pattern, and so on. It is similar
to the design process in the fast fashion business. That is why
it is disposable.
Of the thirty participants in both locales, only six talked overtly about
the societal downside of fast fashion. Cathy, an office worker in Hong
Kong,suggested: “It makes producers violate guidelines on the treatment
of workers, and break the laws on overtime. Even if the factory
owner is a good man and willing to pay workers legally, he cannot
control the working hours.” Jenny, a young Hong Kong fashion student
who is appalled at the waste and unsustainable practices, described how
she reuses her clothes: “I take bits and pieces from my old clothes [that
do not fit anymore or are not in style] and sew them together. It will
become a new piece of clothing that is in style and I can wear it for
another year.”
Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of Luxury Brands 285
Understanding Sustainability: Is Eco-fashion a
Viable Option?
Responses to what sustainability meant to individuals were robust, with
details of how personal acts of consumption led to sustainability. Henry,
a Canadian student, said, “Sustainability means to live a life where you
are not taking any more from the earth than what you are giving back.
You are trying to minimize the environmental footprint that you leave
behind.” It is important to him; he notes that he does not buy books
anymore, but is involved in e-learning. He believes in not turning on
the washing machine unless there is a full load, and even hang-dries
his clothes. Yet, he experiences no guilt in buying clothes designed to
have no long-term value. David, a young Canadian student, observed:
Sustainability is the level at which humans are able to live and co-exist
indefinitely with the natural world without harming or causing damage
to either side.” For him, partnership with nature is a mechanism by
which he is reminded to act in sustainable ways. He recycles bottles for
money, conserves electricity, and uses water very carefully. Yet, he too
shops for fast fashion items regularly. Alicia, who works in a grocery
store in Canada, talked about how important it was to be vegetarian,
given large-scale agribusiness’ detrimental impact on the environment.
But Alicia was oblivious of the links between environmental issues and
her obsession with fast fashion.
Some of the images that participants used to illustrate sustainability
suggest that they take it quite seriously. David provided a picture of a
plastic vortex in the ocean that he noted “includes all kinds of plastic
litter, including Crocs that we used last year. We are destroying our
oceans.” Tania, a Canadian student, chose an image of a big, brandnew
house to demonstrate how easy it is to fall victim “...to the false
North American reality that possessing material things equals happiness.
The purpose of life is not to buy, but to live and feel.” Melissa, a
Canadian student, said, “By recycling, I am helping to save trees and
allow more clean oxygen to be produced...I attempt to consider sustainable
values in all area of my life, including at home, at school, and at
work.” Joanne, a Hong Kong student, summarized it well: “I am happy
to do my bit for the planet and recycle, etc. But fashion...this is another
thing. Maybe if designers used eco-labelled materials and designs, the
change will happen. But at this point the eco-fashion I have seen is not
fashion—they are just plain dull and for older people perhaps.”
When participants were asked if they would buy eco-fashion, the
quick response was only if the clothes were stylish. Usually the choices
available to them were only T-shirts. Even when other items were available,
as in offerings by companies, such as American Apparel, that use
organic cotton, participants saw the clothing as frumpy. As Linda, a student
from Hong Kong, said, “I would never buy these clothes, because
286 Annamma Joy, John F. Sherry, Jr, Alladi Venkatesh, Jeff Wang and Ricky Chan
they are just as boring as [those from] Gap. It is so out of sync with what
is happening now on the catwalks.” When we probed further, Paula,