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The Chinese fashion industry is slowly changing faces

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The sustainable fashion industry starts to make a name for itself in China

China, being the largest textile producer of the world, has a lot to deal with whether it is the production and the consumption of the global fashion industry or its own massive and growing consumer base. The country experienced a rapid industrial growth that brought serious environmental damages.

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Since 2011, The EcoChic Design Award choose outstanding eco-friendly fashion designer that wants to make the industry a more sustainable place. Founded in Hong Kong, the competition reward environmentally friendly techniques in designer’s creations. One year later, mainland Chinese could be part of the competition and since then, it expanded to Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, UK, France, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden.

The theme of the year if « Modern China Chic » and organizers hope that it will have an impact on the mass popularity of sustainable fashion and particularly on mainland Chinese. They are benefiting from strong and powerful sponsors such as Richemont, Ford and The Langham Hong Kong. Christina Dean, the founder and CEO of EcoChic’s organizer Redress, an NGO which promotes environmental sustainability in the fashion industry, wishes that make clothing production less wasteful will avoid a « granola-crunching hippy » image in Asia.

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How can environmentally friendly fashion can be promoted in China ?

According to the contest « designers are thought to influence an estimated 80-90 percent of the environmental and economic costs of a product » which means that they have a power over the sustainability of a product. However, most of them are not aware of the sustainability stakes over fashion and textile waste. This is the reason why The EcoChic Design Award saw the day in the first place.

The goal of this contest is to form and teach to young designer how to create a cloth with minimal textile waste, by using one or more of the sustainable design techniques of zero-waste, by up-cycling and reconstruction. To do so, they give information, resources, online tutorial videos and lectures throughout the 10 month competition.

Competitors are not the only that can enjoy the education of the contest. Other designers that did not apply can enjoy the knowledge on the platform made for the occasion. Previous alumni are also very welcomed and the professional part of the contest are always interested about what they ended up doing after the competition.

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What textile production damage could be avoided ?

If there is one industry that pollutes enormously, it is the textile industry. They use both natural resources such as oil, water or even soil and a lot of different chemicals that provokes environmental impacts like CO2 emissions and wastage. As an example, to produce a pair of jean, 3,625 liters of water, 3 kg of chemicals, 400 MJ of energy, and 13 square meters of harvested land are needed.

The environmental pollution and the diseases that it causes are very negative on societies. As an example, 17% to 20% of the water pollution is caused by dyeing and treatment in the textile production. This greatly impacts Chinese citizens living in polluted cities where cancer rates are way much higher than the national average.

The consumption society had increase significantly the fashion industry. With a continuous growth like this, the problem is not far from stopping. Nowadays we produce over 80 billion garments per year and we are 7 billion people. So what will happen in 2050 when we will be reaching 9 billion ?

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How mainland China is reacting so far to the eco-friendly fashion concept ?

So far, the contest has received positive comment from the fashion industry and from mainland included. More and more fashion institutions from China are getting interested in The EcoChic Design Award and also designer that are likely looking for including sustainable design in their collection by learning and understanding the technical abilities of sustainable design. The project has been welcomed with opens arms and the response for sponsors or candidate are very high.

As the new generation sees fashion with fresh tastes, they are less and less interested about big brands and logo type and prefer new waves of cultural acceptance in domestic fashion designers that reflects individualism and creativity. Therefore, a sustainable fashion retail sector is growing little by little in China. Today, being « eco » represent to be able to afford health and safety for your family. This market is still small but the mood seems upbeat and aspirational.

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How the eco-fashion could become popular for the mass population in China ?

Let’s not forget how big China is and how huge is the population. Today, Asia has the fastest-growing mass market fashion retail in the world. Its middle class is also increasing like nowhere else. Those customer are the target for the eco-fashion industry.

Most of emerging countries and there consumers are not sensible to the environment impact that their act will provoke. Especially when they buy clothes ! They are surrounded by brand and designers 24/7 and don’t even think of the « sustainable fashion » sector. Educate them about this new way of buying is way much more difficult that it seems.

Those challenge are not insurmountable though

To be able to make it work, the industry has to deliver the sustainable clothes and the consumers need to be educated and informed why buying those product is better for them and for others.

The sustainable fashion industry has never been capable to target the mass market. In Asia, the challenge will be even bigger ! Nevertheless, if the global fashion brands are able to offer the option to the new consumers, it should improve their knowledge and their behaviour concerning preserving the environment. Knowing the price differences with conventional lines, it will be difficult to compete. In the future though, sustainable fashion should become the norm and not a niche like today.

People need to get informed about the damage that fashion industry causes and to understand that their buying habits influence the way the sector operate to be able to make better decision in the future. The quality of the product, the place where it has been made, when and how long will you wear it… Those question should always get in your head before buying an item.

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Few Chinese designer that needs to be followed

Xinyan Dai is currently studying Fashion Design at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology in China and already launched her first sustainable collection for the competition. She has bright days in front of her. Zhang Na is also a established sustainable designer. In Hong Kong, this trend already have some buyers. Wan & Wong Fashion, Eric Wong/Absurd Laboratory, and Glori Tsui are the most known one.

Source : Jing Daily

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