Conversations around the climate crisis have finally reached the mainstream, especially as the current generation takes a firm stand and implores leaders worldwide to do better. Even as the climate movement gains momentum across the globe, there is still a severe lack of action in mitigating steps that are harming the environment. The fashion industry is one of the major contributors to climate change and one of the most polluting industries in the world. Research from McKinsey claims that greenhouse gas emissions emitted by the fashion industry are equivalent to “the entire economies of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom combined.” It’s imperative to revolutionize the fashion industry to become more environmentally friendly, and that is precisely what one NGO in Hong Kong has set out to do.

Redress was founded in 2007 by Christina Dean, an award-winning journalist and now a pioneer of sustainable fashion. Not only had she set out to create an NGO that would focus on the environmental impacts of the fashion industry at a time when few were talking about it, but Redress was also the first of its kind in Asia.

Dr. Christina Dean standing in a clothing factory.
[Image description: Dr. Christina Dean standing in a clothing factory.] Via Redress
When asked why she started Redress, Christina stated, “At this stage, the effects of globalization and offshoring of fashion production to Asia were just taking off, and fast fashion was becoming a mainstay of the fashion industry. As such, there was a huge acceleration in consumption and waste. Today, Asia truly pays the environmental price, which accounts for around 60% of global fashion production. I started Redress, and later The R Collective, because the wasteful fashion industry needs to be addressed and resolved.”

A Redress collection box for unused clothing placed in a store.
[Image description: A Redress collection box for unused clothing placed in a store.] Via Redress
Today, Redress has many different programs tackling the problems in the fashion industry from various angles. The circular fashion department focuses on tackling the waste problem within the fashion industry. A report by the Ellen McArthur Foundation found that “every second, a garbage truck’s worth of clothing and textiles gets incinerated or tossed in a landfill.” Redress ensures that more clothes are given a second life through reusing or recycling to address this issue. The NGO has collection boxes in stores and offices throughout Hong Kong for people to discard their used clothing. After being sorted carefully in a warehouse, these clothes are either resold at the Redress store to support the organization’s functions or donated to 20 plus charities across the city. Every year, some of the best pieces make their way to a pop-up store organized by Redress.

The 2018 Redress Design Award Winner on the runway with models wearing her designs.
[Image description: The 2018 Redress Design Award Winner on the runway with models wearing her designs.] Via Redress
While clothing reuse and recycling are essential for solving fashion’s environmental problems, Redress is looking to support solutions throughout the supply chain and not just on the consumer end. The NGO regularly collaborates with industry stakeholders for initiatives such as an upcycling workshop with Tommy Hilfiger or panel discussions on relevant topics. Their website also provides various educational materials for both designers and educators to make sustainable fashion design more accessible.

However, their most notable achievement is perhaps the Redress Design Award, the largest sustainable design competition in the world. The competition aims to further educate young designers on the negative impacts of fashion and help them improve their sustainable design techniques while they compete for career-changing prizes. Since its inaugural cycle in 2011, the competition has expanded its alumni network to over 130 designers from 20 plus countries, demonstrating how young people are making waves in the sustainable fashion world.

A group photo of Redress Design award alumni at the 2019 alumni booth.
[Image description: A group photo of Redress Design award alumni at the 2019 alumni booth.] Via Redress
Redress has certainly dared to dream big as the company continues to tackle problems throughout the fashion supply chain, but that is exactly what we need as the climate crisis gets worse. Not only do we need organizations capable of working hard towards sustainability, but ones capable of thinking outside the box, which Redress has done recently via their first digital fashion exhibition.

The future can often seem bleak as both governments and industry leaders continue to fall short in mitigating the climate crisis. Many fear that the COP26 summit in Glasgow right now, our last chance to agree on climate policies, is full of empty promises. Despite such inaction, organizations like Redress continue to serve as an inspiration and hope for a better tomorrow. We can only hope that such efforts will lead to a long-lasting impact and fashion will one day truly be sustainable.

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  • Saleha Noor

    Saleha is currently completing her undergraduate in Asian and International Studies from the City University of Hong Kong. As someone who is highly opinionated and believes that words can be extremely powerful she spends most of her time writing about everything from politics to fashion.