From Somalia to China, designers embrace sustainable fashion

New way of doing business

Sissi Chao runs the Remake Hub, a Chinese company that uses recycled plastic to make apparel and consumer goods. Having grown up watching her parents’ garment factories pollute a local river, she dreamed of finding a different way to be part of the fashion industry.

“I had a dream once that I was in the clouds, holding the planet in my hand and it was hot,” said Chao, who started the Remake Hub in 2018. “I woke up and  realized that I could not be the second generation of polluters, but that I had to do something sustainable that was also creative.”

The Remake Hub now produces materials for everything from eyewear to clothing to home furnishings.  Even her parents have adopted some of her innovative technologies, adding profit to their bank ledgers.

“They were horrified at first because they thought I was just out there collecting trash,” she said. “Now they see what I do as a solution rather than as pollution.”

Leading by example

As an ambassador for Fashion for Conservation, London-based musician Elle L has encouraged similar conversations for the past three years within the British fashion industry.

She thinks states should emulate France, which in February 2020 passed a law requiring clothing companies to follow more than 100 sustainability provisions, including a prohibition on the destruction of unsold goods.

For Nkwo Onwuka and her eponymous brand, Nkwo, sustainability and upcycling were a natural response to the glut of second-hand clothing dumped into the markets in her hometown of Lagos, Nigeria. From the piles of mass-produced denim that landed from overseas, she began to spin her own dakala cloth, weaving together traditional techniques like hand beading with new innovations to produce unique capsule collections.

“COVID-19 presents an opportunity for reconceptualization and retraining of designers but also of consumers,” she said. “It means thinking smaller—not a 60-piece collection, but maybe a 16-piece one, that is beautiful and wearable, made with less waste, by workers who are treated fairly”.

That push is being buoyed by a growing demand among consumers—particularly the highly coveted demographic known as Generation Z—for ethical and sustainable fashion.

“We are on the cusp of a mass awakening in consciousness [and] a movement to raise awareness of the power in our purchases,” said Elle L. “As fashion sits at the intersection of art and utility, it has the power and responsibility to create a beautiful solution [post-COVID-19] that helps to stitch back together communities that are healthier, stronger and more artistic.”

 

Hosted by Sweden, the theme of World Environment Day on 5 June 2022 is #OnlyOneEarth – with a focus on ‘Living Sustainably in Harmony With Nature’. Follow #OnlyOneEarth on social media and take transformative, global action, because protecting and restoring this planet is a global responsibility.