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, 

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