Dr. Christina Dean, founder and board chair of Redress, is changing the way Hong Kong thinks about fashion, actively encouraging the city to understand the immense burden the industry places on the planet. A dentist by trade, Dean returned to her journalistic roots before moving to Hong Kong with her husband and two children in 2006.
What inspired you to start Redress?
I moved to Hong Kong in 2005 and worked here as a journalist, writing for various publications. I was researching China’s environmental crisis and realised how much of China’s- and the world’s- negative impacts are caused by the excessively polluting fashion and textile industries. There weren’t many organisations trying to raise awareness and reduce the pollution from the fashion industry. I knew too much and so, with fashion and NGO stabilisers so to speak, I started Redress in 2007.
Why is sustainability in fashion such a close issue to yourself?
Sustainability – full stop – is vital to me. It fills me with repulsion what’s happening to the planet – which ultimately is affecting people. When it comes to fashion and sustainability, I’m even more appalled. The fashion and textile industry is the world’s second most environmentally polluting industry, after oil industry, and the textile industry is the second polluter of clean water. It’s now estimated that around 100 billion new pieces of clothing are produced every year, double the amount of 2000. The ironic reality is that much of the world’s vacuous consumption doesn’t even given the consumer much joy. We’re at a crucial point in time where we need to mould people’s fashion consumption into a more sustainable pattern, or face even worse outcomes.
How does Redress benefit the community?
I am very passionate about public health – protecting people’s health is an ethical and political must and this was instilled during my dental training. Ultimately, we are protecting the planet from pollution and climate change; both of which are causing extreme problems, mostly for those living in polluted, developing countries. In China, 61% of the ground water is classified as being unfit for human touch; almost 20% of China’s soil is too polluted to grow crops and 1.6 million people die because of air pollution every year. All in all, fashion is certainly contributing to disease and death, and that doesn’t even venture into climate change, for which the textile industry contributes 10% of the world’s total carbon impact. It’s the people at the receiving end of this pollution who make me get out of bed every day to push this agenda forward. One needs to have empathy to imagine the lives of people currently affected by the fashion and textile industry, and indeed their children and grandchildren who will also be negatively impacted.
Who are some local designers that you support?
I’m a big fan of EcoChic Design Award alumni; designers who have been through our sustainable fashion design competition and have gone onto launch their own brands. Great local examples are Janko Lam (Classics Anew), Angus Tsui (ANGUS TSUI), Kelvin Wan (Wan & Wong Fashion) and Alex Law (Alex Leau). As well as these local stars, our alumni line up has over 20 sustainable brands around the world, which are making our mission – to reduce waste in the fashion industry – a fashion reality. I’m also excited to be venturing into a new world; because Redress has given rise to a new up-cycled and socially sustainable fashion brand, called BYT, which will launch in September 2017 for immediate retail on bytlife.com’s future e-commerce platform and with our partner, Lane Crawford. We’re out to prove the world that fashion can be a force for good.
How do you feel about the concept, ‘the future is female’?
I think I am a feminist, but above all else, I am a “humanist”. To me, the future is about humanity, regardless of gender.
Who are the women that have inspired you throughout your life?
My mother is my greatest inspiration! At 75, she is still writing and researching about public health issues, she’s a world champion swimmer, she is taking GSCE Italian, has joined a choir, she goes on extensive treks around the world with her tiny backpack and she’s developed a new hobby in making delicious cakes. There is nothing she can’t do! She also has the heart to be an incredible Granny, digging up her biodynamic vegetable garden with her splattering of grandchildren in her Vivienne Westwood clothes!
Are there female leaders or peers that you look up to?
I look up to Lisa Genasci, CEO of ADM Capital Foundation. She’s my dear friend and mentor, who can solve my professional and personal problems with great humour and expertise. She’s steered me out of many challenges, often with a lychee martini to grease the way.