Set up by two fashion activists, Fashion Clinic promotes a more responsible attitude towards clothes among consumers and producers of fashion.
When designer Kay Wong met founder of upcycling label Lastbutnotleast Toby Crispy at a birthday party in 2017, the two hit it right off with their shared vision for sustainability in fashion. Together they established Fashion Clinic in July this year, hoping to bring about a change in how fashion is consumed and go against the tide of fast fashion.
“We have a view about the fashion industry and want to redefine what a designer’s role is. In recent years, fast fashion has had a huge impact on consumer attitudes. We don’t really know the real cost of fashion anymore because we can’t see it,” said Wong, who was awarded the Hong Kong Young Design Talent Award in 2014, where she got the chance to go to Copenhagen to work with renowned designer Henrik Vibskov.
The true cost of fashion is not reflected on price tags. The cost to the environment and labour exploitation in third world sweat shops are all hidden from consumers. The industry is sick and needs healing. This is the idea behind Fashion Clinic.
With Fashion Clinic, Wong and Toby are offering services rather than products, making clothes last longer so that people can learn to treasure their clothes. With its Repair, Reshape, and Redesign services, it gives old clothes a new life, adding embroidery, patchwork or stitching, or even completely overhauling the shape and design of the whole garment. Bring something of quality or sentimental value from your wardrobe and they will help ensure it can last forever.
To drive home the idea of dressing and consuming responsibly, life-changing workshops on re-arranging the closet are held regularly, combining the theories of Marie Kondo, Danshari and L’art de la Simplicité with a unique fashion focus.
Toby admits that working with individual customers can only achieve a little, so to create a bigger impact its goal is to work with corporations so that upcycling can become part of their business practice. For example, some hotels are using their existing supplies such as upholstery to make uniforms, and some fashion businesses are open to the idea of launching an upcycling collection every season.
Fashion Clinic recently received a travel subsidy from Make a Difference (MaD), which sponsored them to go on an immersive study trip to Japan to learn all about upcycling. The 20-day trip was an eye-opening experience that connected them to several masters in upcycling fashion in Japan including Mina Perhonen and Atelier Rei, who have been extremely generous, humble and helpful, say Wong and Toby.
“The biggest lesson we’ve learned is that anything is too good to be wasted. We met embroiderers who only leave 1.5 cm of threads at every end, and went to workshops where each person only uses ten pins and each is accounted for. This is so unheard of in the fashion industry we know,” said Toby.
“While upcycling isn’t the mainstream in Japan either, it is in their culture to treasure every little thing and respect craftsmanship. This is the attitude that we want to share with others,” she added.