Charity Closet with Denise Ho
Denise Ho is one of Hong Kong’s most respected entrepreneurs, a pioneer for sustainable fashion and mom to Donovan who is one year old. Passionate about reducing textile waste and the environmental impact of the fashion industry, Denise founded her knitwear label Knotti, using only biodegradable yarn and employs home knitters in Hong Kong’s local communities to ensure flexible working hours.
Tell us how you evolved your work in fashion to become more sustainable – environmentally and socially.
I was working as a stylist in the fashion industry before I started a childrenswear label, A for Apple with my business partner who was a kidswear manufacturer. The thing is, you don’t really understand the true wastage of fashion until you start a label. I sensed an awkwardness, that something was wrong with what we were doing, even though the label was successful.
I met Christina from Redress and that’s when I was confronted with the numbers and the reality of how much waste our industry produces. She took me to warehouses, to see the mountains and mountains of waste that would be piled up. That was a very important life changing experience for me. At that point, I decided to close my label and focus on what I could do to help.
I started styling the catwalk shows for Redress, which meant I was surrounded by like-minded people. I decided to start Knotti because I wanted to create something that is thoughtfully crafted, and embody the values of slow fashion. I like that when you work with knits, the product represents the individual, the whole process from design to finished product reflects your personality. Knotti was a project for me to see if it’s possible to do things differently, and I realised that it is possible.
I am also working as the Fashion Director for the R Collective, a brand that has been born out of Redress. R Collective has been around for two years now. It started as a platform for the winning designers of the Redress Design Award to launch a capsule collection. My role is to give the R Collective its own brand identity, and build solid branding for them. We only work with waste, including off cut fabrics from luxury labels and fabric waste from mills. This is an innovative concept, and will require joint efforts to figure out a sustainable system. We are trying to achieve zero waste. Our current collection is available at Lane Crawford now. It is an upcycled collection made from military uniform waste from the US, Israel and China. We deconstruct everything and then reconstruct new pieces, a long and expensive process but one that is vital.
What changes have you seen in the fashion industry in Hong Kong, and what more needs to be done?
The fashion industry in Hong Kong is very slow to catch on to sustainable fashion, there’s still a long way to go. That is because of the demand. Customers don’t really understand the concept of secondhand. If we tell them we are upcycling using waste textiles, they immediately think it’s trash. It is going to take a bit of time, to improve public awareness and education about the impact of the industry on our environment. In terms of the retailer, there’s been much more progress adopting greener initiatives, which is really important as the retailer leads the way towards customer understanding.
You like to practice a minimalist lifestyle, has that become more difficult since you had your son? What advice would you give to parents who want to reduce the amount of “stuff” they have in their home.
I think minimalism doesn’t mean I have only five things. It means going back to what’s important to you. If you are talking about my wardrobe, everything that I have are things that I have accumulated through the years from travelling, work and self-indulgence, so every piece is important to me. With my work, I also need to keep clothes, so I don’t throw anything away. To me clothing is not meant to be disposable.
When it comes to Donovan, well that’s why Retykle is so great! I buy a lot from the platform. With Donovan I’ve been handed down a lot of things, and I also try to tell people not to buy him gifts. At the end of the day I don’t think kids need much stuff. Really, he only wants what you put in front of him. If you don’t buy it for him he wouldn’t miss it. For me it is all about spending quality time with him.
I’m still a new parent so I don’t have much advice. But we definitely believe that less is more, and encouraging a circular economy is valuable for the next generation. So we are grateful for Retykle! An easy to use, reliable and trusted website for quality childrens items.
How do you shop for Donovan? Do you have any favourite brands?
I love Petit Bateau for Donovan. The material is of good quality and the fit suits Donovan really well. He is quite lean and the fit suits him. I shop at Retykle a lot and a lot of his clothes come from gifts. I don’t buy him very much, but for some reason his closet is filled already. I also take a lot from my sisters’ kids although they are girls. He can get away with it though!
What are your favourite things to do together as a family in Hong Kong?
We like to go to the park a lot now that he is walking. Anywhere with an open ground. We are looking forward to exploring hiking. I would also love to travel more because I think you really get to spend quality time when you travel as a family, memories for the three of us.
Tell us about your chosen charity and why it is important to you.
I would love to donate the sales from my Charity Closet to the New Hope Foundation. They are a small charity that are in need of a lot of funding at the moment to continue their good work. The charity was started by Dr Joyce Hill, a family medical practitioner and her husband, Robin, to provide medical care and a loving environment for orphaned babies in China suffering life-threatening medical conditions. The New Hope Foundation operates six special care centres across China.
We Retykle because every piece of clothing should belong inside the circulatory economy."Denise Ho