SCAD Style made its Hong Kong debut on April 17. This is the first year the event has come to the Hong Kong campus, opening with a panel composed of design professionals.
The panel discussed “Fashionable Change: Social Responsibility and Design,”addressing trends in today’s creative industry. The discussion was moderated by Christina Dean, founder of Redress, and guest speakers included Billy Potts, co-founder of Handsome Co., Jeanine Hsu, founder of Niin Jewellery, Michael Leung of HK Honey, and environmentalist Joanne Ooi, co-founder of Plukka.
With the demand for more environmentally conscious products, the discussion stressed the issue of visual aesthetics versus production, as well as the necessity for design to increase its adaptation to sustainability.
Why must the future of design be sustainable? Hsu, sustainable jewelery designer, explained that the artist’s main responsibility is to reduce waste, and make the consumer aware of the sustainability of resources and materials.
Speaking from experience recycling taxi upholstery into marketable accessories, Potts emphasized that the most “beautiful” product is not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing, but the product that is most functional, which goes hand-in-hand with effective sustainability. Leung, creative director of HK Honey, added that consumers are steadily growing more aware of the history behind the materials used for products, especially in relation to their eco-friendliness, and that the artist has the responsibility of addressing this change.
Given the import/export driven market, artists based in Hong Kong are faced with the challenge of creating a niche for sustainable design.
Ooi, co-founder of fine jewelery e-commerce site Plukka, famed for its innovative marketing strategy of only supplying when there is enough consumer demand, detailed that by being engulfed in environmental toxicity, society is separated from the physical, natural world.
She commended SCAD for “injecting a humanizing effect into the creative aspect of Hong Kong.” She continued to elucidate that Hong Kong needs to grow away from the mentality of consumer selfishness that is emblematic of our society to become more conscious of our surrounding environment.
While Hong Kong trails behind in terms of sustainable consumerism, there is a growing interest in supporting sustainable products. Potts and Leung agreed that consumers are now becoming increasingly aware of the “story behind the product,” which Potts hoped is not just a “flavor of the month.”
However, Hsu interjected that, especially in her line of work, consumerism is based more on the final design, rather than the production process, although the element of sustainability is an added benefit that increases sales.
How can pioneers inspire and change the mass market to make sustainable designs more influential? Leung highlighted the usage of education and media to promote and communicate with the public and increase interest in ethical products. Through association with different corporations and intensified targeting of specific markets, Dean praised Tesco’s collaboration with sustainable fashion label From Somewhere to create F&F Clothing, an eco fashion line aimed at teenagers.
Still, the most misleading aspect of sustainable design is that it does not automatically equal good design. The cost of sustainability is higher than the average consumer would like to pay, so this new movement then becomes a risky one to take, but is nevertheless a daring obligation that Ooi encouraged.
On the other hand, brands that rise to mainstream success, due to their capitalization on sustainable design trends, seem suspicious, especially when marketing their products as “luxury” and “limited edition” items. While it naturally increases consumer appeal, sustainable design comes close to being just another fad.
Ultimately, the cost of sustainability is too high. The average consumer is not yet ready to pay for the expense, and trendiness only goes so far in promoting the cause. Ooi stressed the need for a “wholesale consumer revolution” to make sustainably designed products more accessible to the wider market.
Even in Hong Kong, where the idea that a “limited edition” product can afford the consumer exclusive status, the merit of environmentally friendly ethics has still has not taken root. Society needs to come to terms with what Potts described as the “real cost” of sustainability, achieved only through the education of consumers.Contact Special Sections.