HONG KONG — “I remember my dad buying stacks of design and fashion magazines for me when I was around 9-10 years old. It was the 90s in Moscow and they were bringing in all these exciting new shiny magazines – bright, colorful and dreamy – they made a huge impact on me. I also remember my great grandma who even at 80, was absolutely impeccable and elegant. Always wearing a hat, gloves and ruby earrings. This combination of novelty and freshness from the editorial world and real tangible elegance that was present throughout my childhood stuck with me, inspiring me to always have design and creativity at the back of my mind (it eventually pushed me out of my finance job and into fashion).
I have been brought up in Spain, Russia and London and now live in Hong Kong, each place where I have lived has influenced me in one way or another. Spain has taught me to love color, HK has made my fashion choices more urban, London taught me to relax and be more eclectic. Growing up in the 90’s and 00’s I have always been into minimal sporty pieces. Today, my personal style is easy and simple, pared down, minimal with with a penchant for silks and grey, white, green and blue colors. My dad has been a big influence – he is a very stylish man, not scared to wear color and my affair with blues and greens comes from him and from living in Spain by the sea.
I became fascinated with green design and sustainability when I moved to Asia. I remember going on a hike and seeing plastic bottles everywhere. Hong Kong recycles 3% of its waste – it’s a pretty abysmal number. Moving here was a big eye opener, some days you are told that the pollution index is so high you are better off staying inside. Pollution here is palpable and consumption is mindless.
In late 2011, I read the book by Lucy Siegle – To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? – which exposed the less glamorous, ugly side of fashion: poor labour conditions, environmental degradation, toxic dyes and their effect on people. It really opened my eyes about the impact I can have on the world as an avid fashion consumer.
Hong Kong is very much like NY, if you really want to do something you can make anything happen.
We first sat down with Sam (my business partner) in early 2012 (I was working in finance at the time). We felt like were on the same page, wanting to create something beautiful, yet ethical.
The issue we had was the terrible stigma of eco fashion. It was rather unfashionable and had a “hippie” granola image to it. So we set out on a mission to combine ethics and aesthetics, to find beautiful clothes made with integrity.
We researched the market for 3 months, every single day, and realized that there were actually quite a few brands that fit the bill. So we decided to set up the store. My husband has a branding agency, so we turned to them to create the online store. We started designing the layout in June and programming in August, and launched by the 15th of November 2012.
Right now we have a selection of around 15 designers from across the world. From the US to Vietnam we find designers with a clean, contemporary and unique aesthetic and bring them under one roof. We like pieces that are timeless and slightly masculine – quality of the pieces is absolutely imperative for us.
I am 8 months pregnant and have been refusing to buy any maternity wear, so my selection has slimmed down to about 10 pieces that made me cherish the versatility of my wardrobe even more.
I love my theSway biker jackets – I own two in grey and black cropped, they age beautifully and are made from upcycled leather and recycled cotton, at a UN certified factory that is working to become carbon neutral. They were one of the first pieces we received when we launched the store, so they have both a hugely sentimental and a practical value.
I have a pair of J Brand jeans that I have been wearing since I was 21 (almost 10 years now) – I love owning pieces for a long time and growing with them. I had to mend them twice and replace the button, but otherwise they feel like new. I think my one fashion essential would be a good quality sarong. In the summer you can use it as a beach towel, dress, skirt, table cloth, picnic blanket. In winter you can use it as a scarf and it’s essential for travel when you want to wrap yourself on a flight. (I live in the ones we have from Muzungu sisters and Hammam34)
I also live in my PARTIMI digitally printed silk and modal tops – they can be hand washed and the quality of material is impeccable.
My beauty routine is super basic, I wash my face with natural soap (I buy new one every time I travel, at the moment I am testing a baby soap made with calendula oil), I use organic almond oil as a moisturizer for body, face and hair. I get it in Spain when I go to visit my parents. The brand is called Special line (packaging is kind of crap) but it works wonders. I have also been using it to prevent stretch marks.
I really like Sisley. Most big brands irritate my skin, but Sisley uses natural plant extracts, is hypoallergenic and doesn’t test on animals. I like their eyeliner and concealer (the only two make up things that I use).
Right now I’m looking forward to new exciting collaborations we have lined up for AW14, we are also looking at finding new Asian designers, and building stronger local presence. There is so much new talent coming out in the sustainable design space that every buying season is becoming more exciting for us.
Also, I’m about to have a baby, so that’s a pretty big milestone.”
– As told to Ana Wang, July 2014