Redressing the fashion sustainability paradox in Hong Kong and China: an examination of tailor-made promotional practices underpinning sustainable production, consumption and post-consumption in a non-Western frame
City University of Hong Kong
Anne Peirson-Smith, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, City University of Hong Kong. She teaches and researches fashion culture and communication, popular culture, public relations, advertising and branding. She is currently researching youth fashion style in South East Asia and has published various articles on the Cosplay phenomenon and youth style following the recent completion of a large scale Hong Kong government funded research grant and is working on a book for Intellect Publishers on this subject. She has also published articles in Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture and World Englishes and contributed numerous book chapters on fashion, style and branding. She has a professional background in advertising, branding and the creative industries public relations and branding and is the co-author of the book, Public Relations in Asia Pacific: Communicating Effectively Across Cultures, (2010) New York: John Wiley. She is also currently working on two publications with Berg and Fairchild Publishers due for release in 2015. In addition, she is an associate editor of the new peer-reviewed Journal of Fashion, Style and Popular Culture (Intellect Publishers) and is the co-editor of a forthcoming special issue of Fashion Branding for Fashion Practice: The Journal of Design, Creative Process and the Fashion Industry. She is also on the advisory board of the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture (Intellect Publishers).
Whilst sustainable production and consumption practices are in evidence across Hong Kong and Asia Pacific in the creative industries and the fashion sector, these initiatives appear to be tentative and sporadic and are often driven by, or replicated from, Western practices. In an industry traditionally based on change and disposability, ethical practices of production and consumption are still a contested site in this region and issues of agency remain unclear. Equally, whilst consumers in Hong Kong and China appear to support the concept of sustainable fashion, the majority still buy non-ethically produced fast fashion garments at low price-points or global luxury brands. Whilst fashion brands have introduced green labels and rebranded their production practices in eco terms, these have been criticised for mere ‘green-washing’. Or, these promotional campaigns may be miscommunicating their messages as these are often misunderstood or misaligned with consumer values and national culture. This paper will investigate sustainable fashion projects in Hong Kong and China using social marketing techniques that tap into issues of nationhood and national culture to promote sustainability in the local fashion industry. The findings will be based on qualitative interviews using a case study format with a coalition of cultural intermediaries and stakeholders involved in the sustainable fashion movement in Hong Kong and China, such as fashion designers, fashion brands, NGOs, trade associations, pressure groups and department stores attempting to change both local perceptions and behaviours about sustainable production and consumption practices in the fashion industry using tailor-made, values-driven social communication campaigns based on fashion shows, competitions, exhibitions, and triggering events. The paper will examine the underlying rhetorical narratives and practices employed in creating and promoting sustainable fashion in terms of alignment with cultural value systems espoused by the Asian consumer, suggesting future directions for eco-fashion initiatives in non-Western places and spaces.