5 Southeast Asian Startups Keeping Sustainability In Fashion


Asia Pacific startups that are leading the way in enabling responsible fashion choices

Fast fashion is going out of vogue. The flourishing industry, dominated by retail mammoths Zara and H&M, is now competing with cheaper price tags from smaller local brands, the rise of online shopping, the need to change lines every few weeks, and most importantly, questions of sustainability.

“The repercussions of fast fashion are immense. [It] is both produced and consumed fast and hence, produced more. The practice of fast fashion in unethical, because nothing used in the process is natural, from the dying, to the mixture in cloth and so on,” Kundan Ahuja, Founder of cinema and fashion content portal Bombay Balloon, tells Jumpstart.

The industry came under public scrutiny after innumerable reports emerged of poor labor practices in textile factories in emerging economies, abuse of environmental resources, and reckless overproduction resulting in excessive waste.

In a 2019 interview, Kering Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs Marie-Claire Daveu said, “In 2019, we have seen a radical shift in attention towards sustainability at large, and the climate crisis in particular. The diagnosis is now clear for everyone: we need to accelerate the pace of change and work together.”

Sustainable fashion lets people dress à la mode in clothing made using environment-friendly materials, responsible manufacturing and supply chain processes, and through upcycling garments.

People are paying more attention to making responsible fashion statements, and even big brands are following suit. Sustainability is the new trend – here are five Southeast Asian startups riding the wave.

The R Collective, Hong Kong

Formerly known as BYT, this sustainable designer brand was launched in 2017 by Redress, a Hong Kong-based non-profit organization that works towards reducing industrial fashion waste.

The brand was co-founded by Christina Dean, who also founded Redress, and Michelle Bang, Redress’ previous Chief Operating Officer. As a sustainable luxury fashion startup, BYT upcycles textile waste into retail clothing collections.

In one of its more recent collaborations, the brand partnered with fashion clothing aggregator NET-A-PORTER for the exclusive launch of a Kevin Germanier collection, and is also partnering with the Redress Design Award 2020, a global sustainable fashion design competition.

Style Theory, Singapore

Founded in 2016 by Raena Lim and Christopher Halim, Style Theory is a women’s clothing and bag rental platform based out of Singapore.

The startup offers a range of subscription plans, and users can rent a ‘box’ of between three to five pieces at a time. Users can rent another box after the items have been returned.

The startup raised $15 million in a Series B in December last year. The round was led by SoftBank Ventures Asia, and saw participation from Alpha JWC Ventures and the Paradise Group as well. Style Theory also opened its first flagship store at Orchard Road, Singapore, where shoppers can rent from 300 designer clothes and bags.

Sui, India

Sui, a green fashion brand founded by Mahima Gujral in 2018 and based in New Delhi, uses a ‘slow fashion’ business model that involves made-to-order production and eco-friendly material.

The brand uses hemp, Global Organic Textile Standard certified and organic cotton, and herbal dyes for their clothing lines. It also uses vendor-sourced recycled clothing fabric and recycled packaging.

Using a community-based approach, Sui has partnered with Indian non-governmental organizations Pins and Needles, WomenWeave, and Bagru Textiles, and also launched a SUI x ReefWatch campaign with ReefWatch Marine Conservation last year.

Remake Hub, China

Shanghai-based Remake Hub is a recycling and upcycling social enterprise with offices in China, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. The startup focuses on controlling waste pollution through recycling technology.

Remake Hub takes a triple bottom line approach with its business, and some of its products include recycled yarn and a Fashion From Waste collection. Under its most recent partnership, ReefCycle, Remake Hub helped recycle fishing nets into sunglasses.

Sissi Chao, who founded the startup in 2018, is a United Nations Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals, a My World 2030 Advocate, and a PWC China NextGen Club member.

Forth Co., Philippines

Forth Co. is an online fashion retail platform that focuses on ‘slow, ethical & circular fashion.’ The startup’s aim is to promote sustainable and responsible fashion choices.

The platform acts as an aggregator for socially and environmentally conscious Filipino brands such as Mori & Co., Mimi Clothing, and Gugma Artisan. Last year, it held several workshops on sustainable styling and upcycling.

More recently, Forth Co. collaborated with Fashion Revolution Philippines and Ladies, Wine, and Design Manila for an online panel discussion called Conscious Label: She Creates the Future of Fashion.

Sustainable fashion is picking up pace, as several seasons of Fashion Revolution Week and Redress Design Awards demonstrate. But fast fashion still dominates the market due to its considerable economies of scale, global brand presence, and accessibility advantages.

Eco-friendly and ethical fashion products are on the higher end of the price spectrum as compared to more accessible fast retail brands, who leverage the benefits of production at scale and vast supply chain networks.

Ahuja points out that the current slow-moving shift in consumer mindset is key to turning the situation around.

He says, “As a consumer, the day we realize how hard hitting fast fashion is and that sustainable fashion, though more expensive, lasts longer- that will be a day in the history of fashion.”

Header image by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email


Elon Musk Buy Next

What Is Elon Musk Going to Buy Next?

There are moments in our lives—perhaps we are in the shower or struggling to sleep at 2 A.M.—when we think about all the ways we could influence the world. We find solutions to crypto volatility, world hunger and our neighbor’s ultra-dry plants.

5 Technologies

5 Technologies That Are on Stage in Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine So Far

On February 21, 2022, Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, declared the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic. Arousing international outcry, this ignited the ultimate invasion of Russia on Ukraine three days later. While Ukrainians are still defying Putin’s covetous ambitions, new technologies have been floating on the surface to take advantage of each other.

Technology Joy Ghose

Technology Pioneers – Interview With Joy Ghose of FreeD Group

Over the past 15 years, the Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) of FreeD Group Limited, Joy Ghose, has accumulated plenty of experience in the travel and technology industry. Before joining FreeD Group, Ghose was involved in sales, marketing and management roles at companies like Merlin Entertainments and The Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Creamy Mattes and Beyond Reviewing GoPlay Cosmtics’ Custom Lipstick Maker

To Creamy Mattes and Beyond: Reviewing GoPlay Cosmtics’ Custom Lipstick Maker

While researching for our piece on personal color analysis, I came across the LIPSKIT, a custom lipstick-making tool created by GoPlay Cosmetics. GoPlay Cosmetics is a DIY (do-it-yourself) make-up brand that is looking to prioritize sustainability in the make-up industry without compromising the variety of your lipstick collection.

Ledger vs Trezor

Ledger vs Trezor: Where Should You Store Your Crypto Holdings?

As lucrative as the cryptocurrency world is, it comes with a high risk of losing your crypto because of hacks. To make sure that your crypto holdings stay safe with you, you must carefully choose effective storage solutions for them. One of the ways to keep your crypto secure is by holding it in a hardware wallet.

4 best companion robots to consider in 2022

Alone No More: 4 Best Companion Robots to Consider in 2022

The Covid-19 pandemic and the isolation that accompanied it has given many of us a healthy appreciation for good company. Over the long periods of self-isolation and quarantine, we have come to the realization that company can also come in many non-human forms, like pets, plants and… Roombas?