We sit down with LGBTQ activist and founder of Basics for Basics, Kayla Wong for her insights on creating a sustainable wardrobe, how she’s fighting for LGBTQ rights, and the challenges she’s faced as a female entrepreneur
Entrepreneur, sustainable fashion advocate, LGBTQ activist, and social influencer all in one – our That Girl, Kayla Wong is a multi-disciplined creative and philanthropist at heart. In an effort to promote the slow fashion movement and support fair wages for global garment workers, Kayla founded ethical clothing label, Basics for Basics, but also spends a lot of her time speaking up for LGBTQ rights and supporting charities. Despite her super busy schedule, Kayla found time to sit down with us and share her tips for creating a sustainable wardrobe, her biggest career milestone, as well as elaborating on her involvement with the LGBTQ movement in Hong Kong.
Tell us more about your brand, Basics for Basics. How do you ensure that your product is made sustainably?
I actually work with a manufacturer in India, that I found on an ethical fashion forum. First of all, we do not produce in bulk, meaning we try to keep our fashion waste to a minimum. We also ensure that all of our garments are made with certified organic cotton. Organic cotton has a lower impact on our environment because no chemicals are allowed in the process of production, and this allows us to keep our carbon footprint at its lowest!
What inspired you to start living a more sustainable lifestyle? Why is ethical fashion important to you?
With all the information we get our hands on through the internet and the media, I was able to learn how much of an impact we are making on our environment. In order for our future generations to be able to enjoy our beautiful planet, I realised it was up to us to do something to ensure that we do nothing further to destroy what we already take for granted.
Human rights have always been very important to me, I guess it is something that was instilled in me by my parents at a young age. So once I learnt the ugly side of garment production (i.e. poor working conditions in factories, salaries that could barely keep them afloat and child labour) I knew that I could no longer continue to purchase from stores that turned a blind eye on these issues.
Any tips for our Sassy readers who are looking to shop more sustainably?
There are actually a growing number of of sustainable and ethical fashion brands out there, it is really just taking that first step and doing a bit of research. Some of my favourite brands are Everlane, Reformation and Kowtow. Another great way to be more sustainable is to shop secondhand. I feel like there has always been a stigma about shopping secondhand in Hong Kong because it is seen as bad luck. I think it is time for us to change that mindset! Shopping second hand is actually really fun – it’s like treasure hunting, and I find the whole process very satisfying.
Read more: Your Guide to Vintage Stores in Hong Kong
Who do you look up to in the fashion world? Why?
There are actually two people that I would like to mention! The first one is definitely my mum- she is the reason why I wanted to be in the fashion industry in the first place. She was never one to follow trends and I love that about her. She not only taught me to find my own style, but showed me that I had a voice of my own in an industry where you could be easily drowned by judgement and opinions. The second person would be Christina Dean of Redress. She is one of the pioneers that started bringing attention to sustainable fashion and she continues to be an inspiration for me with the work she does.
In your opinion, what would you say has been the most rewarding experience in becoming an entrepreneur?
To me, I think it is when I know that the message I put out there has been heard, and it has brought about positive change.
What is one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
It would be to remember to take every failure as a learning opportunity and to be patient with yourself. Treat time as your partner and not the enemy, know that the only finish line is the one that you set for yourself, know that it is okay to ask for help, and most importantly, make self love a priority because only when you are able to love yourself completely, can love the people around you.
Being one of the few, high-profile LGBTQ activists in Hong Kong, what do you hope to accomplish with your advocacy?
My goal is quite simple- I just want people in Hong Kong to understand that love is a universal language and that we all deserve to love and be loved the same way. Nobody should get to dictate that. We should all learn acceptance, not only for others, but most importantly for ourselves. To realise that loving someone, no matter of race, gender or age is our choice and we should never be ashamed of that! I hope that our society can work to become more inclusive and embrace diversity. Hopefully one day we can see marriage equality become a reality in Hong Kong.
You’ve recently started Les Bae, a safe space for LGBTQ girls in Hong Kong. Can you share with us a bit more about it?
I have a lot of friends who have similar stories where they are not quite accepted by the people around them and have had trouble finding others who understand what they are going through. So I decided to start the group so that girls can share their experiences and ask questions which they normally would feel too shy to ask outside of the group. It is definitely still a work in progress because Hong Kong unfortunately is still quite close minded in many ways – which means that the girls are still shy and hesitant to share. But I have hope and will continue to try build up the group.
How can our readers show their support to the LGBTQ community?
I think the easiest way is acceptance. We have the same troubles if not more and sometimes we just want someone to tell us that everything is going to be okay. Just remember that we are all humans living on the same earth. If you are someone passionate about fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ community, there are also a lot of groups in Hong Kong that are doing great work that would love your support, such as Big Love Alliance and Pink Dot.
Thanks to our talented photography intern, Tiffany Ku for all of the beautiful images above! Follow her on Instagram here.
A special thanks to The Nail Library for allowing us to shoot on-location.
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Photos courtesy of Tiffany Ku. These images may not be reproduced without
without prior permission from the photographer.