We chat to Redress Design Award 2019 Finalist, Meiyan Chan, about her professional milestones and her hopes for the future of fashion…
Much more than a passing trend, sustainable fashion is here to stay, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to support the cause. With this in mind, we’re chatting to sustainable fashion designer and Redress Design Award 2019 Finalist Meiyan Chan. Since childhood, Meiyan’s passion has always been fashion. Her interest in design, fabrics and sustainability only grew. As a designer, she transforms her love for all things style into sustainable garments influenced by feminism. We chat to Meiyan about her meaningful milestones and goals for the future. She shares her favourite designer, her top tips for maintaining work-life balance, as well as the challenges behind exploring various forms of fashion, all while honing her brand in the industry.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you lived in Hong Kong?
Hello! I am Meiyan, a sustainable fashion designer based in Hong Kong. I was born and raised here in Hong Kong, but have also spent time in China and the UK for university. I studied Fashion Design at ESMOD Paris, but have always called Hong Kong home. I believe you are what you wear – your choice of garment should represent who you are, your style, your personality and your ethics. I currently work as a ready-to-wear and eveningwear designer across China, Hong Kong and the US. Fashion has always been a passion of mine and I am very happy to say I won the Redress Design Award 2019 Hong Kong Best Runner-up Prize.
Can you tell us about your work? What encouraged you to become a fashion designer?
I developed an interest in hand sewing early in my childhood, spending countless hours making tiny garments and dressing up my Barbies. The creative expression, the joy of making and seeing what is in your head come to life on the model, captivated me. I have never lost that love for fashion design and have been pursuing a career as a designer ever since. What has changed since then however is my focus and drive, with my designs aiming at creating versatile, novel and sustainable garments that you can be worn for years.
There’s so much that comes with working in fashion – let alone sustainable fashion! Can you share your most meaningful milestone?
Designing my first full collection. It was only three years ago that I started as a fashion design assistant. I never would have thought I would be designing a whole sustainable fashion collection. It fills me with so much pride and satisfaction to see it come to life.
What has been the biggest challenge about trying to explore the eco and ethical forms of fashion?
Firstly, given this is an emerging design ethos in fashion, there is not a lot of readily-available information or resources. This is especially true for new designers in the field, even though there is such a focus on sustainability in the industry. For example, there is a huge focus on the industry and local communities about the heavy garment and textile waste, but it’s very hard to actually source this waste in order to reuse it. It is critical for us to share our knowledge and resources. It’s the only way to grow and truly make sustainable fashion accessible.
Secondly, sustainable fashion itself is a paradox. We try to cut waste and minimise the negative environmental impacts the fashion industry has, however, there are inherent conflicts. A designer can choose to use zero-waste pattern cutting as their approach, yet the fabric chosen is part polyester for durability and to reduce costs – a large number of garments are made resulting in waste inventory. The challenge is to find a balance, as we always say, there is no such thing as the most sustainable design, only a more sustainable design.
We’re huge fans of the Redress Design Awards. What encouraged you to enter and what did it mean to be a Finalist?
I had followed Redress and the Redress Design Awards for some time, learned about its mission and contestants, and love what they produced. After returning from Paris and spending some time working in China, I found myself back in Hong Kong in time for the Redress Design Award. For me, it was an opportunity to learn and expand my design experience.
Becoming a Redress Design Award 2019 Finalist taught me so many things about sustainable fashion design and reinforced my desire to be a sustainable designer. Not only was there so much possibility in sustainable fashion with such a positive message, but it was fun and exciting. Being a part of Redress has impacted me so much more than I expected, making me question my lifestyle and entire design approach. By the end of the Redress Design Awards, I had totally changed the way I lived, consumed and designed.
I truly believe everybody should use what they have in their power to do good and make a difference.
You mentioned that some of your designs are inspired by the second wave of feminism. Can you tell us more about that?
I joined the Redress Design Award with my up-cycling collection called “Leftovers”, taken from a term which society labels unmarried women in their late 20s in China. I got inspired by the second wave of feminism that took western fashion by storm in the early 80s, breaking ground for women to aspire to new roles in society. My collection was created with unwanted wedding dresses to cut waste and pollution in the fashion industry, but also to show women that there is no such thing as leftovers.
What are five goals you have for next year? Personally or professionally.
- Launch my fashion design website.
- Launch my next collection.
- Grow my video channel’s viewership and reach, which covers content about the sustainable industry (such as up-cycling) and lifestyle.
- Open a small secondhand fabric and garment store (for students or anyone who wants to design with secondhand garments and dead stock).
- Start my photography series.
What are three things you do to maintain work-life balance in your day-to-day?
- Fixed scheduling. I tend to focus on one project a day and keep the same schedule every week. This includes ensuring I have time for myself, family, friends and, of course, my dog!
- Make a list of everything I need to do, including all the small tasks which need to be done.
- Work in a variety of locations, including outdoors with open-air and nice beautiful views.
Who is your favourite designer and why?
Nensi Dojaka. Her collection is modern, deconstructed, poetic, cool and sensual.
If you had one piece of advice to give to aspiring sustainable designers, what would it be?
Style is as important as sustainability, finding a balance in between is the key. For me, an innovative, stylish, wearable, sustainable design is my goal. Ultimately, if your customer loves your garments, wears them for a long time in many different ways and keeps them in their closet for years, that is what truly makes a garment sustainable.
All photos courtesy of Meiyan Chan. Follow her on Instagram to see more.