Originating from the UK, Christina Dean is the founder of Redress, an NGO with a mission to reduce waste and promote environmental sustainability in the fashion industry. Christine oversees the overall strategic development, the programmes, fundraising and corporate partnerships of Redress, and work with a team of passionate sustainable fashion warriors. Named by UK Vogue as one of the UK’s ‘Top 30 Inspirational Women’, the ever stylish Christina has lived in Hong Kong for over nine years with her husband and three kids.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I used to work as dentist in the UK but I stopped – I hated hurting people – and I retrained as a journalist in London and soon afterwards I moved to Hong Kong in 2005. Here, I wrote for various publications and one of my favourite topics was about environmental issues. It was whilst researching about China’s environmental crisis that I realised how much of the negative environmental impacts in China – and the rest of the world – are caused by the fashion and textile industries. When I realised that there weren’t many organisations trying to reduce the pollution from the fashion industry, I felt deeply moved to get involved. I knew too much! I couldn’t turn away from this huge new passion that I felt towards reducing the negative impacts of the fashion industry and so I started Redress.
Redress is an NGO with a mission to reduce waste. We work with the industry, specifically designers and brands and suppliers, and consumers to reduce textile and clothing waste. Our three current main projects are The EcoChic Design Award (a sustainable fashion design competition that educates emerging fashion designers about creating mainstream fashion with minimal textile waste), The R Cert (a recycled textile clothing standard that proves that brands recycled their own factory textile waste into recycled textile clothing) and The Get Redressed Challenge (a consumer campaign educating and promoting more sustainable wardrobe management for consumers).
Redress’s mission in the next 5 years…
Grow Redress and turn perceptions and practices towards sustainable fashion so that it becomes a norm and not a niche.
Describe your style…
Quirky yet conservative with an unexpected dash of sex appeal!
A quote that inspires you…
“Fashion is a reflection of our time. Fashion can tell you everything that’s going on in our world,” says Anna Wintour. The fact the fashion industry is in such a polluting mess reflects the bigger environmental and social challenges that we face on a global level and across all industries.
Having the confidence to dress on the outside the way that you feel on the inside.
Best advise you’ve been given…
Never stop learning or challenging yourself
Legacy you want to leave behind…
Solid characters in my children
Most important lessons learnt in starting an NGO in Hong Kong that equally applies to business…
Never let lack of expertise or experience squash your passion or motivation. Never let barriers stop you climbing; just find another route. Never believe that no always means no. Money money money is as important for an NGO as a bank. No Money; No mission. There is no box to think inside of; you can only think outside of the box. Your mission may never be achieved because the scale of the problems are immense. But this should not dampen your courage or commitment to your cause.
What’s in your wardrobe?
Well made, well loved and well worn clothes. Almost every item that I have has an unusual or personal story that makes me feel unique, loved and special when I wear it. This can range from secondhand, donated, found, hand-made, passed down, reconstructed, special gifts from loved ones or on loan from loved ones. There are so few items in my wardrobe that are without special memories.
A style mantra …
It doesn’t matter what you wear – it’s how you feel and act that makes the meaningful and lasting impressions that determine your character.
3 books that have inspired (or shocked) you…
I only read non-fictional / educational books. Latest are:
- Poorly Made in China
- The end of Cheap China
- Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
- Addicted to you by Avicci
- Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics
- Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton
What are the major concerns people have in donating money/ time to NGOs and what Redress is doing to address this..
One of the major concern people have with volunteering time is if it will account for true and real benefits?
Redress address this by screening volunteers and finding out what they want to achieve by volunteering with us. We only take on very few volunteers so that we can manage what they want out of it and also because we need specific skills from volunteers and longer-term dedication from a volunteer.
With monetary donation, one of the major concern is will the NGOs be able to demonstrate their impact so that donors have confidence that their donations will be part of a greater positive change.
Some NGOs find it hard to demonstrate impact, particularly when it comes to education and raising awareness, because it’s not possible to put an exact number on the people you’ve positively affected. In general, we don’t specifically target consumers for donations for our work. Instead, we seek funding from private sector and the government.
Top 5 websites for HK based NGOs that are empowering people to take action and make a difference…
- Feeding Hong Kong
- Asian Charity Services
- Alliance for a Beautiful Hong Kong (allows people to petition for what they don’t like)
- Support Hong Kong
- and of course Redress !
Top 5 websites I read on a regular basis..
- Ecouterre – for news on sustainable fashion
- Business of Fashion and StyleSight.com for over-arching news on fashion
- The Good Wardrobe for sustainable fashion inspiration
- A Pair and a Spare for DIY inspiration