A former fashion merchandiser and a board member of environmental NGO Redress, Michelle Bang is the founder of B Y T, a startup that addresses the issue of waste in the fashion industry by turning surplus fabrics from design houses into affordable clothing. She tells Andrea Lo about her journey.
I’m a Korean-American originally from New York City, and have been living in Hong Kong for the past 11 years.
I met [Redress founder] Christina Dean while I was recruiting leaders in the charity world to benefit from a weeklong scholarship program at Harvard Business School.
In the process, I learned more about Redress and about the environmental and education work they do in the fashion and textile industry. Eventually Christina recruited me to join her team.
B Y T was born from Redress, a charity with a mission to reduce waste in the fashion industry. It is a for-profit extension, implementing the waste-reducing methods championed by Redress. B Y T is code for a new attitude and lifestyle around fashion. It’s what it means to you, and it can always change. For Christina, it means “be yourself today” and for me, it means “beautiful yet thoughtful.”
The fashion and textile industry is the second biggest environmental polluter globally, and the second biggest polluter of clean water. We hope for a future where the words “sustainable fashion” will no longer be used, because fashion will become inherently more sustainable. The great news is that Hong Kong is much more aware of waste. It’s hard to ignore the issue when we’re constantly reminded of our overflowing landfills.
However, practical solutions – such as widespread separation and collection of domestic recycling waste – remains somewhat in the dark ages.
We have limited space. There’s a lack of space on roads for recycling containers, and for large-scale industrial parks to address recycling on a large scale. It’s a sad reality that our high land prices don’t just make it hard to find affordable housing. It’s also an obstacle towards investing in recycling technologies and businesses on our own doorstep.
Throughout my career and life choices, I have decided to pursue my interests and passions with an approach to learning and to doing good. We want our community to love wearing our clothes, to love the values that we champion, and we want to see the B Y T lifestyle being celebrated stylishly around the world.
Michelle Bang was the winner of Chivas the Venture, a competition that awards winners with funds for their startups. BYT launches in early September 2017 at the EcoChic Design Award’s grand final competition.