Recommended, 2019

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Christina Dean only wears fashion out of the trash

Christina Dean sorts clothes on a textile garbage dump in Hong Kong. Every day about 217 tons of old clothes land there.
Photo: Luke Casey

The second-hand heroine

In her "365 Challenge" campaign, Christina Dean created 365 outfits out of the clothes that land on Hong Kong's landfills. The goal: to draw attention to the fact that well-preserved things do not belong in the bin, but in thrift stores.

When Christina Dean opens her wardrobe in the morning, she sometimes ponders. Not because she does not know what to wear. But because she is worried that she has too many clothes. With her organization "Redress" (re-dress), the 35-year-old is committed to a more sustainable and conscious approach to fashion . Dean's voice almost flips over when she says that more thoughtful shopping needs to be discarded - so much does she burn for her topic. "I'm not a woman hugging trees, but the environment is important to me, " she says. She does not miss out on even the tiniest detail when she talks about her seven-day bike ride that took her a few months ago from her hometown of Hong Kong through southern China - past kilometer-long textile mills. It describes the unnaturally gray color of the sky, the pungent odor, the streets of potholes lowered by overloaded trucks. "79 205 tons of clothes end up in Hong Kong every year, " says Dean. The number knows it by heart. Just like all the other numbers that show how crucial it is for the environment, that fashion is produced more sustainably. But the high water consumption and the use of chemicals are just one thing. Equally important to her is that every single person - instead of constantly buying and throwing away new clothes - should focus more on second-hand and recycling . To fight for it, Dean, who has been living in Hong Kong with her husband and three children for nine years, founded the organization "Redress" in 2007.

Every year Dean plans a "Get Redressed" challenge with her seven-member team, which allows her to share as much as possible with people in her heart through social networks. In 2013, she put together 365 outfits for the "365 Challenge" in collaboration with a recycling company and stylists from the gigantic old clothes mountains of Hong Kong's garbage dumps. "Partly, I found brand-new shirts and skirts with price tags, " she says. "I was shocked at what treasures are thrown away." On Instagram, day after day, she showed how beautiful fashion can look like in garbage - so she will not end up there in the future.

With the new "Get Redressed" Challenge, Dean is calling on "Redress" folks to upload even Instagram photos of their outfits to fashion themes like sewing, swapping or repairing to inspire others.

In Dean's life, fashion did not play a big role in the past. Actually, the fashion activist is a trained dental surgeon - shaped by her parents, who lived and worked as doctors in Zambia, in the south of Africa. But when she realized that it was not for her, she trained as a journalist. Dean liked to write about environmental issues. And so for the first time she dealt with the ecological effects of textile production. "I was surprised that there are hardly any organizations that are committed to more sustainable fashion, so I started to get involved, " she says.

And even though their organization, which has held fashion design competitions, seminars and exhibitions, and has developed its own recycling seal, focusing mainly on Hong Kong and the Asian market, the problem is global. Even in Germany lands despite Altkleider containers and thrift stores lots of clothes in the trash. Approximately 100, 000 tons per year, the umbrella organization of non-profit clothing collections estimates "fair valuation". That's a lot, though Germans give a lot of their old clothes in charitable collections (the "FairWertung" seal identifies approved containers) - or commercial (pay attention to the "bvse" seal of the Federal Association for Secondary Raw Materials and Waste Management). And some already use online file sharing such as "garbage" .

In Asia, on the other hand, passing on used clothing is less common. "At the thought of it is often nauseated, " says Dean. Nevertheless, she herself almost only wears second-hand clothes. Sometimes she buys something new to her kids, which the three of them donate next to their children's stuff. "I'll never buy a new piece of clothing myself, which I swore."

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