In our effort to spread the message about giving back and taking care of our precious planet, we are featuring other organizations in Hong Kong that are helping to make our community more sustainable. We recently sat down with Sarah Fung, the inspiring founder of HULA, who is working to “make fashion an industry which is kind to both people and the environment” through her marketplace for pre-owned designer womenswear. Here is what she told us about her work.
Twopresents: Tell us about HULA. What makes it a sustainable business?
Sarah: HULA is a highly curated online marketplace for pre-owned designer womenswear, with coveted pieces available for up to 95% off retail prices and where sellers are by-invite-only ‘industry insiders’. To make fashion an industry which is kind to both people and the environment, HULA offers 5% of its net profits to partnered charities ranging from environmental to human trafficking NGOs. HULA is not just an online boutique, it is a sustainable fashion community where members can consign items they no longer need and discover the best designer pieces for less, whilst positively impacting the world at the same time. HULA benefits the seller, the buyer, the environment and someone who needs our help!
Twopresents: What inspired you to work in this field?
Sarah: Whilst I was working at Lane Crawford, I couldn’t help but think how much waste I was seeing in the industry stemming from the retail side where a product has a shelf-life of only a few months and consumers wanting to buy more and more. I was often asked by friends and colleagues, “how do you get rid of the items you no longer want?” and I knew there were very few choices on where the products could go. Having experienced both sides of the industry as a designer and later as a retailer, I understood the efforts that went into one piece – from design to production to market. I wanted to help prolong the life of well-designed fashion pieces and help reduce textile waste – one of the largest pollutants worldwide. I knew there was a gap in the market and wanted to set up a platform where the products are presented in the quality that they are – as never or hardly worn pieces that have been highly curated, rather than ‘old and second hand’.
Twopresents: What is your biggest challenge as a sustainable business owner?
Sarah: For us it has to be the re-education we need to do about buying pre-owned. In Asia, there is a prevalent idea that when garments are passed on, we might ‘wear the bad luck’ from the previous owner. With textile waste being the second largest pollutant in the world, we have to do our part to help re-educate, shift mind-sets and spread the word about the environmental benefits of buying pre-owned. This quote from 1 Million Women, an organization that works to fight our climate crisis, puts things into perspective, ”If one million women bought their next item of clothing secondhand instead of new, we would save 6 million kilograms of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere”.
Twopresents: What do you hope to accomplish with HULA in the next 5 years?
Sarah: Our plan is to increase visibility in Hong Kong and scale to other countries in Asia. I hope buying and selling from a site like ours will be a ‘normal’ retail pattern for those who are already shopping luxury and for those who would like to shop for a designer product but cannot always afford to. If we grow, it means that more people are converting to this way of shopping and that we are hopefully weening some consumers off fast fashion, which can be detrimental to the environment and the people that produce these products.
Twopresents: Tell us about your yourself?
Sarah: I was born in Brighton, a seaside town south of London to Hong Kong Chinese parents and I have one older sister. We moved to London when I was a young child, and this is where I spent most of my adult life. My childhood wasn’t always rosy, my parents worked hard to make a living and sadly got divorced when we were young, which put us in foster care for a few years. We moved back with my mother in our teens but when I was 16 my mother passed away which was a terrible shock. However, with every bad experience I always believed in looking at the positive – we became extremely independent and it gave us this innate drive to do better and do unto others. I was always very creative and enrolled into Central St Martins to study Jewellery Design. Later I had my own jewellery business and shortly after that I created my own lingerie and swimwear brand. I moved to Hong Kong 12 years ago after accepting a job at Lane Crawford (where I stayed for 9 years), met my Austrian husband and we have now made Hong Kong our home.
HULA will open its first permanent warehouse store in Wong Chuk Hang at the end of March, where you can shop for over 5000 pieces and 750 brands under one roof. You can sign up to thehula.com to find out more and be the first to know when the warehouse is open.