“‘If you can change fashion, you can change anything.’ This mantra has kept me focused when we started our social impact, upcycled and socially-sustainable fashion brand, BYT. One needs a tough backbone, resilient willpower and visionary insight as mental fuel when the hours are long, the task list even longer and the path to success is an uphill road,” said Christina Dean, co-founder of BYT and founder of Redress when we recently caught up with her in Hong Kong.
Meet BYT, the startup fashion brand, born from the 10 years of dedicated hard work of Redress, the Hong Kong charity with a mission to reduce waste in the fashion industry. BYT co-founders, Christina Dean and Michelle Bang, have the audacious dream to prove that fashion – the world’s most polluting industry – can become a force for good.
BYT will transform textile waste – of which China is estimated to generate 26 million tonnes every year – into sustainable clothing that’s affordable, original and luxurious, through social enterprises and factories with exemplary social standards. A portion of BYT’s profits will be donated back to the charity Redress to help them further catalyse change in the fashion industry.
“Fashion gets a lot of criticism,” explained Christina, “I’ve been working in the non-profit sector for 10 years to promote ways to clean up fashion’s act. The fashion and textile industry has a lot to answer for. Take your pick: rampant water pollution, excessive contribution, climate change to unethical social issues. But fashion also has the power to drive change.”And change is exactly what this daring duo wants to achieve.
With years of experience under their fashionable belts – Christina founded and ran Redress for 10 years; Michelle is an ex-investment banker and fashion buyer, also Redress’ previous COO – it’s little surprise that BYT is off to a flying start. BYT is passionate about their birthplace in Hong Kong, holding a deep commitment to local innovation arising from the region’s long history and expertise in the apparel industry, tailoring, technical and design knowledge.
Created entirely using textile waste, BYT’s first upcycled collection has already been bought by Lane Crawford for retail in September 2017. BYT’s upcoming retail is on bytlife.com’s future e-commerce platform. With star designers cherry-picked from the EcoChic Design Award, the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition organized by Redress, and with unrivalled access to textile waste from the region, it’s not a surprise that this startup is quickly gaining traction.
“The world wants solutions to fashion’s carbon footprint,” says Michelle Bang, CEO of BYT. “Asia is the home of huge future fashion consumption that is coupled with increasing ethically-minded consumers. If we can tap into this market, BYT will become a nimble business that can unlock textile waste and put it fashionably back on the streets around the world.” And BYT is indeed catching the world’s attention. BYT and Michelle Bang are representing Hong Kong in the Chivas Venture, a global competition aimed at finding and supporting ‘extraordinary startups’ that use business to create positive change. With USD1 million up for grabs between 30 social entrepreneurs around the world, BYT is now in the running to win much-needed funds to scale up their dreams.
“The fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest economic industries, as well as one of the most polluting but it’s also an industry that thrives on creativity and change,” said Christina. “If we can change fashion, we can change anything.”