Sustainable Denim Education in Asia Pacific Initiative

The Mills Fabrica is in partnership with The Magic of Denim Consultancy and Advance Denim to present the “Sustainable Denim Education in Asia Pacific” initiative, a member of the United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network.

Aiming to promote, teach and advocate denim sustainability and circularity within the APAC region, a wide range of masterclasses, collaborative lectures, workshops, conferences and seminars will be organized for schools, universities, NGOs and design organizations. Through the partnership with denim industry experts from the APAC supply chain, brands, and schools, denim sustainability programs will be tailored and designed to accommodate the specific needs of the audience including vocational training programs and different denim companies.

The Mills Fabrica presented the Denim Futures Conference & Showcase in September 2022 as the first public event of the initiative.

An Interview with David Tring: On Sustainability and The Future of Sustainable Denim Education in Hong Kong and Asia

David Tring, currently the Denim Head of The Magic of Denim Consultancy, has nearly 40 years in the fashion industry and made his first plea for sustainability in 1989. David released his first sustainability collection in 1992.

We talked to David Tring on the idea of sustainability, the education of sustainable denim in Hong Kong and the APAC market in particular, and his latest initiative “The Sustainable Denim Education in Asia”.

Defining Sustainability

The term “sustainability development” was first popularized in the Our Common Future report published by the United Nations in 1987, which was also known as the Brundtland Commission. The term “sustainable development” has since been defined as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." However, David Tring has observed that “the word has been misused in the greenwashing campaigns of big companies across all industries and products that are important (for us) to step back and understand what the term really means.”

To Tring, if a company reduces its greenhouse gas emissions or water usage but if it cannot meet the criteria set by the United Nations, then it should not be regarded as sustainable. “We need them to go all the way and we need to encourage them to do that. The future generations that include those currently in school, will never forgive us if we have it in our power to act differently and we don’t.”

Image Courtesy: The Magic of Denim Consultancy
Our aim is to promote, teach and advocate denim sustainability and circularity within the apac region.
David Tring, Denim Head of The Magic of Denim Consultancy
The Hong Kong Scene and its Future

Lagging behind Europe in sustainable development and the understanding of sustainability, Hong Kong has a long way to go in reducing carbon emissions, Tring says. “there are good initiatives to teach sustainability in universities and organizations like The Mills Fabrica, and environmental NGOs like Redress who are doing impactful work especially around teaching circular economy and raising the issues regarding landfill.”

He finds the denim industry in Hong Kong has a very close-knit community that is eager to support the next generations and has been giving lectures to year 2 students from the Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI) on sustainable denim design. “HKDI is a vocational institute that is open to partnering with the industry. Some of the world’s biggest denim companies which focus on sustainable denim innovation such as Advance Denim, Lenzing Fibre, Jeanologia, Cone Denim and the Crystal Group are actively supporting us with this project.”

Currently, 200 garments enter landfills every 10 seconds in Hong Kong. Resources that could be repurposed back into the supply chain to make new projects are wasted. David Tring pointed out that 80% of the decisions that affect the sustainability of any items of clothing are baked in at the design stage. He sees education as a way of bringing changes. “Educating students majoring in design, marketing, and buying that design is about a set of choices and the ways of making garments can be more sustainable through different means of design is at the top of my priority list this year.”

Image Courtesy: The Magic of Denim Consultancy
The “Sustainable Denim Education in Asia Pacific” Initiative

In the Greater Bay Area, currently over 250,000 people are employed in the denim industry, but there lacks an education program that specifically supports the industry. David Tring believes Hong Kong will become the education hub in the teaching of sustainable denim for the Asian Pacific area and this belief resulted in the birth of the Sustainable Denim Education in Asia Pacific initiative. The Magic of Denim Consultancy is proud to be a member of the United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network for industry stakeholders, media, Governments, and UN system entities to showcase initiatives and collaborations that accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Our aim is to promote, teach and advocate denim sustainability and circularity within the APAC region, by partnering with schools, universities, NGOs, design organisations and denim companies.” Through bringing real industry expertise together with Asia’s best education partners, Tring is determined to bring real changes to the region.

“I truly believe that education is the gift that one generation gives to another, but it is also true that it does not flow in just from one direction. The students today are often called “Gen Z”, who really have “purpose” as their value. If we nurture that with the correct approach, they can go on to educate others once they reach full employment. Sustainability is made of two words, “sustain” and “ability”. Raising their “ability” to understand and find solutions to climate crisis is critical for their future careers and the world they will inherit from us.”