It goes by many names, pre-love garments, secondhand clothes, clothes swaps, thrift shopping or consignment, but they all share one goal: to shop more consciously. As shoppers become more familiar with the pain points of mass production and no longer fell the need to buy ‘new’, the resale market may just begin to take over fast fashion in a few years.
The Hand Me Down collective was started by Norbyah, a Mum of three, a teacher, a vintage and thrift fashion enthusiast and blogger, and Akiko, an artist, teacher, model, and bikini enthusiast. Together they host pop-up events and educate the community about the benefits of shopping local, the economic and environmental impact of upcycling clothes. We caught up with them about their mission.
What brought you two together to start the HMD Collective?
It’s funny, we’ve collaborated on so many fun projects, from photoshoots with local brands to pop up shops and local night markets. We even have ideas for our own t-shirt line. The connecting thread with all our ideas has been to support local designers and promote a love of the local community and really just bring cool events to Hong Kong people. It’s so fun to have someone to bounce creative ideas off of. We definitely thrive on sharing this creative energy…And rose.
Why is it important to support pre-loved clothing and explore thrifting?
Both of us agree the most pressing reason to support pre-loved clothing and thrifting is an environmental one. We both worry greatly about the impact consumption has on our environment, so much so that it’s ingrained in how we live our lives.
We’ve found that we’ve influenced others to bring their own bags, to refuse plastic, to choose reusable over disposable, to buy pre-loved, etc. And, what started as just Akiko and I swapping clothes back and forth has expanded to include several other friends in our circle who are handing their clothing around (or handing it down, if you will). It’s kind of where the name of our concept came from, Hand Me Down Collective.
What’re some closet ‘rules’ that can help people combat their need for fast fashion?
Shop your own closet first or borrow items from friends if you’ve got an occasion rather than buying something that you might only wear once. We all tend to gravitate towards what we like, so make sure you don’t keep buying the same item of clothing in different variations.
Probably most important is to save your money and buy better. Clothing made cheaply is cheap clothing. It will not last. That’s the problem. It is designed to make you ‘need’ to buy more. Buy better, buy less.
What have been some of your favourite unique finds?
It’s ridiculous to say, but both of us really love a good coat. Hong Kong weather provides such few opportunities to wear layers, but when it does, we’re down! We’re also quite partial to vintage midi skirts. We’ve swapped quite a few of them back and forth over the years. We both swing through our local neighbourhood Sun & Moon in Stanley Market looking for funky pieces on the regular. It’s a goldmine.
Has it been easy to ‘convert’ people who are used to shopping all-new, all the time?
We’re not so sure how successful we’ve been at converting people. We have noticed that the people who support our events are the same people who are supporting other pre-loved events as well. There’s definitely a growing community looking to engage and find like-minded people. Where we have noticed the most significant growth is with teenage interest in shopping pre-loved. Thrifting is having a moment with them right now; it’s the cool thing to do. Our hope is that these same teens continue to explore the value (both economically and environmentally) in changing the way they shop as they transition to adulthood.
What’re your thoughts on the old Chinese superstition that secondhand clothes carry bad luck?
We believe we’re going to see a cultural shift. In Hong Kong, the pre-loved scene is gaining traction with businesses like HULA and Vestiare Collective selling secondhand clothing, but also brands like The R Collective and Redress promoting more sustainably designed clothing as well. Both Akiko and I are drawn to pre-loved clothing because of the stories our clothes can tell.
We often swap amongst ourselves, or with friends of friends. I think when you get into this habit, it feels more like an act of generosity and thoughtfulness to give someone something you think they’ll wear. And if you get it from someone you know, then you know the spirit that inhabited it as well.
What’s the responsible way to dispose of clothes that aren’t suitable to find a new home?
There’s always something that you can do with old clothes. If they’re still suitable to be worn by others, then consider donating them (we work closely with Redress who helps to get donations to organizations that need them). Beyond that, consider repurposing them.
Norbyah stuffed a whole poof that she bought in Morocco with old clothes that were holey and in disrepair (or socks and underwear, etc which can’t be donated). Old clothes can make great dishrags. Or you can find a place that actually recycles the fibres. That is a bit more difficult to do if your clothing is of mixed composition (which most things are).
What’s next for the HMD Collective?
We’ve got so many ideas, we’re having to hold ourselves back. We’re hoping to branch out and perhaps host our pre-loved sales elsewhere, maybe at Hula in the spring. We’re also really working on encouraging and connecting the pre-loved community by sharing what other amazing things are happening around Hong Kong. If we can get more people to change their shopping habits and chose pre-loved over fast fashion, then our mission will be successful.
Keep up with the Hand Me Down Collective on their Facebook Page