Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fashion Designers Aim to Help Fellow Asians

Hong Kong-based designers,Cassandra Postema and Dong Shing Chiu are bucking the trend as Western fashion brands look to Asia to provide cheap skilled labour. The two are seeking out untrained workers in some of the poorest parts of the continent to help make their new range of ethically-produced, eco-friendly clothing using traditional methods.

Their staff include refugees, people in drug rehabilitation centres and young adults living in orphanages who many of them have been unemployed, suffer from long-term illness or live below the poverty line, but as long as they are willing to learn, they are given training to sew will be given a chance to improve their lives. They are trained to make these special trimmings -- using recycle materials -- with some of the products then going to the company's Chinese factories to be finished.

"Some of them started to cut up their curtains, some cut up their blankets," laughs Postema. "We actually want the fabric to be indicative of the culture and tell different stories."

We've never wanted to be another fashion company making clothes. They are so happy when they receive the money. It's rewarding to make people happy," says Postema.

Postema and Chiu work with local charities in Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines as well as Hong Kong to produce hip and stylish high-fashion products with a distinctively Asian look. Many of Dialog's products -- clothes, handbags, accessories and homewares -- feature a signature trim that derives from an old Malaysian technique using small folded squares of mixed fabrics.

Dialog's products are now sold in shops and on fair trade and fashion websites in Britain, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, France and Canada.

Although ethically-produced fashion remains a niche market, it has become increasingly popular.

"Initially I didn't dare to do this but now this job has helped me to learn new skills and raise my self confidence."

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