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So proud of you, Singapore: The eco-warriors out to save the world

We talk to four Singaporeans who mean business when they say they love the Earth

Photos: Senkoubou, Align Swim, Peco Bag, Studio Mu Yu

The barrage of bleak headlines regarding unethical practices in the fashion industry makes it difficult at times to reconcile 'fashion' with 'sustainability'. But when you hear of these Singaporeans who are making swimwear from recycled ocean waste, or deriving leather from discarded rawhide, your faith in eco-conscious living and green fashion might just be restored. 

1. Senkoubou

After watching The True Cost, a documentary about the fashion industry’s human and environmental toll, 30-year-old Chin Shiying had an epiphany. “I decided to step away and rethink how I can continue designing and making without causing harm to what is around us,” says the fashion design graduate of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. 

She spent a year as an apprentice to a leather master craftsman in Kyoto, then in February 2018, she founded Senkoubou – a leather goods studio operating on the principles of the circular economy. That means making products that last, using minimal resources and ecofriendly materials, and creating little to no waste. At the end of their life, products can be reused, remade or recycled. 

Chin uses leather derived from rawhide discarded by the food industry. It is put through non-toxic traditional vegetable tanning in Tuscany, Italy, and many substances recovered from the processing are recycled. Hair, for instance, is turned into fertiliser while sludge is used to make bricks.

 

2. Align Swim

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Try your first sustainable swimwear - Take $5 off with code: “align5”

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When Vera Ong started Align in 2018, it was to address a lack of highquality and affordable swimwear with classic, minimalist designs. “While researching, I discovered a high quality Italian fabric called Econyl that is made out of recycled waste from the ocean. I came to understand that the fashion industry is actually one of the largest polluters in the world, and this spurred me to create swimwear that encompasses all the right factors – fit, design, cost and sustainability. I want to spread the word on sustainable fashion and create a positive impact,” she explains. 

Despite being derived from recycled materials, Econyl is known to be luxuriously soft and more chlorine-resistant than regular swimwear fabric. It also provides UV protection. Align’s packaging boxes are designed to be reused as storage, while the pouches containing the swimsuits are eco-friendly linen.

 

3. Peco Bag

Think the reusable shopping bags sold at supermarkets are too bulky and drab to carry around all the time? Enter Peco Bag, a fabric carrier that is made from recycled plastic bottles and folds down into a tiny pouch the size of a pack of tissues. 

“I wanted to educate people on the harmful effects of single-use plastic on the environment and give them an alternative that is convenient enough to change their ways,” says brand founder and TV host-model-actress Yumika Hoskin. 

Weighing just 45g, the bag can hold up to 10kg of items, and is rip-resistant and machine-washable. For now, there are six floral and fruit prints to pick from, as well as two solid-coloured options. “They are incredibly durable and useful. I hope everyone can change one small habit at a time to help in the war against single-use plastic,” Yumika says.

 

4. Studio Mu Yu

The brainchild of 27-yearold Lyn Ng, a former marketing executive, the brand makes quirky earrings and bags from discarded wood. As an apprentice at a local woodworking studio, Lyn saw how many small pieces of wood were discarded during the production process. What better use for them than for jewellery, she thought. Often, these pieces are small, hard cores from the middle of planks and are tough to work with. But because she loves odd-shaped wood and its unexpected grains and knots, she could not bear to see the pieces go to waste. So, she started Studio Mu Yu last September. 

The wood is treated to ensure it is pest- and chemical-free. Almost all products are designed and handmade by Lyn, who spent six months in Taiwan learning woodworking, then a year on apprenticeship here. “It is important to keep our products in a closed loop through reuse and recycling to make sure valuable resources do not go to waste at the end of their life cycles,” she explains.

 

Grab a copy of Her World's August 2019 issue now or download it here.

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