The Future of Pre-Loved Fashion With Hula’s Sarah Fung
With a background in jewellery design and experience in the fashion industry, Fung dedicated HULA to promote circular fashion for high-end luxury items. The brand started online and expanded to physical stores, opening its first warehouse in 2019, its second retail space and first boutique in Central, and its most recent 4,000 sq ft warehouse store in Quarry Bay just earlier this year. The space offers a curated selection of more than 5,000 unique pre-owned ready-to-wear, shoes, bags and accessories of authentic fashion. Fung's drive does not stop there, also launching an innovative retail concept &CO this year. Here, she walks us through her journey from the glamour of fashion to true sustainability.
1. Can you describe your relationship with the fashion industry since the beginning of your career to today?
I have worked in fashion all my adult life. I studied jewellery at Central St Martins college and upon graduating, immediately started a jewellery label and then a lingerie brand shortly afterwards. After exhibiting at London Fashion Week, I was able to sell in prestigious stores such as Browns Focus, Selfridges in London, Henri Bendel in New York, Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, Colette in Paris to name a few. When I decided not to continue with my brand, I found a job at luxury retailer Lane Crawford in Hong Kong to gain valuable experience in the corporate side of fashion retail, where I stayed for almost 10 years. The fashion industry was always enticing to me - the energy, the diversity and they way pushed boundaries. However I slowly started realizing how much waste there was from the increasing number of collections, to the over-production and was tired of the constant rotation. It began to bother me and I slowly started to dislike the industry. When I started HULA I had no idea that fashion was the Second biggest pollutant, second to oil - and so that became my mission to founding HULA. Now my relationship with fashion is healthier, It feels better that I can still work in the industry I love, whilst helping the planet.
2. What is sustainability in fashion?
Sustainable fashion can be a few things; technically it's about using better fabrications and better processes that are kinder to the planet - to save depleting the earth's resources and polluting the environment.
It can also be about reusing items, circular fashion, restyling or upcycling pieces and saving them from landfill. As a consumer, its about educating oneself on how things are made to make better choices, buy better quality and make them last!
3. What was the inspiration behind the founding of HULA?
I had always been a 'secondhand thrifter' in London and thought it strange that it wasn't very popular in Hong Kong when I first immigrated here. Whilst working at Lane Crawford, I noticed there were colleagues who were constantly buying the newest trends but only wearing it a few times and were asking me where they could resell it. We were all so spoiled, working in fashion and being at the top of the chain to see the best pieces and using our staff discount cards. I started looking at the pieces left over from a selling season and knowing that someone else outside of fashion would appreciate it more. After doing some research I realised there wasn’t a consignment business in Hong Kong that felt luxurious and inspiring so I decided to start HULA.
Having experienced both sides of the industry from design to retail meant I understood the efforts that went into one piece; from design, production to market, making it HULA’s mission to help prolong the life of well-designed fashion pieces and help combat fashion pollution, the second largest pollutant worldwide.
"It can also be about reusing items, circular fashion, restyling or upcycling pieces and saving them from landfill. As a consumer, its about educating oneself on how things are made to make better choices, buy better quality and make them last!"
- Sarah Fung, Founder & CEO of HULA
4. How do you wish to impact/change the fashion industry with HULA, and with &CO?
When I first started HULA, getting consumers to buy pre-owned fashion wasn't easy, as in Hong Kong this was wildly unacceptable. Superstition has largely held this business model back from flushishing - like in the West or in countries like Japan. However I have had to do a lot of talks, get the community together and I finally see acceptance and growth, so I am glad I continued through the hard times. Since I started we have consigned over 40,000 items - potentially saving them from landfill. In terms of worldwide waste, this is a small drop in the ocean but I hope I can look back in hindsight in another few years and be proud of saving more and more items.
We started &CO. when we moved into our Quarry Bay warehouse where the additional space we have allowed us to be more creative. &CO. is about getting the community of like-minded sustainable brands together to create more noise and be able to offer consumers alternatives, re-educate people and create a unique shopping and learning experience and sustainable community.
5. What can we, as consumers, do to influence the industry’s issue with sustainability?
We as consumers think it should be down to the brands to change but it's actually a two way thing. The consumer has the power to dictate what brands produce. The saying of 'vote with your wallet to dictate what you want to see in your future' is really true. If we stop buying cheaper and cheaper items and demand for better quality pieces, then brands won't feel compelled to produce them.
"The consumer has the power to dictate what brands produce. The saying of 'vote with your wallet to dictate what you want to see in your future' is really true."
- Sarah Fung, Founder & CEO of HULA
6. Can you share with us any upcoming projects or news from HULA?
We will be launching our second sustainable marketplace &CO. this October at our Quarry bay warehouse. The next theme is 'Body & Mind' and will include skin and body care, talks on mental health and women's health. We will have weekly events with demonstrations, discussions and workshops. We are really excited to be able to build an even bigger community as an extension of HULA to help grow sustainability in Hong Kong. Apart from that please also stay tuned for a pop-up in Q4!
All imagery is provided by HULA.