The Covid-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for global fashion manufacturers, brands and traders, leading many to re-consider their supply chain strategy. The growing awareness of social and environmental impacts has prompted many businesses to embrace the concept of sustainability in their business plans, helping to create a fresh start for the fashion industry in the post-pandemic era.
In view of what appears to be an irreversible trend towards sustainable fashion, HKTDC conducted an interview with Jeanine Hsu, a Hong Kong-based jewellery designer, and discussed the future of eco-jewellery – from masterpieces that can pass down in a family through generations to sustainable sourcing and green manufacturing. As a green fashion activist, Hsu shared her enlightening experiences in ethical and sustainable jewellery-making, which is increasingly becoming a new must-have in every jeweller’s post-pandemic business plan.
Hsu graduated from the world-renowned arts and design college Central Saint Martins. When she started working in the fashion industry, she soon realised that the industry’s huge waste problems – from carbon emissions and water pollution to deadstock and unsold inventory – clashed with her personal environmentalist beliefs. That led Hsu to think of ways to upcycle jewellery items. Pointing out that it is not unworkable to make jewellery sustainably, she said: “For jewellery, you can easily recycle the metal. You can melt a golden ring down and use the gold to design and make something new. However, for fashion fabrics, it can require many more steps to do it. But in reality, putting sustainability into practice is easier said than done, especially when it was far from the industry norm until Covid.”
Hsu founded her eco-friendly jewellery brand niin in 2005, combining her passions for creativity and sustainability. Hsu designs and creates made-to-order jewellery which allows the buyer to not only look good when wearing them, but feel good as they pass them down to future generations. The positivity the designer hopes to spread is also reflected in the name of the marque. It has a double meaning, being both Hsu’s nickname and a strengthening adverb in the Finnish language. Explaining the thinking behind this, Hsu said: “My jewellery is meant to give my customers a lot of positive energy to do good and feel good about themselves and about others.”
One of the core elements in niin’s sustainability philosophy is ethical and sustainable sourcing. Hsu believes that a brand should keep reflecting on what it means to be sustainable and how it should engage and work with different parties along the value chain. During the past 15 years, niin has evolved by adopting innovative sustainable sourcing practices, upcycling leftovers of materials from different trades. Since its first upcycling experiment, reusing abalone shells collected from seafood restaurants to make its Signature Shell edition, the eco-friendly jeweller has collected brass, leather and even wood offcuts from an Asian furniture company to upcycle them into jewellery pieces.