Remake Hub – Zhao Sissi (Chang）
Today, we have invited Zhao Chang, the founder of New Life for Clothes, to share her journey on recycling and entrepreneurship with us.
👩🎨: I have lived abroad for a long time and have a strong sense on environmental protection. When I came home last year, I suffered from a food poisoning caused by a cup of milk and the illness was very serious at that time. This caused me to start thinking. Since I have returned home, I felt that the current environment has not been good, and I was wondering if I can help or contribute to the environment. As my family is in the clothing industry, I found out through research that the clothing industry is the second largest source of environmental pollution. I then realize that we should not continue this family business in producing clothing which caused pollution, but at the same time I did not want to give up the resources available at home. Thus, I started searching ways that I can reuse the waste and started to upgrade old clothes to make it look better.
🐼: What is your impression on China’s current clothing recycling situation?
👩🎨: The world now produces 80 billion pieces of clothes each year, and 73% of it will be landfilled and burned. This will bring great pollution to our environment (water, atmosphere, soil) and will consume a lot of natural resources. Among the clothes we purchased, around 85% of it were not worn. This is not only happening in China, but also the situation around the world. Due to the fast-changing fashion, it caused us to keep buying and discard more quickly. Our current purchase volume has increased by 400% as compared to 30 years ago. The biggest shortcoming of a fast-changing fashion is that clothing will easily get out of date and what I want for my fashion is that clothes will not be thrown into garbage bin so quickly.
🐼: Who are your customer groups and what are the business products you sell?
👩🎨: Seeing the pollution caused by the fast-changing fashion, we have upgraded the used clothes by implying various creative inspiration. We utilized these used clothes in many ways, from designs to patterns, from materials to styles. By presenting these used clothes in different ways, consumers have more incentive to buy it. The style we present include: bags, home furnishings, pet products and so on. We are currently selling B2B, mainly helping companies to reduce their pollution impact to the environment by proposing solutions to them.
For instance, we are currently working with JingDong on their post-processing of the production chain of postmen’s work uniform. Their uniform changes constantly from time to time and so we will transform the old uniforms into recycle bags. First, it solves the problem of post-processing of uniform and secondly, it fulfills their need on recycle bags.
🐼: Regarding the honey wax paper that I purchased, of course I’m very thankful for providing such good product, but I’m also curious how should normal China consumers utilize this?
👩🎨: You can use it to for anything! For example, it can be used as a cover for a lunch box, just like how we used the plastic film (the simplest and largely used scenario). Secondly, it can be used to pack fruits or vegetables. It can also be used to carry bread and dry food. You may watch the following video for more explanation.
🐼: How do you think we can best change consumers’ spending habit (from not environmental-friendly to environmental-friendly)?
👩🎨: First of all, you have no way to change one’s habit. I have never thought of changing their habit. In fact, we must use some methods to allow consumers to buy our products. For example, a good design. This is why we have contacted designers locally or abroad to help us design some fashionable products. Taking the mouthwash package as an example, the question should be how we can change the consumer group’s attention on the normal mouthwash package to our product? From ancient times to now, in both ancient Rome and ancient China, innovation and design were the driving force in history to promote change.
🐼: What solid data do you have for someone who doubts the sustainability of your product?
👩🎨: This is very simple. First, you don’t need to care about negative news. Secondly, ask someone who have doubt about our product as “by changing to our honey wax paper, how much disposable plastic bags can be reduced?”. This is a very simple illustration/question and can be extended widely. One can also look at our contribution data. All in all, those who doubt our product can remain in doubt as they are not your target group.
🐼: Is this your first time in starting a business? For those young people who have an aspiration to contribute in the field of environmental protection, do you have any advice for them?
👩🎨: This is not my first time starting a business. My advice to them would be: 1. Be sure to do something you particularly enjoy. 2. For any business model, be it new or old business models, you must balance the relationship between people, nature and profit. Social Enterprise has been in the UK for 10 to 20 years. Therefore, this is not something new or some special business concept. 3. Everyone should understand the factor of companies survivng the next 10 years, is sustainability. If you cannot have a sustainable business, consumers will give up on your product or service in a very short period of time. Therefore, young people should dive in business models that are friendly to the society, environment and profit. You should make sure your creativity or innovation is sensible and is enforceable. This is my advice direction the young people can take. In the end, be sure that you like it and will enjoy working!