“Green is the New Black”
Vincci Ching grew up in the heart of the clothing industry—in a factory. She spent her childhood playing in fabrics, loads of them wasted and thrown out. From those experiences, the concept of Heritage ReFashioned was born.
The concept is simple: use old, unwearable textiles to make something new. Ching takes vintage fabric and turns them into handbags and accessories. Her designs have been worn (and held) by Hong Kong fashion influencers, featured in a number of publications, and were recently showcased at New York Fashion Week.
In an age when fast fashion is only getting faster, brands like Heritage ReFashioned are taking a step into a more sustainable future. For Vincci Ching the future of fashion starts with understanding how we can all be more conscious of how we consume it.
Could you share your professional journey that leads to Heritage ReFashioned?
Heritage ReFashioned is a collection of fashion accessories and handbags upcycled from vintage textiles. I grew up with textiles because my family owned a small embroidery factory in Hong Kong in the early 80s. Eventually, as manufacturing moved out of Hong Kong, my family moved to Mauritius to continue their business.
I remember playing hide-and-seek on fabric roll stacks inside the factory as well as making daisy chains with off-cuts as a child! I guess my childhood is a major influence on why I choose to create sustainably, as I saw firsthand the pre-consumer waste that is generated from the mass garments manufacturing process.
Why vintage fabrics? What made you adopt vintage fabric for your luxurious design?
To some, it’s hard to associate luxury with upcycling. Very often, when we talk about an upcycled fashion accessory, we think of turning gunny bags into a tote bag. I’d like to change that. I’d like to turn no longer wearable textiles into everyday fashion that is admired and appreciated once again. When someone puts so much effort and skill into making a beautiful fabric, its rightful place is in the spotlight, not in the landfill or a moldy storage.
How do you choose the items to make with these fabrics?
As you will see in my collection, I choose very ornate fabrics filled with metallic gold threads. These threads were very often made with actual gold by a very specialized artisan decades ago. The process starts with having actual gold threads hammered and cut down to very thin strips, glued onto washi paper [traditional Japanese hand-made paper -Ed.] or silk threads before they are woven into the brocade fabric. Some of them are even made of 24K gold.
So, when I cut into the fabric, I’m always very conscious of how precious it is. Like a jeweler, I treat my fabrics as though they were precious metals and gemstones. While larger pieces are turned into a clutch bag, the smaller pieces are turned into coin purses, brooch pins and cufflinks.
What was the biggest challenge you faced with Heritage Refashioned?
Like all small businesses, limited resources and time are a big challenge. But we have been very fortunate to have been featured by major magazines such as ELLE Hong Kong, the Cathay Pacific, Aspire Magazine of Hong Kong Airlines, as well as local newspapers and fashion bloggers. Getting the word out, while sourcing for vintage fabrics and making the clutches in-house has become a full-time job for several people. I guess, the biggest challenge for us is to strategically choose our growth path without [getting] burnt out.
Why is sustainable fashion important to you?
Sustainable fashion is important is to me because I was raised with money earned from the fashion industry—the second most polluting industry on our planet. I believe that through conscious design and choice of materials, we can change the way we consume.
What steps can an ordinary person take to practice a sustainable lifestyle?
Starting with the 3 R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle. But I live by a fourth: repair. By doing repairs yourself or paying someone to do them, you will make such a big impact.
What kind of stories do you want to tell through your work?
There are so many stories to tell! I want to tell everyone that “green” is the new black! I want to tell the world about the colorful stories woven into the patterns of the fabric. For example, the bishamon symbol is a symbol inspired by the Japanese warrior god that governs wealth. But wearing the symbol on a clutch bag, it almost acts like a shield to protect you on your journey of fighting your world’s fight, in style.
Another one of my favorites is the pine tree symbol, very often seen in wedding and anniversary kimono wear. Pine trees are evergreen, so they symbolize longevity. But a lesser known meaning is fidelity, for pine needles fall off the tree in pairs—symbolizing that two people will stick together no matter what happens.
What are your future plans for Heritage ReFashioned?
Getting the stories behind Heritage ReFashioned known by more people, not only eco-conscious consumers, but also those who care about craftsmanship and the cultural stories woven into the brand. Recently the Hong Kong Jockey Club has commissioned an exclusive collection for their members and the feedback was amazing. While working with them, we pushed the craftsmanship of our work to the next level and we really love a collaboration where we too get to learn and grow as a small business.