Tell us a bit about yourselves and what inspired you guys to start WOMB in Hong Kong?
We met over 2 years ago in Beijing (although it definitely feels like much longer!) and started thinking of stuff we could do together practically right away. Both of us were working with fine arts back then but it did not feel as fulfilling as we would wish. We decided to start supporting independent design artists and people who really want to make a difference. We chose Hong Kong because we believe that the mission of introducing consciousness into people’s everyday lives is extremely important here. Without certain steps taken towards sustainability and mindful consumption, places like Hong Kong may be in trouble in the rather near future.
Privately, we always think of how we can make a positive impact on our planet. Kasia is vegan, Maria is vegetarian, and with certain life choices, we are trying to make a case of conscious living and consumption among our families, friends and people we communicate our message to.
What is the biggest difficulty you encountered so far as green entrepreneurs and what did you do about it?
A huge problem, especially on the Asian market, is definitely tuning into people’s regular behaviours and preferences. It is rather difficult to influence the general crowd that is simply not used to certain solutions and behaviours: like choosing reusable alternatives over disposables, independent designers over chain stores that produce cheaply in Southeast Asia. Even recycling is practically non-existing here, because Hong Kong was, until recently, entirely dependent on Mainland China to send away their trash to be recycled. Changing the consumer behaviour feels like a giant leap of faith in our collective ability to change and think a little bit more about what we consume, how we think about environment and people who create things that we purchase.
How do you select brands/ designers to represent and promote? Are there any brands in particular that you’d highly recommend for us to check out?
We are actually quite strict about the selection of designers that we work with. There is a couple of criteria that we always look to be fulfilled. Firstly, the products must be made with materials that are not sourced from animals, so all of the products we promote and sell are vegan. Secondly, trace back the production chain and make sure everything is manufactured in fair conditions, with appropriate wedges for the workers who make the items. We always make sure the items that we sell are unique and are a sort of alternative to what we are all bombarded with every day. We look into ways that production can be more sustainable, and materials sourced and processed in more ethical ways. We appreciate direct contact with our designers, most of them we developed really close friendships with.
In Hong Kong, it is definitely essential to know Cosmos Studio (sustainable clothing brand who introduced a non-pollutant dying technology called GiDelave) and Jolene Jolene (up-cycling plastic bags into funky small accessories). We are also extremely happy to represent Pat Guzik, a zero-waste fashion designer from Poland who is also a winner of 2015/2016 Redress Design Award, Board Thing who up-cycle skateboard wood into rings or Magdalena Tekieli’s beautifully designed 100%-recycled paper stationery. The full list of our designers can be found on our website www.wombhk.com.
How’s the eco scene in HK and what do you think is going to happen in next few years?
There is definitely much hype and momentum that sustainable debate is gaining now. With initiatives like Green Is the New Black entering Hong Kong and existing platforms like The Circular Community, it is much easier for those involved in it to connect and work on common objectives. We are constantly amazed with all the people we meet here who really wish to have a conversation about things that matter. Unfortunately, it does feel a little too contextual right now, focused only in certain circles. Without the right public policy plan that involves the city getting re-arranged to be more sustainable (like building recycling facilities, thinking of excess energy management, supporting local designers and artisans) the change in consumer behaviour might be too slow.