For its role in greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution, the fashion industry has received (and, as some insist, rightly deserves) accusing-fingers galore. And such an irresponsible image hurts, because fashion is essentially about creating beautiful things everyone wants and loves.
Facts and figures don’t help. According to watchdogs like McKinsey, clothing production has doubled in quantity since 2000, with little signs of slowing down. In the last 15 years, too, the length of time we’ve held on to an item before discarding has halved.
But Ivan Tang and Christine Chow believe that fashion can do better. With Tove & Libra, set up in 2018, the Hong Kong-based design duo are on a mission to turn out closet staples that are both sustainable and stylish. Both, who hail from families with businesses in garments manufacturing, share on salvaging and using waste materials in their clothing.
Firstly, can you explain the meaning of “Tove & Libra”
Ivan Tang: The word “Tove” is a Danish name for “a strong woman”. We picked out a Danish word because we loved the Scandinavian aesthetic for its minimalist lines that blend together warm natural textures and colours. Although neither of us are Libras, we picked it to represent the concept of balance. We want our label to be the balance of style and sustainability. Moreover, every modern woman needs to juggle many roles, for example, a businesswoman, a mother, a friend, and so on. Our brand mission is to provide that balance and support in a modern woman’s busy life.
Who is your muse?
Christine Chow: Initially, it was myself! [laughs] As a working mom who does not have a perfect figure, and given my knowledge of how fashion production can be so thoughtlessly damaging, I found that there was a real lack of options in the local marketplace for practical yet stylish pieces that are flattering on real figures, while are also being ethically or sustainably produced.
Since starting this business we’ve met and worked with so many women facing similar issues, and I’ve been inspired by so many of them.
Why is sustainability important to Tove & Libra?
IT: After working in fashion for a decade, we’ve come to understand the damage to the environment through negligence, malpractice and ignorance. It’s difficult for big companies to truly enact positive changes because their responsibility is to protect the bottom line. With our own brand, we can share with consumers how it is possible to manufacture, purchase and consume consciously, respectfully and responsibly.
Both of you come from a legacy in clothing production. How has that informed the way you work?
CC: Manufacturing requires large quantities of fabric so even a small error in calculation can result in significant leftover quantities. Over time, as these materials accumulate and don’t get utilised, they end up in the landfill. We thought we could incorporate them into our designs. It’s challenging because we are restricted by the colours, quantities and material compositions of leftover materials, so it’s important to be creative when designing with what we get.
Can you talk us through your latest collection? What was the starting point, and how did that come across in the designs?
CC: We try to approach sustainability from various viewpoints. With this collection, a major theme was “multi-functionality” and the idea of scaling down the new additions going into our closets.
We have several pieces that are reversible from front to back. For example, our Two-way Cable Cashmere Sweater that you could flip around depending on the neckline you want.
Then there are truly convertible pieces like our MVP Cardigan, which can be buttoned up as a sweater, worn as a draped open cardigan, or even belted for a sleeker silhouette. The Blouson Shirt Jacket can be worn closed as a top, open as a lightweight jacket, and also tucked in and paired with our Utility Pant to create the illusion of wearing a jumpsuit.
Your designs lean towards the classic.
CC: Our clothes are designed as building blocks of a streamlined closet, with core designs in trans-seasonal silhouettes and colours. We want our collection to be inclusive, so it flatters different figures and skin tones. These are clothes to make you look and feel great.
IT: We are planning more physical pop-ups in Singapore and Hong Kong, where customers can understand the difference quality fits and materials can make.
CC: We hope to win customers over one by one, and get them working towards developing a more conscious approach to their closet. It would be a dream to eventually expand Tove & Libra into a platform showcasing other similar-minded and independent Asian brands.
For more information, head over to toveandlibra.com.