FINCH Shanghai: Wear your eco-consciousness on your sleeve
Eco-consciousness is just beginning to awaken in Shanghai, which over the past decade has become a heaving center for both hyperactive consumerism and polluting construction. With this new consciousness comes a new approach to eating (check out our article on Shanghai’s eco-conscious chefs), building and manufacturing so that we can step a little more lightly on the Earth. Green living in Shanghai isn’t limited to F&B or urban development, and Shanghai designers are also incorporating sustainable practices.
The new fashion label FINCH is a venture by two women with over 22 years of combined experience at “international fashion behemoths” -- as they put it -- with the aim of introducing sustainability and social consciousness into the design process.
“For the first time, we're designing, producing and retailing everything locally,” says Shanghai-based designer and co-founder of FINCH American Heather Kaye, who has lived in the city for almost five years. “No more exporting to the other side of the planet.”
The global surge in eco-conscious design is sprouting in Shanghai “both because entrepreneurs see an opportunity to offer a green alternative to a growing audience and because living in Shanghai, we are confronted daily with unsustainable pollution,” explains Kaye. “I think the risks posed by earlier generations of designs are getting recognized.
Passion and fashion
Kaye and her partner launched FINCH with the goal of combining their passions for unique, stylish design with environmentally responsible manufacturing. “We use organic fibers grown without pesticides and toxic chemicals and low-impact dyes that require less water and lower temperatures to set,” says Kaye.
Although a green attitude is the foundation of their design, Kaye believes FINCH fashions must first grab attention for their style, fit and accessible price. Their design philosophy is expressed in soft, luxurious fabrics and careful tailoring in their jackets, dresses, skirts and shirts (RMB 500-1,200). Unexpected details include contrast stitching, hidden pockets and distinctive trims.
For the first time, we're designing, producing and retailing everything locally. No more exporting to the other side of the planet.— Heather Kaye, Shanghai-based designer and co-founder of FINCH
The FINCH debut line was inspired by the designers’ recent trip to India visiting artisan weavers and wood-block printmakers. “Our summer collection is a reflection of our love for vibrant color and geometric and abstract prints,” says Kaye. “We have two prints that were originally watercolor paintings by an emerging Indian artist.”
For the upcoming fall collection, says Kaye, “We are going quite a different direction, to New York in the 1940s -- more monochromatic pieces with funky, tailored details, and black and white line-drawing prints created by our collaborating artist in New Delhi.”
The Shanghai market
While Shanghai’s fashion market might at first “seem totally saturated to the onlooker, there is actually quite a limited selection,” says Kaye. Many shops carry styles which are ostensible copies of other brands, yet often with lower quality fabric and construction.
For the expat shoppers, who are many of those that especially look for green fabrics and clothing, the lack of sizes for taller and ampler frames of many Western women can be a frustration. For them, “[FINCH] offers a fit that flatters both an Asian and Western body type,” says Kaye. “Our smaller sizes are straighter in the waist and hips, while our larger sizes allow for more fullness and height.”
Kaye hopes to develop FINCH beyond just a retail fashion company, to support not only environmental issues but also other small companies and local entrepreneurs.
“We hope to build a design collective that offers small-scale designers a socially and environmentally responsible manufacturing base,” she says.
Many Chinese factories won’t take small orders, which makes it difficult for independent Shanghai designers to even begin manufacturing. “We hope to join forces with small local brands -- and encourage new ones -- to build our own manufacturing workshop with expert tailors and pattern makers who guarantee high quality and sustainable practices,” she says.
If FINCH takes off, Shanghai could become home to more ‘birds of a feather’ bringing more eco-conscious design to a city that needs greening.