Sharon Tsang is using her experience in the fashion industry to enhance her commitment to improving the lives of women and to sustainability.
What’s your story?
Born in Hong Kong and raised between Hong Kong and Vancouver, I always had an affinity for fashion. After 16 years and burnt out having witnessed firsthand the textile waste generated by the fashion industry, I founded Anew Studios, a boutique sustainable production and sourcing consultancy, as my commitment to be a solution for the circular fashion economy. I envision a new way forward and a tangible way to make change is to work from the ground up with entrepreneurs to design & produce in a sustainable way, and to encourage manufacturers to explore more people and planet-friendly business models.
What excites you most about your industry?
When I started in the fashion industry, supply chains were quite complex and sourcing new materials or vendors was based on exclusivity and secrecy. Now I see unexpected brand collaborations coming to the market and industry stakeholders big and small working together to solve complex supply chain issues. For me, it is very exciting to be part of this movement and help bring to life technological and creative solutions that move the industry towards a kinder future for people and the planet.
What drives you in business to push beyond what other people consider normal?
I am curious by nature & a lifelong learner. Every time I see fabrics & products come to life in a factory it inspires me to honour the work that goes into making one piece of clothing. This motivates me to pass on this knowledge & energy to new designers and founders of fashion brands. As a female founder, a third culture kid, a lover of nature, my purpose is to use business to elevate the lives of women in fashion and to be a true steward of sustainability. After all, 80% of the garment workers are women.
What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?
To have integrity in all aspects of doing business for a collaborative and win-win solution, and to be kind and generous with your time to others and the same will come back. Some of the vendors I currently work with have been business partners since I started out in the industry. I firmly believe that doing business is a two way street and it is important to build strong relationships rooted in trust, so that when times are tough, partners can work out solutions (and even thrive) together. This is especially evident during the pandemic!
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
To focus on my strengths as they are my unique selling point. Nobody has the same unique value proposition, so having confidence in your own vision and abilities is the starting point to carving out your own path. A fashion quote I like is “When you don’t dress like everybody else, you don’t have to think like everyone else” by Iris Apfel.
Who inspires you?
Michelle Obama. She had the courage to take a different career path when she realized her passion was not being a lawyer and an open mind to seek out advisors/ mentors to apply her skills in a different setting. A true example of resilience, adaptability and tenacity. Also, after resisting being in the spotlight she harnessed that same courage to empower another generation of women through her story. I’ve always been more of a quiet leader behind the scenes, but Anew has given me this platform to rise up.
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
That fashion is still an unregulated industry! Brands allow poor labour practices when they have means to make systemic changes. Post-Covid, all brands are racing for sustainable solutions and suddenly nothing is fast enough even with government relief packages to accelerate transformation. My hope is brands come out stronger rather than the race & relief becoming an excuse for shortcuts. The learning opportunity is being a sustainable business is a conscious choice. It doesn’t add up financially especially when you are small. You have to trust that industry solutions will come, be brave to lead change and not give up.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am always optimistic and forward thinking. I firmly believe every experience in the past has led me on my current path so I have no regrets. Going forward, I do think that “stronger together” is a motto I will take with me to connect more with sustainably minded entrepreneurs and innovators in Hong Kong.
How do you unwind?
Yoga, hiking, and a nice meal & glass of wine with good company, and if possible a view of the ocean, sunset or sunrise. Alfresco dining in Hong Kong during Fall & Winter is the best!
What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your business?
As one company you cannot be everything to everyone. Where I cannot offer the expertise there is opportunity to connect potential clients to others in my network. A great part of doing business is being able to pay it forward.
Everyone in business should read this book:
‘From Good to Great’ by James C. Collins. People are the greatest assets for any company. If you have the right team and partners who are like-minded you can do the impossible together.
Shameless plug for your business:
We are not just another sourcing trading company based in Hong Kong. I work to find customized solutions for fashion brands as I have worked in their shoes at start up and medium size businesses. I see every project as an opportunity to make a difference in the fashion industry. We are sourcing the latest innovations to bring new collaborations to market with new fashion brands.
How can people connect with you?
Social Media Links?
This interview is part of the CallumConnects series.