Who are we?
HKU Apparel is a student-run social enterprise that offers students a creative outlet in regards to design, online retail solutions, and business development.The “For Us, By Us” business model is the core of all our operations, as students run everything from designing the merchandise, to sourcing, to marketing and selling. Currently, our team consists of five undergraduates who are given a platform to gain hands-on business experience in addition to their traditional curriculum. Our sustainable supply chain model ensures that:
- Youth are given opportunities to gain skills in the creative space (Creativity).
- Institutions are given the opportunity to increase brand awareness and institutional culture (Community).
- We try to fulfill the two goals above by having a minimum impact on the environment and also ensure farmers and factory workers are treated well and fairly compensated for their work (Sustainability).
- To promote fair trade by encouraging anti-child labor anti-sweatshop ethical sourcing within businesses.
- To engage urban communities and students on issues in rural China such as healing the conditions of farmland communities.
HKU Apparel Studio’s Three Pillars of Identity
Hong Kong has reached another level of its economic development and is currently transforming from a service industry to a creative industry. From being a manufacturing powerhouse in the 1980s to service industry expertise since the 1990s, it is now in critical need to create new market spaces through creativity and innovation. A recent survey shows that only 14.6% of the students are very satisfied with their university life at HKU, and only 3.5% feel empowered to influence what occurs on campus. While university academic ranking is important for its long-term sustainability, the above two factors can negatively impact HKU significantly. In the long run, HKU will benefit on a larger scale if students are satisfied, engaged, and empowered and if graduates feel proud of their alma mater thus choosing to give back. 852 Designs aims to allow students a creative outlet in terms of apparel design as well as business solutions, giving them an opportunity to step up and impact their own university experience as well as play a part in decisions that impact the school community.
As the oldest university in Hong Kong, HKU is a powerful and influential academic institution. However, the university has relatively low brand recognition worldwide when compared to other elite universities. Many incoming freshmen and exchange students are unaware of the school colours (green) and school mascot (lion) as apparel branding is currently inconsistent across channels. The Student Union and Visitor Centre currently sell apparel with varying colours, logos, and designs. This creates a problem within the extremely internationally segmented and diverse community at HKU—lack of unification and apparent community. By liaising with school administration and eventually setting up a licensed agreement and partnership with HKU, 852 Designs aims to strategically create and sell apparel and merchandise that cater the needs of students, allowing them to have school pride, creating unity among differences. Our long-goal is to create an HKU brand like Harvard, Stanford, and other elite universities that is recognisable world.
The world is much more connected because of globalisation. Thus, as one community moves up, we have the chance and opportunity to bring others up, too. Treating industrialisation and advancement like a zero sum game, where our benefits lead to someone else losing out, is creating an unsustainable environment for society, business, and the environment. As mentioned earlier, Hong Kong is trying to move into the creative economy but is struggling to do so (for reasons such as risk aversion, education system, etc.). The inability to shift into the creative sector is holding Hong Kong back, especially in comparison with other large Asian economies. To remain an important economic center, making this shift is necessary. 852 helps make that creative shift starting with the students, but we do so with the mindset that Hong Kong raising its status doesn’t mean we have to push others down. Our sustainable supply chain model ensures that all our apparel is ethically sourced. We work with apparel manufacturer and printer TPassion (www.tpassion.com), who sources their cotton organically in partnership with fair trade company Mecilla Limited (www.mecilla.com) from farmers in rural communities. In doing so, we hope to engage urban communities on rural issues. As a Social Enterprise, we are also able to operate sustainably through selling our products at a slight markup which is sufficient to cover our required marketing and operational expenses and the manufacturing cost.
We hope you can help us realise our dream! 🙂