Welcome to a Zero-Carbon Future
We are in a global climate crisis. Our apparent disconnection with nature has led to extreme weather, widespread pollution, and the threat of mass extinction. Fashion, the clothing we wear on our bodies, contributes up to 10% of global carbon emissions, more than international travel and maritime shipping combined.
What if we followed a different path? What if we lived in a cleaner and more natural way? What if…we chose to live a zero-carbon future?
My collection ANGEL CHANG proposes a new way of making clothing – one made directly from the earth with a zero carbon footprint.
Unlike conventional clothing today, our clothing is made without the use of electricity, plastics, chemicals, or fossil fuels. It is handmade from seed to button using just three ingredients: sun, plants, and mountain water.
This is how humans made clothing for 20,000 years; only recently have we forgotten how to make clothing in this sustainable manner. Pockets of indigenous artisans around the world have kept these ancient techniques alive, despite pressure to assimilate into the dominant cultures. They have made the collection you are viewing today, but their know-how is quickly disappearing.
It is time for us to reconnect with the earth and re-learn these traditional methods that are healthier for ourselves and the planet. By reviving traditional craftsmanship and indigenous knowledge, we can find solutions for solving climate change and ensure our survival and that of future generations.
ZERO - CARBON DESIGN
The pieces in this collection were made following my zero-carbon design philosophy built on three core tenets:
1) NO ELECTRICITY
Conventional clothing today is made in factories powered by fossil-fuel energy. Until renewable energy is readily available, our best option is to not use electricity at all.
Each ANGEL CHANG piece is 100% handmade – from growing the cotton seed to spinning, weaving, dyeing, and sewing. No machine is used in the process. Even the buttons and button-holes are sewn entirely by hand. This is how clothing was made until 200 years ago, before the invention of electricity and rise of the Industrial Revolution.
For the artisans, their remote mountain villages only received electricity 25 years ago so they are not dependent on it and practice their traditional way of living sustainably with the earth. Sunlight is our light source and everything is hand-crafted outdoors. The climate and weather determine the speed at which the fabric is produced.
Making clothing this way can only be done using traditional craftsmanship, as it has been practiced for thousands of years. This is ancient couture.
2) ALL - NATURAL
Most clothing today is made from polyester, a plastic fiber made from oil-derived petroleum which is a fossil fuel. The chemical dyes and fabric finishes create toxic wastewater that pollute rivers and oceans. By contrast, our clothing is not made with any of these.
Our collection is made only from what nature provides and from what is seasonal. We grow the raw materials to make our clothing entirely from scratch, based on a farming and harvesting calendar dictated by nature.
Native-seed cotton is grown organically on family farms. It is unprocessed so it feels the same as when plucked fresh from the field. Boiled leaves for dyeing are food-grade and do not harm the local groundwater; in fact, they can be drunk as an herbal tea. These medicinal plant dyes like native indigo and wild gardenia create a soothing experience when worn on your skin.
These pieces feel alive, evolve as they age, and become more beautiful over time.
Unlike conventional clothing that travels around the world to be made, our collection is made within a 30-mile radius – using locally-grown raw materials that nature provides abundantly for free.
All the fibers, plants, and materials are grown on the land or foraged in the surrounding mountain forest. The entire process from seed to button is done without traveling outside of one location. It’s like growing a garden to make a salad in one’s backyard.
This hyper-vertical and local approach is how clothing and objects were made throughout human history. There is no reason clothing must travel around the world to be made. We can simply design it using materials and labor found in one location.
= SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
I learned this zero-carbon design approach while living and working with the Miao and Dong ethnic minorities in Guizhou province. Their traditional costumes were exhibited in museums around the world and I wanted to work directly with the grandmothers to have them remake the same for me.
While living with them, I observed a sustainable way of life that made more sense to me than the “modern world” I had grown up in. I had to forget everything I had been trained to do as a fashion designer in New York. I learned to follow real seasons--no longer fashion seasons.
I learned to be self-sufficient and make everything I needed by hand. I learned humility and to take only what was necessary. I learned patience and how to wait for things to grow. I learned that by following nature’s timeline, one could live with the land in reciprocity with it.
Indigenous communities are on the frontlines of climate change, and our village was no different. When it did not rain for two months and our wells dried up, we managed to dye an entire collection without running water. Our cotton still grew under these drought conditions, and I saw the resilience and power of native-seed cotton.
I experienced first-hand the power of indigenous knowledge and what we can learn from it.
This is why I am sharing with you the story of my collection today.
When I began this journey 10 years ago, I just wanted to make beautiful fabrics. I did not intend to be a “sustainable designer,” nor did I know what “indigenous knowledge” or “craftsmanship” truly meant. I felt the world did not need another fashion designer, and so I did not rush to finish this collection.
But by living in the ethnic minority villages and following their traditional way of life, I learned an entirely new way of living that was in harmony with the earth. I saw how sustainability and craftsmanship are not the starting point, but rather can be the final manifestation of one’s view of the world.
This is why we must change our mindset if we are to reduce our carbon emissions by 2030, 2050, and beyond. It is not simply buying vegan products or removing CO2 from the air. We have to change our entire approach to living and how we view our place in this world.
In my own journey, I learned how to speak Chinese fluently and discovered my ancestral roots for the first time. Connecting with these ancestors helped me create the collection you see today.
I believe we can all take similar steps to re-indigenize ourselves and revive the traditional ways of sustainable living that our ancestors practiced in the past.
Ask your parents and grandparents how they lived in the past, and the recipes and stories they have of the generations before them. By learning from our elders, we can incorporate these traditional approaches into our own lives. And together step into a zero-carbon future.