1840 Journal

Meet the artisans, discover their expertise, and share their passion.

Creators

Fashion, but made sustainable and fluid.

Sarra Tang is the mastermind behind Hoi Bo, a Toronto-based ethical fashion brand that's turned into a creative powerhouse. Having an avant-garde perspective, she began designing bags in 2007 before expanding the brand into a full line of womenswear. “I’m not really one to be told what to do. I just kind of did my own thing,” explains the designer. By persuing this singular vision, she has built a fashion brand with a 360-degree concept that combines innovation, diversity, and sustainability.

Hoi Bo began because of Sarra's love for fabric and materials. “I’m really into materials. Materials are what really got me to start pretty much everything that I do,” she says. Developing materials is a huge part of her creation process.  Sarra even lets the materials dictate the design of the pieces. 

 

“The structure of the actual fabric designs the product. For me, the form, the shape of something, has to be very perfectly in line with the structural integrity.” 

Working on the shape of her design may be the only moment where Sarra allows something to be decided for her. “I really love the idea of experimenting on my own terms and for my own audience,” she says. Her experimentation includes exploring dichotomies in her designs, like using a rugged fabric on a softer style, for example. “I hate using the term masculine and feminine, although in context, it’s a good way to explain it,” she says. “I love having that contrast between these kinds of polar opposites,” she continues. “I don’t present myself has feminine or masculine, and I don’t like defining people in those terms, but I love that balance of things. And in a lot of ways, it’s very androgynous,” she says of her creations, which lean towards gender fluidity.

Eco-responsibility is also at the core of Hoi Bo's designs. According to Sarra, it's key to start with the right intention in mind.

“Sustainably has always been a mainstay. When you commit yourself, you just have to stick to it,” explains the designer, who considered all aspects of setting up shop in a responsible way from the very beginning. “If we didn’t fundamentally start this way, we could have grown a lot quicker, but that’s a choice,” she says.

Hoi Bo reduces waste to a minimum by paying close attention to how garments are cut, and by useing single or original fibers - blended materials cannot be recycled, they can only be downcycled. “How we make things is just as important as the end product,” Sarra explains. However, no matter how hard one tries, the designer acknowledges that there will always be waste.“I have to figure out what I do with it on a regular basis,” she points out. “Even if I don’t have the capacity to recycle something now, we plan for the future in a way that’s forward-looking. We make sure that we set up the infrastructure now so that when the system becomes available, we’re right at the front of the line to adopt them.”

And it doesn’t stop there for Hoi Bo. The company plans to open a second retail location, a flagship store powered by solar energy. Fresh produce will also be grown on the roof of the building with the help of a hydroponic system and a devoted team of people. Here, the future of fashion is bright.

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