Christine Chow and Ivan Tang, the founders of the label, talk about creating an environmentally responsible women’s fashion line. Their clothes are made from upcycled fabrics, cashmere, wool and cotton, and Tencel - produced using wood pulp from sustainable forests
Why did you start Tove & Libra?
Christine Chow Chia-sze: “One of our goals is to help women create a more streamlined wardrobe, with items that they will wear more; dress more with less. Our styles are timeless.”
Describe your collection.
Chow: “We have tailored tuxedo pants, pieces made from 100 per cent cashmere, ribbed tees in a wool and cotton blend, jumpsuits made with Tencel. The materials are upcycled using leftover textiles from other designers’ productions. Our bestselling item is our elasticated cropped trousers, as it’s not easy to find women’s pants that fit well. They throw in all these bells and whistles, but you just want to make your bottom look good.”
What’s the advantage of using Tencel?
Chow: “It’s more sustainably produced. Cotton is fabulous to wear, but it uses a lot of water and energy. Tencel is produced in a closed-loop system. And with branded Tencel, it’s guaranteed to be made from wood pulp from sustainable forests. It’s softer and smoother than cotton as well as machine washable, easy to take care of and takes colour well.”
How did you end up working together?
Ivan Tang Shun-nien: “Our grandfathers started a clothing business in China over 50 years ago. We’re third-generation manufacturers. After studying overseas, Christine and I decided to join the family business. While working together, we shared frustrations with the industry; we wanted to create something more authentic, and sustainability was a personal issue for us. So we decided to start this brand.”
What are your roles?
Chow: “I do the design and most of the creative side. I majored in visual arts, then worked in New York for about 10 years in graphic design before joining the business.”
Tang: “I’m more on the operational side, things like the finances and logistics and setting up the shop. I studied biology but after I graduated, I wanted to do something more applicable to the real world.”
How are your clothes made?
Chow: “[The family business produces] clothes for big, international brands, who order tens and hundreds of thousands of items. There’s often leftover material so we incorporate it into our collections. China has pretty strict environmental regulations, especially in southern China. Our production processes meet or surpass international standards.”
Tang: “We design, source the materials and manufacture. Many brands try to up the standards on sustainability, but they don’t want to pay more. But that’s not sustainable, because it creates a system where everybody tries to cut corners. We don’t think fashion should be cheap because it involves so many people and processes.
Where did the name come from?
Tang: “Danish design was a source of our inspiration because it’s simple, sophisticated and has a warmth to it. So we wanted to have a name that was somewhat Danish and we came up with Tove Libra. ‘Tove’ means ‘strong woman’in Danish.”
Chow: “As a working mum, I feel clothes should be high quality, easy to care for and mix and match. So, thinking about finding that kind of equilibrium, I thought Libra sounded nice. It’s also the most fashionable sign of the zodiac.”