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Eco-Entrepreneur Sherry Poon

Oct 19, 2018

My name is Sherry Poon and I’m an eco-entrepreneur. I run my own organic cotton child’s clothing business, Wobabybasics, and I’m the founder of Eco Design Fair. The first fair was in April 2008 and was supposed to be a one-off, because I had started the children’s business and was doing markets to get more customers. That’s when I noticed the existing markets didn’t really have a theme and as an eco-friendly business there was nowhere I could go and be part of something. At the same time I knew a lot of people who wanted to be more sustainable but their excuses were “I can’t find it”, “it’s too difficult”, or “I don’t know where to start”.

So the first was a marketplace, a gathering of 32 different vendors from different categories: fashion, food, health and beauty. We even had ecotourism. It was just an easy place for people to go and do their shopping, and I wanted people to meet the makers of the brands because it’s really important when you’re talking about sustainability to know what’s in the product and to trust your supplier. Then everyone kept asking, when’s the next one?

ecodesignfairpart2

It developed from there. We added more programming, a fashion show, more food, more workshops and we’re still growing as a non-profit organization. Ten years ago it was 90% foreigners. In the last three years I’ve noticed there’s been a huge shift. Now more than half are Chinese brands, Chinese-run, Chinese-designed for the Chinese market. The companies and the clientele are both changing, which is exactly what we wanted to see because we are in Shanghai.

ecodesignfair

I came to Shanghai 17 years ago as an architect to help start an office. As a young architect, I wanted to build up my portfolio and Canada was very slow. When I got here I could feel that I was in an exciting place, that they wanted to do something but it wasn’t quite there and it was really exciting to be a part of that first round.

I did sustainable housing, mostly in the suburbs or in Suzhou. But after my first daughter was born I realized there were a lot of items that were not available in China including organic cotton clothes. I did a lot of research about kids and toxins and baby skin, which is so much thinner than adult skin and can absorb toxins. And this was my first child so everything had to be perfect.

wobaby

After the first couple of collections for Wobaby I realized people in China were looking for this. Especially after the World Expo a lot of the terminology was coming out about what’s sustainable. We do mainly 0-18 months but go up to six years for some of the items. My goal as a brand is to keep it basic. It’s not supposed to be fashionable or trendy but reliable.

As parents, we usually do what the kids want. But my husband and I are both Canadian so we’re used to being in nature. We try to get out of the city as much as possible to have our kids experience that. We go to the Shanghai Zoo a lot -- not to see the animals -- just to go into the humongous parks where you can step in the grass and climb trees. Riverside Park is another one of our favorites right now.

I live on Fumin Lu and that street changes very quickly. I like Pure and Whole for good vegetarian and vegan food. Green and Safe and Tribe basically anything around this area.

sherrypoon

I always try to promote the right choices but I don’t like to push people. I just like to show them the options they have. I mean if you’re going to be completely eco you wouldn’t be wearing any clothes, you wouldn’t be living in a house, you’d be a hunter-gatherer. It’s very hard to have zero impact so being realistic is very important to the design fair and myself. If you go out to eat quite often, then bring your own straw or your own cutlery.

Little changes like those are better than just seeking out eco-friendly businesses. It can help spark change throughout city.

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[Shanghai Famous]:

Shanghai Famous is a SmartShanghai column focusing on people out there in the city makin' the scene. They're out there around town, shaping Shanghai into what it is, creating the art, culture, and life around us. We asked them what's good in Shanghai. We asked them what's bad in Shanghai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves.

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