The future of Fashion is circular
Globally, clothing represents more than 60% of the total textiles used and in the last 15 years, clothing production has approximately doubled, due to the ‘fast fashion’ phenomenon, with quicker turnaround of new styles, increased number of collections offered per year, and often, lower prices. If the Fashion Industry continues on its current path, by 2050 it could use more than 26% of the carbon budget associated with the 2 degrees global warming limit. Moving away from the wasteful textiles system is therefore crucial to keep the global warming limit within reach.
The vision of a new textiles economy is one that aligns with the principles of a circular economy, one that is restorative, and provides benefits for business, society, and the environment. In order to realise this vision, the industry must rely on new business models that increase clothing use such as resell, clothing swaps, store take back schemes, garment repair and upcycling; using renewable and safe materials; and solutions to turn used clothes and material into new, such as upcycling waste materials to new products through mechanical and chemical recycling.
There are two main ways that circularity is being addressed at present. At a base level, by keeping our clothes in use and out of landfill for as long as possible is one way to achieve more circularity. This is being done in numerous ways, from resellers such as Vinnies and consignment stores like The Real Real, to brand repair and resale sites like Patagonia and Eileen Fisher.
Secondly, through recycling clothes into new fibres to make new products. There are numerous challenges the industry faces to achieve true fibre to fibre recycling, and although there are many new technologies being developed, a large scale investment is needed to take some of these to scale.
MUD Jeans, for example, are leading the way towards a circular system for clothes with the ‘access over ownership’ business model. The Netherlands based brand's lease-a-jean model is based on the concept that the consumer pays to use the organic denim jeans and then returns them for a new pair. The old pair is then either resold as vintage, or blended with virgin fibre and recycled into new yarn to make new jeans. Through recycling the jeans sent back, the brand is introducing the customer to the access over ownership model for an everyday item of clothing.
For Patagonia, the concept at the heart of their business is to manufacture, repair and recycle products in order that they last a lifetime. By designing durable products that can be repaired, Patagonia ensures that garments stay in use for as long as possible, something the brand encourages by providing a lifetime guarantee for all of its wares. If the customer no longer wants an item, then Patagonia will sell it through their Worn Wear platform, which is also an entirely new income stream for the company.
Just like Patagonia and MUD Jeans, other brands have integrated circularity into their business by implementing circular design strategies into their design process. These include designing for disassembly through choice of materials, components and construction, and designing for durability and long life. By introducing these new business models, fashion brands can unlock enormous value both in cost savings and in revenue streams. As a society, we are rapidly moving towards a new way of using our clothes, and brands that act quickly will also benefit from the potential to unlock billion dollar economic opportunities across the globe.
(information sourced on ellenmacarthurfoundation.org and makegood.world)
(Image 1 and featured images: Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash)
(Image 2: Photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash)