Globally an estimated 92 million tonnes of textile waste are created every year. With new fashions for different seasons and fast fashion being a click away, it is easy to see why people can be unaware of the wider impacts of fashion.
Circular fashion is starting to rise. It is hoped with individual consumer awareness and industry changes that circularity fashion can become a new normality.
What is a Circular Economy?
Put simply, circularity is fashion that can be sourced and produced, whilst circulating for as long as possible. Then, can be safely disposed of and reused for future garments. The term was coined by Dr Anna Brismar in 2014 and since then she has founded a Circular Fashion Network, alongside Green Strategy, to portray circular business concepts and ideas.
The circular economy is the overall process of how items lose their value and use as little as possible over time. This can be from the raw materials to the supply chain and the product use. Collaboratively, all these components are responsible for the potential waste elimination and for the improvement in items uses.
Although a change to a circular economy is not one that can be instantly implemented, there are small changes that both consumers and businesses within the fashion industry can take to aid the circulation of clothes.
How can consumers aid the circular fashion movement?
At times we can all be guilty of wanting to stay on top of the trends. This can still be attainable should you want to buy something new online or from the highstreet. By being more mindful of the places you are purchasing from, you can make a difference within the circular economy. Through buying from businesses who support fair workers’ rights and use sustainable materials, you can support workers and wear clothes that are less harmful to the biosphere.
Reselling clothes has been another prominent factor in circulating textiles. The London start-up app Depop, has been successful in providing a buy and sell service of preowned clothes and gives repurpose to garments. The app saw two million active users within May 2020 (Statista, 2020).
Additionally, there has been a recent demand for vintage style clothes over the past few years, with generation-Z showing interest in retro styled clothing. Vintage kilo sales have taken place around the UK. They have given a new purpose to preowned clothes that otherwise may have been discarded.
Charity shops have seen an increase in weekly turnover and popularity since 2019. The Charity Retail Association has indicated this could be a result of customers becoming more environmentally conscious and switching to a more sustainable way of shopping.
Furthermore, just by donating your unwanted garments to charities, you are lessening the potential landfill disposal of materials that could still be used or repurposed in years to come. Charities are welcoming clothing donations once their premises can reopen after lockdown.
What should be expected of the fashion industry?
Right from the design process of new fashion collections, circular elements can be implemented.
Modern clothing has a typical lifespan of up to 20 years. Potentially, this could increase if companies focus on the key aspect of longevity of the materials they are using.
If more sustainable materials can be sourced and reused when needed, then textile waste would reduce. By just reusing polyester and lyocell for other clothes, the number of materials going into landfill would drastically reduce.
Companies are adapting circularity models where clothes are used for as long as possible, before converting the material into new products. Clothing retailer H&M claim they will only use recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030.
Zara are promoting circular practices to customers. They are offering home pick-ups and in-store drop offs of clothes that are no longer used. In addition to this, they have committed to only using sustainable materials by 2025.
Only time will tell as to whether the sustainability aims of fashion businesses will be met. In the meantime, we as individuals should be more mindful of circularity. We can do this by having awareness of who we are buying from and appreciate or repurpose our existing clothes.
For further information on issues regarding fashion and the importance of circularity and sustainability visit Mindless Mag.