Fashion + The Circular Economy

Waste Not Want Not – How To Help The Environment

The fashion industry now:

The fashion industry could benefit from the circular economy by almost $560 billion and help improve the environment. Currently the industry relies on ‘fast fashion’, with quick turnarounds on the production of new styles and smaller price tags. Fast fashion depends on the rapid production and sale of different styles, providing customers with a wide range of choice.

However, this means that there is much more clothing produced now, and combined with clothing usage dropping (clothes are on average worn only seven to ten times), means that the fashion industry produces a lot of waste. Most of these clothes are also produced by using non-renewable resources, and, with the lack of recycling, all this adds up to a huge carbon footprint for the fashion industry.

The waste created by the industry should be an issue for those of us that try to be conscious consumers too – knowing how much is thrown away should make us pause. Carbon emissions are higher with the advent of fast fashion than they would be if the industry switched to a more sustainable model of production. It means that clothes are not given the value they should be, that the amount we pay for them is not the amount they should cost. Potentially, a system that relies on high quality, durable clothes might be worth the extra cost, as they will last longer, and be used to their full potential. 

Much of the fast fashion industry provides an ethical dilemma. Many of us enjoy the wider range of clothing and lower prices that the industry now provides, but dislike how the industry sources and produces these garments; how flimsy and low-quality clothing has become, and that there is often such little wear before it is thrown away. To source higher-quality, more durable clothing is now much more expensive. So, is there a potential future for the industry that takes this into account?

A potential future:

The circular economy is a model which could help businesses grow, create jobs, and most importantly, help to save our planet. The proposed model begins with using more renewable resources to make higher quality articles of clothing, which will last longer, and mending or reselling when a piece is damaged or unwanted. The aim is also to create a more informed customer base, who has a flexible, long-lasting range of clothes to choose from.

There are a number of proposed ways to do this, such as clothing rental services, where people can rent out items of clothing, and give them back when they no longer need them. Clothing becomes a shared thing, and it also makes a wide range of garments accessible to many different people, who may not have been able to before, such as those with lesser financial advantages and those with different body types. Clothing can be modified and adapted to fulfil different needs and suit the customer.

Brands such as OhSevenDays, Naz, and Stella McCartney have already climbed on board with this, using sustainable resources, creating durable, quality clothing, from cotton, linen, and other fabrics. OhSevenDays also uses leftover fabric from fast fashion production, and Stella McCartney recycles and reuses fabric, sources sustainably, and uses organic cotton. McCartney is heading up the circular industry initiative with their use of sustainable resources, and helped to launch CleverCare, which aims to inform customers about how to care for their clothes and the environment at the same time. 

How the fashion industry could help our planet:

By adapting to this regenerative, renewable system, the field of fashion could not only give itself a huge economic boost, but also reduce its carbon footprint and do vital work in supporting the effort to protect ecosystems, lower carbon emissions, and heal the damage done by industrial conditions.

It could create more jobs, such as mending services and producing renewable resources, and give clothing its full value, as by making pieces more durable means they last longer, as many customers expect of their items, especially with items that are considered ‘staples’, for example, trousers, tops, and coats. This means they are less likely to be thrown away, and with mending services offered and encouraged, clothing may be mended and/or passed on, giving them a longer lease of life.

The clothing being of a higher quality makes them attractive as offered when resold, and the production of them being ethical, and the sharing of unwanted clothing building community, and a more caring, community-minded society.  

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