Fashion + The Circular Economy

The Future of Fashion is Circular and BRIGHT

How many of us are guilty of stuffing our old garments into bags and sending them off to landfill? That patchwork denim jacket may no longer be your style (even though you rocked it once upon a time) and who doesn’t love to free up some space in the wardrobe?

However, this linear approach to fashion is detrimental to our planet. According to Abigail Beall, globally, “An estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year.” The production of new textiles is also “Estimated to release 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year.” This is a problem that can’t be ignored – and we must take action.

What is the solution?

What if I told you that the same denim jacket (sadly slumped in the closet) could be next seasons bucket hat or a hot pair of mom jeans? Whilst fashion’s linear business model can’t achieve such magic, the circular economy can. As its name suggests, this progressive model demonstrates that the future of fashion is circular!

MOTIF define circular fashion as a business model which is “A regenerative system in which garments are circulated for as long as their maximum value is retained.” In other words, one great garment can be turned into another. Similar to our planet’s natural ecosystem, the circular economy is cyclical. Humans have always relied on recycled oxygen to keep breathing. Therefore, surely we should also start to rely on sustainable materials to keep us all clothed.

So… how does this cycle work?

  1. Conscious designers design clothes which are made from renewable, sustainable, and recyclable materials (such as organic cotton).
  2. The clothes are produced and transported in the most effective way to ensure that carbon footprint remains low.
  3. The clothes are then sold or leased.
  4. Used and eventually returned.
  5. The material is recycled.
  6. A new product is designed from that material.

MOTIF provide a diagram of this cyclical process on their website.

“Don’t add to the pile.”

Leah Musch

The circular economy sustains the love for fashion

Facts and figures are essential when considering the benefits that the circular economy has upon the fashion industry and the planet. However, before we delve into the numbers, let’s consider how this cyclical model sustains the love for fashion.

The Stella McCartney brand believe “That the future of fashion is circular – it will be restorative and regenerative by design and the clothes we love never end up as waste.”

The truth is, we’ve all had at least one item of clothing that is more than just fabric and textiles…right? That one item of clothing may eventually end up at the back of the closet… but that’s okay. Our style is constantly evolving and most trends have a short shelf life. However, we simply can’t justify sending our old clothes off to landfill. The old cardigan that you basically lived in could go on to be someone’s favourite piece of loungewear. Your old pieces can recycled and re-loved.

“Fall In Love, Fall In Fashion.”

Laura Brunereau

The facts and figures

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation explain that it was at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit (in 2018) when “The Circular Fibres Initiative entered its second phase: Make Fashion Circular.” Some pretty big brands got on board with this initiative, such as Burberry, H&M Group, Guess, Lee, adidas, ASOS and Stella McCartney.

It’s time for some numbers…

The Conscious Challenge express that “Substituting polyester with its recyclable counterpart offers up to a 90% reduction of toxic substances, a 60% reduction in energy usage, and up to a 40% dip in emissions.”

Sustain Your Style report that “765,000 litres of water can be saved per ton of cotton recycled.”

How to ensure that the future of fashion is circular

In today’s society it is so important that we act responsibly and become advocates for change. Therefore, we must try to up-cycle our old clothes… but how do we ensure that this happens?

  1. Try to shop at stores which use sustainable, recyclable and environmentally friendly materials. H&M have a Conscious range which includes pieces that are made from at least 50% sustainably sourced materials.
  2. Don’t put your old clothes in your waste bin. Drop them off at textiles and clothing banks. You can usually find these in supermarket and local carparks. Even if you think that some of your old clothes aren’t 100% recyclable you should still send them off.
  3. If you don’t want to drop your clothes off at a recycling point then you could always take them to a charity shop. If they are in good condition they can be re-sold as they are.
  4. Spread the message! Get on your socials and inform people about the benefits of fashion and the circular economy.
  5. Educate yourself further – there’s some informative websites out there.

If you live in the UK, recyclenow is a super useful website which will inform you about where your closest recycling points are.

Take action

Go ahead and open up that wardrobe – those old pieces have a life beyond hanging aimlessly. Take the time to reminisce over the clothes which you once looked great in, or felt great in. Think about how confident that shirt made you feel and let its legacy live on. Try and make a pile (no matter how small) and take it to a recycling point.

Taking action is key if we want change to continue and you can be a part of this. Use your voice and tell those around you that the future of fashion is circular. Educate yourself and educate others. After all, who doesn’t want to help save the planet?

“The Earth is a fine place and worth fighting for.”

Ernest Hemingway

You may also want to educate yourself on the throw-away culture in fashion. Click here to learn more.

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