The world of fashion, and the industries alongside it, are ever-changing. From the variety of style in the subcultures of society, to what is deemed ‘fashionable’ throughout the eras; yet the most significantly important alteration in the industry is the distribution, redesigning, and reselling of products, through use of a concept known as “The circular economy”.
So what is ‘The circular economy’?
“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth on a physically finite planet is either mad, or an economist”David Attenborough
The circular economy is an established ’70s concept, contributed to by several professors and scientists. Their intended goal of this newly-formed hypothesis was based on three main principles and a variety of aspirations to help create a more sustainable planet for future generations.
- To keep products and materials in use that have already been commissioned
- Regenerate a more natural system that would maintain core resources
- Lower the waste and pollution seeping into the earths core
Still confused? Here’s a breakdown of what it means.
In nature, where the wildlife and vegetation thrive, there is no need for a landfill for wasted materials. The natural world survives because one species waste…is another’s source of food. Animals die and the ‘waste’ they’ve consumed safely returns back to the earth safely in order to grow again. As humans, being the self-destructive force we are, take a more linear approach following the structure of:
TAKE – MAKE – DISPOSE
Each time a possession we own has altercations, we rush to purchase a new one to avoid those small interruptions in our lives; But what many of us seem to forget is that each time we do this we devour into a finite supply of resources that often begin to produce toxic waste.
We take valuable supplies from Mother Nature, mass produce a product and don’t return anything to the earth. This is NOT a sustainable way of life! But how does fashion fit into this? How can clothing be dangerous for the world when we wear it upon our bodies?
How does this affect the fashion industry?
“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different”Coco Chanel
The fashion industry surprisingly contributes highly to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that negatively impact the earth; by storing warmth causing climate change, contributing to respiratory disease from air pollution and also significantly intensifies extreme weather conditions.
According to figures published by the ‘Ellen McArthur foundation’, it states that “Total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production, at 1.2 billion tonnes annually, are more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.”
Some of the most notorious fashion companies are partially to blame for this pollution. Companies such as:
- Nike – According to a report by Greenpeace, Nike use toxic chemicals in clothing and shoes that are not only hazardous to the environment but also for the workers, with several reports of serious injuries that the workers have reported. The company also reportedly make 2 million pairs of shoes a day which results in a large amount of textiles waste that doesn’t get used.
- PrettyLittleThing – Came under heavy criticism, when they stated on their website, that their clothes may contain toxic chemicals that have caused cancer and birth defects in customers that wear it unknowing to the effects. At least they were honest about it!
- Primark – The low-price store…for low quality material. The store has a huge carbon footprint, immense amount of textile production waste and not to mention their lack of unsustainable materials.
What can you do to help?
“Buy less, choose well and do it yourself”Vivienne Westwood
Whether you’re a consumer that wants to help make the industry more sustainable, or a business owner that aims to cut down on your textile waste and carbon footprint, there are numerous ways in which you can help keep the planet hospitable.
- Firstly, companies must begin to rethink & redesign their products. By altering the packaging and the components of their product, we can start to create safe and compostable products that when returned to Mother-nature help grow further resources.
- Alternatively to the throw away & replace culture that we have became so used to, products that aren’t biodegradable should adopt a return/renew policy where products are designed to recommissioned for re-use taking on the new strategy of:
Disassemble – Regenerated – Resold
- Another way to help would be to rethink ownership. Instead of purchasing products, we start to license them directly from the manufacturers. The items would then be designed to return to their creators where the technical materials become reused and the biological parts increasing agricultural value.
However, the circular economy is not about one manufacturer, changing just one product. Its about all the interconnecting companies coming together to make the world of fashion much more sustainable; and as consumers we must realise all this “will actually result in a complete change in the way the business runs. It will also mean that products will be made significantly slower. But in order for this to be profitable, consumers must accept that products will get to market slower.”
A new outlook on fashion
In order to dilute pollution, we must purchase from fashion companies that are already utilising ‘The circular economy’ motive. Companies already utilising this are:
- OhSevenDays – Who use leftover fabrics from fast fashion manufacturers to produce a range of clothing.
- MUD Jeans – Customers can rent a pair of jeans! And the ones they have bought have a free repair system in order to keep them maintained for a duration of time. The items they want to discard are encouraged to be returned in store to be recycled into a new pair.
- Finally, good old charity shops; Buying and donating pre-loved clothing from charity shops has a significant factor of benefits. It reduces a significant amount of textile waste and also gives the less fortunate an increased opportunity to wear fashion otherwise out of their budget.
So, before going back to your typical places of shopping, think. Are they sustainable for myself and the planet? Am I wearing harmful toxins dangerous to myself and the planet? Are there better options out there for me? This way, we can make fashion more sustainable for future generations.