Fashion and the Circular Economy has been a topic of conversation in recent years, but what does this really mean? Circular fashion is the concept that clothing items can be made ethically with the maximization of resources by minimising waste. Manufactured with little or no impact on the environment, resulting in a system that can be prolonged or reutilised to make something new, essentially making a circle of life, but for clothes.
This environmentally friendly approach has been a societal shift over the last few years, where the longevity of the product always in mind to keep that product out of the landfill for as long as possible. Understanding the natural balance between cultivating resources from our planet and eventually using those same materials to create something new, is a beautiful thing to achieve. The potential and influence that the fashion industry has, gives businesses a degree of responsibility to help push this movement by respecting our planet.
Getting facts straight
You’ve most likely heard the scary statistic. Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned globally. This created a sense of urgency amongst environmentally-aware businesses and has led many others to think about their impact on the planet.
In a wider ecological sense, the way we, as a society, speak about the environment and the resources on it has played a huge role in how we act. Businesses over the past decade have been abundantly using resources with the mindset that they are limitless. Not only do business owners take up this belief, but even the way consumers shop and waste irresponsibly is due to the way we as a society speak about the planet.
Ethical consumerism has been rapidly on the rise which pushes the demand for many businesses to take action and deliver sustainable products to their consumers. Many have pledged towards more mindful and less wasteful methods of production.
H&M’s sustainability manager, Giorgina Waltier, is an active advocate of circular fashion. As the second-largest retailer in the world, they have taken action towards a more circular means of production. They have created a recycling programme where you can return clothes from any brand to the store and you are offered a £5 voucher in return.
Not only that but in their Sustainability Report, they have made conscious efforts to change their wastage as the business uses renewable energy for part of its supply chain. They also a policy approved by CanopyStyle to prevent deforestation of endangered forests. The company started using eco-friendly materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester in some products.
They win as they are among the first to create a sustainable fashion collection in its stores. They followed this with the making of a ‘sustainability’ tab section on its website and with such large influence that this company holds. This creates momentum to a much-needed change as more organisations make sustainability a part of their mission.
How can I help, without the funds?
Bethany Williams took it upon herself to reinvent the production process by using fashion as a tool for change. The disagreement with the short-term, profit and ownership-based economy was her drive to create a company where all the production of her clothing line is a virtuous cycle. Her message is apparent in all of her work as she uses sustainable sources for all of her pieces.
Williams says ”It’s about trying to make a cycle of production rather than just a production line. It’s a different way of operating.” The idea of fashion being linear rather than circular restricts fashion to waste. Artists and designers need to come together. Helping each other to think outside of the box and a little more circular. They could invent authentic, high-value pieces.
However, not everybody can pay £750 for a sweatshirt. Williams’ says that this sustainable way of operating is time-consuming and expensive, and most shoppers aren’t able to pay for a £750 sweatshirt, but a high price doesn’t always mean high sustainability.
”It’s about trying to make a cycle of production rather than just a production line. It’s a different way of operating.”Bethany Williams
We all have a part to play
Business owners have as much responsibility as consumers. And conscious consumers don’t actually have to spend a lot to do a lot. Being mindful of where you shop and whether the company is sustainable is already such a big step. The second-hand movement has been around for a while. With the gracious feeling of ‘hand-downs’ where you are wearing a piece of clothing that has lived lifetimes before you. These clothes have a degree of authenticity and vintage has never been more in.
Giving old clothes away to friends or relatives or even selling them is a way of being sustainable. Depop is said to be taking over the market 50% more than fast-fashion by 2028 in a study by GlobalData. Not only could you profit from not being wasteful, but you’re also giving these items a chance to become a part of somebody’s style.
The circular motion has the potential to stop waste and to make our society mindful of the way we shop by sharing values as well as clothes.