Today’s fashion industry is environmentally destructive. It’s responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions and consumes so much water it drained a whole sea.
The main culprit is the ready availability of cheap, fast, throwaway fashion. Only around 15% of clothes are recycled, with the rest, totalling millions tonnes worldwide, winding up in landfills.
But we all need new clothes from time to time, so how do we take a more sustainable approach to fashion?
- Buy less
- Buy second hand
- Buy quality that will last
- Repair where possible
- Make it circular.
The first four are obvious, but what about the fifth?
What is circular fashion?
Circular fashion is a way of designing and making clothes using the concepts of circularity and sustainability. In a circular system, clothes are designed and manufactured so that they can be used and reused for as long as possible, and in a way that is environmentally and socially sustainable.
This is in contrast to the traditional linear process of make—wear—dispose that’s highly wasteful.
In a circular system the same product will live many lives, maybe first as a T-shirt then a dress and then a pair of shorts. Raw materials are continuously reprocessed into something new or, when this isn’t possible, safely returned to the environment.
The concept goes further than reusing raw materials, however. True circularity, like that outlined by Cradle to Cradle certification, also encompasses sustainable, ethical production methods, and the same with the extraction of any virgin materials. Design also comes into play too, with a focus on "timeless” design principles that won’t go out of fashion.
Circular fashion benefits
It’s easy to see the benefits of switching to a circular approach. In a circular system, the need to constantly produce or extract raw materials is removed by reusing those already in the system. This significantly decreases a garment’s environmental footprint (yay!).
From a consumer perspective, they get the warm, fuzzing feeling from doing their bit for the environment, and many circular brands also incentivise their customers financially for using the system.
Circular fashion in practice
The concept of circularity in fashion was first coined back in 2014 by sustainability consultant Anna Brismar. Since then, it’s gained traction in the fashion industry with notable examples being Stella McCartney and Swedish retailer H&M. We’ve also developed our own circular fashion line set to launch in the near future.
The way our system will work is by first creating clothes made from a mix of recycled and ethically sourced, organic materials using designs that we’re confident won’t get out of style.
After use, customers can return them to us and we’ll recycle them in new ones. Customers will receive a discount on their next garment, and the circle starts again. We call it A Good Loop.