Introducing circular fashion: the shopping concept that could save the planet
The industry’s popular new idea could finally be an authentic way of reconciling a love of fashion with sustainability
Sustainability has never been important to shoppers, nor to the fashion industry.
The rise of ethical and eco-friendly brands is impossible to ignore, an off-shoot of the circular economy concept - an economic system aimed at minimising waste and making the most of resources - it challenges fashion’s linear production line that ends with clothes being discarded in landfill.
Circular fashion relates to not only fashion per se, but also to sportswear,outdoorwear and everyday wear.
“It can be defined as clothes, shoes or accessories that are designed, sourced, produced and provided with the intention to be used and circulated responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use.” Anna Brismar Green Strategy 2017
Circular fashion means that every part of the life span of a garment is cyclical – it starts with design of a piece and how much longevity and timelessness it has, then onto the materials and whether or not they are sustainable, before the making of the item – is its production fair and ethical; are workers and animals rights being upheld? Once the piece has become tired, it should be repaired or redesigned, then – rather than being binned – rented, swapped or sold at second-hand. All this means less will be bought and less will left ruining our planet.
Fast fashion has come under the harshest scrutiny since the shift towards more considered, ethically minded shopping. Garments are being worn much less and discarded quicker than ever before. So, is it possible for high street giants to engage in circular fashion? Yes, says sustainability executives in fast fashion industry brands like H&M’s aim to only use sustainably sourced materials by 2030, and to be climate positive by 2040.
Sustainable clothing comes at a higher price, given the ethical materials and production processes required. Anyone with a conscience can see the benefits of shopping sustainably, but not everyone can stretch to higher price points.
There are two long-standing arguments that challenge circular fashion – the first is that it’s just a jumped-up term for recycling and the second is that a decrease in fast fashion will be detrimental for businesses, the idea that if we shop less, sales will slump and jobs will be lost.
Principles of Circular Fashion Economy
Green Strategy, an innovation-driven and research-based consultancy firm specialising in sustainability and circularity issues of the fashion industry, has identified sixteen key principles to support and promote a more circular and sustainable fashion, apparel and textile industry:
Design with a purpose, for longevity, resource efficiency, biodegradability, recyclability
Source and produce locally Source and produce without toxicity, Source and produce with renewables, Source and produce with good ethics
Provide services to support longer life
Reuse, recycle or compost all remains
Collaborate well and widely
These principles are defined from a producer’s perspective, and the other three are relevant to the consumer’s perspective.
Use, wash and repair with care
Consider loan, rent, swap or redesign instead of buying new
Buy quality as opposed to quantity
Know about the brands you buy
Support sustainable and ethical fashion.
Live by the four r's of fashion.
Buy less and buy better.
Revise your wardrobe before buying new.
Shop second hand where possible.