As words such as sustainability, eco-friendly, slow fashion end ethical have become common phrases both within the fashion industry and media other words are being added to the slow fashion vocabulary and pushed forward as selling points by the garment industry. One of these words is ‘Circular fashion’.
But what is circular fashion? Where does it fit into this growing interest for clothes that do no harm, and how does it expand the concepts of sustainability? If you are considering yourself to be a conscious consumer, or aspire to be, it is most certainly worth taking a closer look at the concept of circular fashion.
FIND WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR
- What is circular fashion?
- Why is important?
- How does circular fashion production work?
- What you can do for circular fashion
- What is the difference between recycling and circular fashion?
- What does the future look like?
In this article, we try to find the answer to the question: “what is circular fashion”. We take a closer look at how this concept has been adopted by the fashion industry and set out to explore even the darkest corners of this relatively new concept.
But most importantly, we attempt to find out whether circular fashion actually is as sustainable as it claimed to be. We also provide you with tips on how to implement circular fashion into your life.
What is circular fashion?
In circular fashion, the focus is not only on the sourcing and production of an item. Here the end of a piece of clothes life is just as important as the beginning. That, of course, has an impact on the supply chain, design, and use of an item.
Practically speaking this means that circular fashion, just as ethical fashion, cares about the sourcing and production of clothes. But in circular fashion, the responsibility of the brand doesn’t end when the piece of clothes leaves the store with the consumer.
In circular fashion, the end of the life of a product is just as important as the production and sourcing of it.
Circular fashion is about more than creating an item in a conscious and non-harmful way. It is also about that, but the first and foremost goal is to create an item that never turns into trash. Maybe you are thinking to yourself that it sounds kind of impossible. But that is the way circular fashion works – making the materials we already have go around in a circle for reuse.
Circular brands use old pieces of clothes from their own production and reuse these to make new clothes. this is why circular fashion brands encourage you to send in your old jeans or shirt from the brand instead of throwing them out. In that way the clothes doesn’t end up in landfilled, but are used to make new clothes without wasting any material.
This way of doing fashion then results in no (or way lesser) waste, which meant less pollution, less environmental damage, and overall more sustainable fashion industry. There are also some things you can do yourself to contribute to this way of fashion. But more on that later.
Key points of circular fashion:
- Removing polluting and non-recyclable items from the supply chain
- Using fewer materials to produce an item as well as recycling materials
- Reusing everything that is possible from defective clothes to offcuts materials.
- Returning any waste to nature safely. This includes only using natural and biodegradable materials.
- It is basically about always returning to the same point while leaving everything as in the beginning.
Why is it important?
With more clothes than ever being thrown out each year, filling up landfills and our ocean the last thing we need is more trash. The average American generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year. Globally that number is estimated to 92 million tonnes of textile waste we throw out each year.
Circular production is a way of dealing with that problem.
Right now, we are buying and selling more clothes than ever. The exploitation of resources is happening all around the world, just so we can walk around in this season’s newest trends while last season’s trends probably already have found their way to landfills.
Up to 73% of the world’s clothing ends up in landfills and less than 1% of the material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing.Fashion Revolution
But there is a but. Or a savior to this problem if you will. You guessed it, it is circular fashion. In this way of doing fashion items are not thrown out. If they break, they are repaired, and when that no longer is an option they are recycled into new items.
When it isn’t an option to recycle them anymore they are returned to nature safely without making any harm. In this way, circular fashion is helping resolve the huge problem of textile waste, as well as using fewer resources, and that is why it is so very important.
How does circular fashion production work?
We already know the end of the line is just as important as the beginning in a circular way of doing fashion. well, the goal is actually to get rid of the lines, and instead turn them into round arrows that keep pointing at each other.
When producing clothes this way the key is to make longevity items from natural fibers that are biodegradable, so the clothes won’t harm the earth. By using high-quality materials the brand makes sure the item will last for many years to come, and when needed can be recycled into a new piece of clothes without losing its strength and quality.
Recycling is therefore also part of circular production since the brand’s old and defective clothes are reused and made into new clothes.
How to incorporate circular fashion into your own life?
Maybe you have heard your parents or maybe even your grandparents say. or maybe you have said to yourself “dam, I wish I had kept that dress or sweater from many years ago! It is this season’s IT item!”.
While circular fashion isn’t describing what seems to the be ever circular life of fashion trends, circular fashion is about reusing materials and clothes to make sure it never goes to waste.
The consumer is one of the most important players in the fashion industry since the brands listen to what the consumers want. If the demand for circular fashion rises, guess what the brands then will produce.
Big fashion companies already practice circular fashion, however, you can also incorporate the mindset of circular fashion broader into your life.
How you can make a difference:
- Buy less, choose well
- Revise your wardrobe before investing in new clothes
- Choose circular fashion brands
- Shop second-hand
- Try renting clothes
- Take care of your clothes, so they will last longer.
- Choose natural and biodegradable materials when buying new clothes
- Read more about slow fashion, and learn what impact the fashion industry has.
- Swap clothes with your friends
- Sell your used clothes instead of throwing them out.
What is the difference between circular fashion and recycling?
You can see it this way, recycling is a natural part of circular fashion, whereas circular fashion isn’t a natural part of recycling.
Recycling in its basic form transform waste material into something new. This could be a pair of defective or jeans or textile cutoffs which then is turned into a something new and usable.
Recycling, as well as upcycling, is therefore a natural part of the circular way of producing clothes. However, is doesn’t go the other way around. More demand have to be meet before you can call something circular economy or fashion. Some processes of recycling is not that eco-friendly either, but that can’t be the case in circular fashion.
The future of circular fashion
Circular fashion was first officially mentioned in 2014 at a seminar in Sweden. the principals from circular economy transferred to the world of fashion as an attempt to make this polluting industry more sustainable.
The term has become a beloved concept in the fashion industry since and has found its place alongside terms such as slow fashion, upcycling and ethical fashion. But what does the future look like for this concept?
The future of fashion is Circular. It has to beStella McCartney
A lot of fashion brands agree that this way of doing fashion is the future. Even the big high street brands seem to have adopted the concept. And for good reason. The concept has a lot of benefits, not only for the earth but also for the brand and the consumer.
The concept has far from reached its full potential, and the largest majority of fashion brands haven’t implemented circular fashion. However, this way of making clothes will hopefully only grow in the future, as it has done during the last decade.
Want to learn more?
Circular fashion is just another concept in the world of sustainable fashion. Slow fashion has become buzzwords within the last couple of years, and no one really seems to have a real understanding of what these terms actually mean.
However, if you want to learn more about sustainable and slow fashion, we have an in-depth guide to the terms here, where you also can learn more about the terms’ opposite, or enemy if you will, fast fashion.