Circular Economies: A Different Approach to Fashion
Heard of circular fashion but not quite sure what it is?
Below is a brief overview of what a circular economy is, how it is different to the standard practise today and how it could provide a more sustainable framework for the fashion industry.
The current economic model is based on make, use and dispose. This is called a linear economy. In fashion, this model happens repeatedly and very quickly. This means that the industry is powering through natural resources faster than Mother Nature can replace them. The model also causes a terrifying amount of waste. At the moment 100 billion new items are produced every single year and 99% of these end up in landfill.
As oppose to a linear model, a circular economy aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them, then recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of each service life. This model could solve some of the issues within the current fashion system by making the most of natural resources and reducing waste. The image below shows how a circular fashion system would work.
The organisation Wrap are working to reinvent how products are designed, produced, consumed and disposed of, claiming that a resource-efficient industry provides a more sustainable economy (they’re a great resource if you want to do some further reading into this topic). Their research has found there is a potentially attractive business case for resource efficient business models within the fashion sector. There is opportunity for retailers to work in circular ways such as large scale hire services, garment upgrades and in store repairs.
One cause for the volumes of clothing waste we produce today, is that it is often more expensive to repair items than to replace them. Many of us lack the skills necessary to perform clothing repairs. This highlights an opportunity for accessible repair services and skill sharing events.
When talking about sustainablity and the fashion industry we are often faced with the doom and gloom of the realities of the industry’s impact. A circular model provides a positive guideline for how we can be better. The fashion industry has the opportunity to rethink the design process with a circular economy design principle at its core, where materials are sourced from recycled, sustainable or waste resources.
The team over at Rapanui have taken this circular economy and made it a reality for their business. They have taken materials which would normally be wasted and use it as the starting point to make a new products. They have a new range of T-shirt’s which are made entirely from ‘waste’. Head over the their website to find out more about the brilliant work these guys are doing.
The circular model provides an exciting opportunity for business to grow without powering through the resources they way we do at present. Second hand (or as I prefer to call them, pre-loved) clothes stores, garment hire businesses and clothing repair services all represent ways that economies can thrive whilst keeping those precious natural resources out of landfill.
Remember everyone… Reduce, Rework, Recycle!