The circle of life can be translated into the fashion industry. But, instead of being a song on a hit broadway musical, it is a sustainable switch many in the clothing industry are attempting to make. Circular fashion is based on the circular economy. It is clothes, shoes, and accessories designed, sourced, and produced to be used and circulated for as long as possible. So, instead of a linear fashion model, this relies on products being used responsibly for a long time without creating waste.

Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation/YouTube

The Fashion Economy Today

Linear Economy

The Linear Economy is the current standard for the clothing industry. These products are headed to the landfill.

Recycle Economy

The Recycle Economy slows down the journey of a product to landfill. But ultimately, these products will still be damaging to the environment.

Circular Economy

The Circular Economy is designed for products to be returned and remade again and again.

Key Players

Many people are jumping on the circular fashion train. First and foremost, Anna Brismar. In 2014, she coined the term circular fashion. At a project meeting to prepare for a sustainable fashion event, she came up with the idea. Another key player in circular fashion is the sustainability director of H&M. In 2014, this individual came up with the term circular fashion around the same time as Brismar. 

Additionally, Stella McCartney has spoken about the impact of circular fashion. As a designer, she takes sustainability seriously. First, she tries to keep her line sustainable. Secondly, she encourages people to shop secondhand. She even awarded her customers with a gift card for TheRealReal, a secondhand high-end online shopping platform, for shopping with her. 

Along with McCartney, there are a ton of brands that operate within the lines of circular fashion. Some of these include:

  • Ministry of Supply – MoS constantly thinks about the longevity of its product and its environmental impact. They offer a 100 percent recycled shirt. In turn, it can be recycled. Once sent in for a recycling exchange, the customer will receive store credit.
  • Girlfriend Collective – This brand has long been ahead of the game regarding inclusivity and sustainability. Their program, Regirlfriend, takes used products and turns them into new garments.
  • For Days – Completing the fashion loophole is no easy task. However, For Days offers customers lifetime memberships when they purchase their first shirt. With this, they can send in their used tee and pay $8 for a new one anytime.
  • Tiny Rescue – a conscious lifestyle brand that raises awareness around important issues through sustainable products that are kind to the planet. The clothing (mostly consisting of activism tees and sweatshirts) is 100% plastic-free, certified net carbon neutral, created from natural or recycled materials in fair trade factories, printed using water-based inks, and made to last. All collections are focused on social and environmental themes, like Climate Change.
circular fashion brand tiny rescue

Climate Collection by Tiny Rescue

The Value of Circular Fashion

When it comes to the planet, circular fashion aims to think of everything. It takes into consideration the following:

  • Sustainability – How sustainable is the garment being made? Is it recycled? Can it be recycled?
  • Wastefulness – By making this, are we creating waste or reducing waste? Is the waste being created harmful to the environment or neutral?
  • Natural Material – Are the materials used natural? Do they come from a sustainable resource that is good for the environment?
  • Green Energy – When creating the product, what kind of energy is used? Is the energy negatively affecting the environment?

Challenges

Despite its best efforts, circular fashion does face some challenges. First is getting consumers and companies to make the change. We have operated in a linear economy for so long that switching can prove difficult.

For circular fashion to work, companies must commit to remake, and customers must pledge to return,” says Preeta Sinha, Founder of Tiny Rescue, “unfortunately, pollution is rewarded in the fashion industry, which profits from destroying our environment. However, habits and companies can be redesigned and reimagined by collectively participating and committing to a zero-waste circular economy. At Tiny Rescue, our products are designed to be returned and remade. This makes for a synergistic relationship between the environment and the economy,” she added. 

The next issue is that this could be a means of greenwashing. Sometimes brands will adopt trending words to sound more sustainable. While they could be using something akin to circular fashion, if they are not taking sustainability and energy into consideration, then it is not doing its job.

Additionally, making timeless pieces is a challenge. Design limitations can further the difficulty of getting people interested in circular fashion brands. People love seasonal fashion and trends! This also plays into the secondhand market. When creating pieces that should last for generations, it is important to stick to designs that can be donated and thrifted repeatedly.

Finally, by making clothes that last a lifetime and urging people to operate sustainably, there may be a loss in business. Fewer people will be shopping, which means less money is going into the pockets of those in the fashion industry.

However, looking at the current dire state of the planet, we have no choice but to live minimally, shop less and buy things that last and can be remade over and over again, bypassing the need to create waste. The fast-fashion model has allowed customers to receive new garments within hours, but it doesn’t come without its environmental expense.

Become a Part of Circular Fashion

One person can make a huge impact with their decisions. That is why it is important to shop sustainably. To participate in circular fashion, all you need to do is research brands beforehand. Also, take care of your items so they last longer, and thrift when you can!

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