#CircleChat Recap: Fashion, textiles, and the circular economy

August 4, 2017

What’s holding back the supply chain from moving beyond intent to action? What are the barriers to circularity, and what can brands, designers, and consumers already do to get started?

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The circular economy holds enormous promise for the fashion and textiles industry to revamp its current systems and move away from unsustainable practices. But while the ‘why’ of circularity is increasingly understood, the ‘how’ is still largely unanswered. What’s holding back the supply chain from moving beyond intent to action? What are the barriers to circularity, and what can brands, designers, and consumers already do to get started?

On June 21st, The Next Closet, Loop.a.life, and Stating the Obvious joined our Circle Textiles team (Gwen Cunningham, Traci Kinden and Jade Wilting) on Twitter to discuss both the current state and the future of circular textiles. Here are insights from our conversation.

Start sourcing right

There are many ways to go about sourcing circular materials. You can start with giving materials a second life by using recycled materials or mono-materials whenever possible, sourcing excess rolled from traders/jobbers, or using manufacturers’ offcuts for small runs!

Dig deeper into the topic here.

Meet the pioneers

Some companies are already leading the way. The Next Closet, for example, operates as a reselling platform to give luxury clothes a second, extended life; Loop.a.life transforms post-consumer garments into beautifully designed, high value products; Mud Jeans is making important strides in designing for disassembly and cyclability; Kate Goldsworthy only uses mono materials in her collections; and Filippa K and Mistra Fashion’s Circular Design Speeds initiative is challenging designers to use constraints as a springboard for circularity.

Know of any others? Tweet us!

Finding freedom in our constraints

Designing for circular fashion is not without its hurdles. The number of constraints designers have to work around, coupled with a lack of understanding of just how much of an impact they have on the end of life of a garment, and a mismatch between what designers intend for a garment’s disposal and what consumers actually do with it, all make designing for circular fashion seem borderline impossible.

However, with the right training and tools, we can empower designers so they find inspiration rather than frustration in these constraints and make informed decisions to design for a more circular fashion industry.

Dig deeper into the topic here.

The power of take-back

Reasons abound for brands to invest in take-back schemes: they foster brand value and loyalty; they allow brands to retain control over precious resources by turning consumers into suppliers; and they provide great alternatives to fashion-conscious consumers not quite ready to shop second-hand. Perhaps more importantly, they help raise awareness and shed light on just how much textiles waste we continue to dispose of around the clock.

And it can be done. Patagonia, ever the environmental champion, has been ahead of the game for a while with their Worn Wear initiative, but fast-fashion giants like H&M and Zara are also starting to pull their weight.

Learn more about our post-consumer textile waste problem.

Consumers deserve better

Consumers are currently both unaware and unable to gain proper access to education and information about the impact of their consumption choices. Sustainable fashion brands have also done a poor job at marketing to them, focusing on the niche rather than the mainstream and often missing the mark with the eco-fashion value proposition.

But clothes are incredibly personal, and getting consumers to be part of the transition to a circular fashion industry requires us not only to inform and admonish them, but attract them and reel them in.

More work needed

For all the pieces of the puzzle to fit together – for take-back schemes to serve their purpose, for consumers to get on board, and for designers to make the right decisions – we still need to build the right infrastructure to support our current, disjointed efforts. This both includes the physical infrastructure needed to close the loop, but also the research, resources, and incentives needed to drive change.

We’re taking a break for the summer but #circlechat will be back in September! We’ll also be releasing the full calendar for the next few months soon.

Sign up to get it here.

Do you have a suggestion for a topic? Let us know!

Look back on the full conversation here.

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