Key Learnings for the Fashion Industry Emerged From Circle Economy’s Signature Event: Beyond Green

November 17, 2016
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On the 28th of October, in partnership with the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, we held our signature circular textiles event, Beyond Green, at the beautiful Pakhuis de Zwijger. Read the full event recap and the four key learnings that emerged from the day below. 

The topic of the day was zero waste and the role that design, technology, businesses, and consumers play in achieving this in the fashion industry.

A palpable excitement and energy filled the room, where students and industry rubbed shoulders and exchanged ideas, during a day of inspiration and collaborative problem solving. Two words can summarise the prevailing atmosphere; hopeful and urgent.

“The one thing we cannot waste anymore is time. We have a window of opportunity, to change the way we work on this planet” – Gwen Cunningham, Lead of the Circle Textiles Programme at Circle Economy and Coordinator for Sustainability at AMFI

Most notably, the day did not dwell on the problem, but rather, focussed on concrete solutions that are bubbling below the surface and asked ‘what next?’. Key learnings that emerged from the day included:


1. Technologies to close the loop exist but they need investment and support to scale.

Isaac Nichelson, Chief Sustainability and Marketing Officer at Recover, one of the world’s leading mechanical upcyclers, with 70 years of experience recycling cotton and textile waste, schooled us on the immediate potential of closed loop textile recycling. He stressed that huge synergies exists between mechanical and chemical recyclers and highlighted how they will both play a critical role to achieve a zero waste future.

“Finally I feel momentum, after 20 years of trying to convince people. Linear, meet Circular… This is where we’re heading” – Isaac Nichelson, Chief Sustainability and Marketing Officer at Recover

It was made clear that solutions, including the FIBERSORT technology and the ‘tinder for textiles’, Circle Market, exist and are scaleable however, what is needed is an increase in demand for them.

2. Collaboration is key.

Gwen Cunningham, Lead of the Circle Textiles Programme at Circle Economy and Coordinator for Sustainability at AMFI, got straight to the heart of the issue by calling out the culprits: planned and perceived obsolescence and our unfaltering pursuit of ‘growth for growth’s sake.’

By looking to the past, Gwen helped us to imagine a zero waste future. She pointed to the ingenuity of war-time Britain, when fantastical measures were introduced with remarkable success, in order to safeguard raw materials. If we were faced with similar rations, as our war stricken predecessors, how would we cope?

Indeed, constraint drives genius and the genius is already bubbling up around is. In fact, Circle Economy’s Circle Textile’s Programme is already paving this new path with the advent of an exciting new  partnership with the C&A Foundation that will continue to push innovative projects like the FIBERSORT technology and Circle Market.


3. Designers need to adapt to new operating models for sampling and embrace digital prototyping.

Solutions for reducing the amount of waste produced during the sampling stage of designing a fashion line were brought to light by recent AMFI graduates Tamara Koch and Zil Vostalova. They introduced us to the concept of working “phygitally’. The love affair between the physical and digital world, that can be perfectly married using softwares like Clo3D and Lectra to enable virtual prototyping.

“We have to stop thinking of products as static, stationary objects, we have to think of them as journeys” -Dr.Kate Goldsworthy, Design Researcher at the Textiles Futures Research Center

Self confessed ‘trash lady’ Jessie Kroon of A New Zero, taught us how she mastered a zero waste lifestyle, and invited us to join her on her quest. While through continued research and prototyping, Dr. Kate Goldsworthy showed the audience how she is building a powerful menu of design strategies for a zero-waste, circular world.

4. Consumers are critical in this transition and they can become suppliers to a circular system.

Technology and general consumer awareness are in tow to help realise a zero waste fashion industry. As a result of this the industry must prepare for a future where the consumer has the potential to be the supplier of raw materials.

“In a circular future, consumers will be the raw materials suppliers”and play a critical role in the supply chain.” – Cyndi Rhoades, Founder and CEO of Worn Again

The packed auditorium heard from leading minds on the topic including the current innovations of Worn Again’s chemical recycling technology, the was presented by founder and CEO, Cyndi Rhoades.  She explained that while upcycling is a good solution in the interim, it simply extends the lifetime of materials, which will ultimately end up in landfill anyway.

The bold and brave voice of the next generation echoed in our ears as a powerful battle-cry came from the student-led AMFI activist group Hello-Goodbuy. They are fed up with the current fashion industry and have joined forces to come to terms with their addiction. In a heartfelt launch, this no-nonsense collective voiced their frustrations with the industry and implored us all, students and industry, to #GETYOURSHITTOGETHER.

Additional learnings were discovered during an intense 2.5 hour circular fashion hackathon at which a lucky number of AMFI students and hand selected industry collaborated with four pioneering companies, Orta Anadolu, Boer Group, Mud Jeans and The Next Closet. These forward-thinking companies were brave enough to put their real-life, zero waste challenges on the table seeking circular solutions.

“We came here today to find a solution for this problem of waste, globally “ – Gulfem Santo, Marketing Team Leader at Orta Anadolu

Details about the challenges presented and the solutions that emerged can be found in the case studies below.


















Check out a recording of the event’s live stream below.


Photo gallery

Special thanks to our sponsors who made this event possible


Interested in supporting the future of this event?

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