March 23, 2021

How to launch a rental or resale business model in 10 months—a step-by-step guide for apparel brands, launching April 1st

The Circular Toolbox is a free, online, step-by-step guide for apparel brands of all sizes to design and launch a rental or resale business model pilot on their own in under a year.

Apparel brands of all sizes interested in circular business models that extend the practical lifetime of clothes can now use Circle Economy’s ‘Circular Toolbox’ to get a rental or resale pilot off the ground in under a year.


Circular business models, such as resale and rental, offer commercial opportunities for brands to innovate their business model while expanding the practical service life of clothing—allowing brands to do more with less. When intelligently designed, they can also reduce the total environmental impact of the industry.


‘The fashion industry’s sustainability efforts thus far have been dominated by a focus on sustainable materials. While this is a very important driver for impact reduction, with a growing population that is consuming at hyperspeed, it’s becoming blatantly clear that a shift toward using sustainable materials alone is not going to cut it. Increasing the utilisation of our garments is considered one of the most effective ways to reduce the overall impact of the clothing industry. Resale, rental and subscription models promise to do just this: optimise the lifetime and active use of garments and provide pathways to decouple growth from resource use.’ — Hélene Smits, Circle Textiles Programme Associate at Circle Economy

By providing brands with the tools they need and a clear process and timeline to follow, the Circular Toolbox—and the circular innovation process it supports—aims to make it as easy as possible for apparel brands to adopt circular business models.  


‘Numerous guides to circular business models exist, but few provide the level of detail needed for apparel brands to practically move from A to Z, and design and launch a model in the market.. Numerous consultancies also exist that can provide more tailored support to brands looking to explore circularity, but for most SMEs, this is not a realistic option. With the Circular Toolbox, we aim to remove those barriers for as many brands as possible and offer them a one-stop-shop to to independently drive circular business model innovation within their company.’ — Gwen Cunningham, Circle Textiles Programme Lead at Circle Economy 


The online toolbox guides users through a five-step circular innovation process, from getting sign-off from the top and putting a team together all the way to piloting a new concept on the ground. Resources include design thinking and research tools, workshop sheets and facilitator’s guides, a podcast featuring brands that have undergone the same process and, crucially, specific guidance as to how and when to use each tool. 


The circular innovation process outlined in the toolbox was tried and tested through the Switching Gear project, which guided four brands—Asket, Lindex, ETP and Kuyichi—in the development and launch of circular business model pilots. 


Lindex’ resale prototype in 2020. Courtesy of Lindex.


Exploring circular business models is part of Lindex’ transformation as a company and part of us reaching our sustainability goals. With the project, we got support not only in the development of a new model, but also in anchoring and building knowledge across our organisation. The methodologies and the tools that we used throughout are something that we will use in any new circular business model that we intend to explore going forward—this is also why I can highly recommend using the Circular Toolbox to anyone interested in exploring rental or resale business models.
— Annette Tentsam, Strategy Lead Circularity & Environmental Sustainability


Apparel brands interested in using the Toolbox can do so at www.thecirculartoolbox.eventbrite.com.


For interview requests, please reach out to Circle Economy through their website.


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Towards an inclusive, fair and sustainable industry

The past two decades have seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of times clothes are worn. Coupled with a shift towards fast fashion, average consumers today buy 60% more items than they did 15 years ago and wear them for half as long. 70% of closets usually go unworn and it is estimated that 33% of women wear items as little as 5 times before disposing of them.


The Switching Gear project, supported by the Laudes Foundation, is part of the Bridging the Gap initiative, a group of six organisations working to stimulate sector-wide collaboration, facilitate innovative technologies and the design of best practices to enable the implementation of circular business models in the fashion industry’s supply chain. Other strategic partners of the Bridging the Gap group include the World Resources Institute, WRAP, London Waste and Recycling Board, QSA Partners and Forum for the Future.


About Circle Economy

Circle Economy is an impact organisation founded to achieve prosperity for all within planetary boundaries. With nature as their mentor, they help businesses, cities and governments identify opportunities to transition to a circular economy and provide a powerful combination of practical and scalable solutions to turn these opportunities into reality.


About Switching Gear

‘Switching Gear: Towards Circular Business Models’ was a Laudes Foundation-supported  project, led by Circle Economy, that guided four apparel brands on a circular innovation process towards the design and launch of rental and resale business model pilots by 2021. 

The project ran from 2018 to 2021. The Circular Toolbox brings together tools and insights from the project into a practical guide for other apparel brands looking to explore circular business models.  


About the Switching Gear Enabling Network

To support the practical implementation of these pilots and enable the wider uptake of circular business models in the apparel Industry, Circle Economy also joined forces with strategic partner Fashion For Good to drive the formation of a global Enabling Network of over 50 circular solution providers and innovators, frontrunning brands and relevant experts, which will continue running past project end, until December 2021. Should you be interested to join the Enabling Network, please get in touch through the Circle Economy website: www.circle-economy.com/programmes/textiles/switching-gear/join-us

Edit history

Apr 6, 2021: This article was edited to link readers to the recording of the launch event instead of the event's registration page as well as to the actual toolbox.

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