The past quarter brought with it many exciting developments in the circular fashion and textiles arena. March saw both the launch of Fashion for Good and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Fibres Initiative; April brought promise in the form of the EU waste policy reform; and May heralded the annual Copenhagen Fashion Summit. Spring has sprung in the circular textiles world, and the seed of change has been firmly planted.
So what’s next?
The picture gets clearer
The Copenhagen Fashion Summit, now a yearly occurrence, has made much needed headway with its Global Fashion Agenda — a bold and ambitious initiative aimed at mobilising the fashion industry to change its dirty ways. Its goal? Increase the volume of textiles collected, reused, and recycled by 2020 by setting forth four immediate action points for brands:
- Implement design strategies for cyclability
- Increase the volume of used garments collected
- Increase the volume of used garments resold
- Increase the share of garments made from recycled textile fibres
These action points give a simple direction to an immensely complicated topic and therefore can successfully rally the support and help the fashion industry needs to build critical mass on this topic. But, after signing on the dotted line, the ambitious brands that take on the GFA challenge still need support in delivering on their promises — something the current system cannot yet provide. While GFA is providing a toolbox for signatories to get started, the long term still calls for tailored guidance.
An addendum to the agenda
The Global Fashion Agenda doesn’t merely encourage change — it demands it, and the action points it has set forward are no doubt a great start to the conversation. To date, 30 global brands have already signed, including Adidas, Kering, and H&M. But as Livia Firth rightly articulated, “If we had to go to yet another conference where we hear pledges, promises, targets to achieve, discussions on what it will look like, we will all become old before it actually happens.”
To turn intent into action and make closed-loop a reality, the current agenda should also include these two critical action points:
Invest and collaborate in infrastructure. A robust infrastructure of reverse logistics, standardized input materials, and co-created best practices will support the success of viable textile-to-textile recycling technologies now and in the future. This infrastructure is the foundation for sustainable consumption and production patterns, and without such a system, increased collection and use of recycled fibres is not possible.
Communicate with the consumer. In a circular economy, consumers become suppliers to the system and act as a gateway for resource collection. They are not the end of the funnel but an essential link in closing the loop — and we are only as strong as our weakest link. Increased transparency and willingness to be vulnerable in the transition towards circularity will be what sets the frontrunners apart from the laggers. Consumers need to be taken along this journey- and any triumph big or small is reason enough to shout about and set a precedent for the industry.
It’s imperative that brands put their money where their mouth is and help build the infrastructure needed to climb our ever growing clothing mountain — and shout about it as they’re doing it, so that the cultural tide can also begin to turn.This is no easy feat, but with (sustainability) heavy weights like Asos, Inditex and M&S on board, the clout is there to make this the agenda to end all agendas. We will eagerly track the progress and support the signatories with the necessary data, tools, technologies, as they take steps towards attaining these goals.
The 2017 edition of Beyond Green cuts through the noise, the pledges and the ambitions — in short, the long-standing blah blah surrounding sustainability in the fashion industry, and moves straight to practice.