In today’s world, the focus of the textile industry as a whole has turned towards finding a more sustainable approach. However, it is also important to note that to find that perfect solution, there needs to be some action taken by the customer’s as well. Like many industries, the brand and their customers together make up this amazingly versatile industry, and even though there are some brands who are working on their waste management, there are also some customers who are looking for ways to tackle the ‘fast fashion’ trend.
Circular fashion is just a way for that, very much like a capsule wardrobe. As we make our way in 2021, the discussion on certain topics like 'circular fashion' has become increasingly informative and more people are chiming in with their own take on it. So, before we go any further, let's take a note of what circular fashion actually means.
Circular Fashion Can Be Defined As…
According to Anna Brismar, the founder and owner of Green Strategy, the philosophy of circular fashion can be said to have been developed upon the foundation of the circular economy combined with sustainable management. Traditionally, once you are done with the article of clothing, you would probably throw it or donate it, which seems to be a more viable option. In the UK itself, £140 million worth of clothing items go into landfills.
In a way, the concept of circular fashion aims to disrupt this natural cycle of an article of clothing. From the customer’s viewpoint, circular fashion can be termed as finding a way to use an old piece of clothing for something else, thus prolonging its usage and in a way minimizing waste. And in the viewpoint of the brands, it can be termed as a way to design clothing items that can be disassembled and recreated to serve a different purpose. All-in-all, the idea is to increase the lifecycle of a product, the production of which usually takes up a lot of resources.
History Of Circular Fashion
The concept of circular fashion is relatively new. For one, it was introduced in 2014 by Anna Brismar. And thanks to the various online communities that began to develop around in the latter part of the last decade, it rose to prominence quite fast among many activists. The event at which the term was coined came to be known as Circular Fashion – Show and Talk 2014. In that event, Anna Brismar introduced the principles upon which the concept of circular fashion functions.
The reason this movement received a massive spotlight is that at the same time, the concept of 'circular economy' too became a hot topic in all of Europe. In a nutshell, the circular economy concept stated that all materials and products in a society must be used and circulated among its users for as long as possible, however, only in an environmentally safe and effective manner. Now, if you look at it, you would notice that this idea aims to eliminate the amount of waste created after the usage of a particular product. If such ideas can be applied to the usage of natural resources, there was nothing that was stopping this concept to transverse over to the fashion industry as well. Read more about Mindful Buyers: The Rise of Eco-Conscious Shopping.
How Circular Fashion Compares With The 3 R’s Of Sustainability
In order to find the relationship between circular fashion and sustainability, let’s take a look at the core aspects of sustainability itself, which are the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
It is clear that reducing is the very first step whenever you are taking a step towards a sustainable lifestyle. As a conscious consumer, one understands that the more one consumes, the more waste one creates. So naturally, every road to sustainability starts with reducing consumption. This is also the opponent of the 'fast fashion' trend, which mostly relies on customers with higher consumption rates.
The second stage of your path towards sustainability is the reusing of a certain item, whether it is a piece of clothing or any other product. In a way, reusing can be categorized into two different types. The first one would be the reusing of the item as what it is, meaning reusing an old worn-out shirt as a shirt itself, but also as a part of an outfit that gives a sort of vintage look. The second one is the reusing of a worn-out product as something that has a different purpose.
The definition of recycling is somewhat similar to the second type of reusing. However, recycling also involves the dismantling of the product. For example, if you have a spare bottle lying around and you don't have any use for it, you can simply use its cap and probably gather a few more to build a decorative item from your imagination. You can do the same with the bottles as well. The same goes for products that are made out of polythene. Non-biodegradable wastes are the number one concern of the world, and recycling them is the best way to eliminate waste products.
From all of this, it is clear that circular fashion can easily be termed as the combination of all three. It can help you reduce your consumption rate when it comes to buying new clothes. It's our concept revolves around how you can reuse your old clothing items. Plus, it also covers the recycling part, as one of the principles cited by Brismar states the dismantling process.
With the help of this, we can easily say that circular fashion is directly related to sustainability and its philosophy of the 3 Rs. In fact, circular fashion is born out of the three concepts.
How Can Circular Fashion Curb Waste?
As we have mentioned in the article, one of the major reasons why circular fashion was introduced was its ability to reduce the waste created by the textile industry and its consumers. Let us further elaborate on it. The first thing that you should know is that there are two different types of wastes: pre-consumer waste and post-consumer waste.
This type of waste is created with the material and is discarded even before it is ready for the consumer's use. Much of this waste consists of trimmings from the production stages and the water that is used to dye the piece of clothing.
This type of waste is created when the product is discarded after the customer uses it. Once the product has served its purpose, it becomes post-consumer waste. This type of waste mostly consists of worn-out items that individuals usually throw in the trash.
By understanding these two different types of waste, it must be clear to your how circular fashion can at least manage to curb one of them. Yes, when it comes to post-consumer waste, circular fashion can have a direct impact on its elimination as it is from the consumer's side. However, when we talk about pre-consumer waste, we'll notice that the actions of the consumer affect the actions of the producer too. Thus, circular fashion can also indirectly affect how brands and manufacturers use their resources in a more sustainable fashion. As the demand lowers, the production will be lowered too.
The Shift Towards Circular Fashion
Ever since the conception of the term, it is clear that there has been certain traction that circular fashion has received over the past years. The dialogue on sustainability has only become more intense in the past. Hence it is natural to assume that the popularity of circular fashion also increases significantly.
In the last decade itself, the textile industry came under a lot of scrutinies for the lack of resource management in its working. Fast fashion became a norm, and its 'take-wear-dispose' lifecycle was something that people felt was comfortable. Not to forget, since the start of the 21st century, textile production became one of the leading causes of water contamination and fast fashion has fastened it.
This linear and simple model of fast fashion relies on resources that are easily available. Thus synthetic fibres and water became ideal resources for it. Since the brands had to deal with the high demand of the market, it eventually ended up consuming a lot of water, and mixing it up with the synthetic chemicals for dyeing made it non-reusable, hence increasing the rate of contamination.
And this is where circular fashion comes in as an alternative. Let’s talk about the principles of circular fashion as put down by Anna Brismar:
- It involves designing with purpose.
- It involves designing for longevity.
- It involves design for resource efficiency.
- It involves design for biodegradability.
- Production with efficiency.
- It involves design for recyclability.
- Production should be local.
- Production without toxicity.
- Production with renewable sources.
- Production with good ethics.
- Provide support for a long life.
- Reuse and recycle all remains.
- Wide collaboration.
Now, if you notice carefully, you will realize that the above-mentioned points are principles that are based on the perspective of the brand or the manufacturer. However, when we talk about the consumer, there are further 3 points that you can add to this list:
- Wash and repair with care.
- Rent, loan, secondhand, or redesign instead of buying new.
- Buy quality, not quantity.
So, before the implementation of circular fashion, let’s take a look at the steps involved in the process. These steps are a must if you want to indulge in this sustainable practice:
- The manufacturer creates a product that already had a low impact on the environment as it was made with all the principles of circular fashion intact.
- The transportation of the products involves a way that has less carbon footprint.
- They are then sold or are given on rent to reuse and redesign.
- At the end of its lifecycle, the product is disposed of or recycled in an eco-friendly way.
When it comes to recycling and reusing, there has been a certain surge globally. Sustainable practices have been undertaken by many manufacturers irrespective of what products they sell. Lately, the production and buying of items that can be reused or recycled have further increased, all thanks to the various brands that have popped up and have a sustainable model for their production. Read more about Is It So Difficult to Survive a Year of “No Shopping?”
Is It Trend Or A Movement
There is a really big difference between something being a trend and something being a movement. As for now, even after receiving a lot of traction due to the various sustainable and environmental communities online, a concept like circular fashion is considered to be a movement. Fast fashion, for example, was a trend. In order to facilitate their fast-fashion needs, the brands had to change their entire production stages.
When circular fashion starts to affect the production and the user's experience for good, and that is when it will become a trend. As of now, it is clear that the entire textile industry needs to redesign its model to facilitate a great circular fashion model.
But, in all honesty, circular fashion was not coined to be a trend. In fact, it was the commencement of the industry and its consumers taking a more sustainable route to fulfil their desire for new apparels that are made in an ethical fashion and can be used or reused as per their need.
It is clear that with such a high population, nature surely struggles to meet the demand. Fast fashion, on the other hand, chose to exploit it. The principles of circular fashion, however, revolve around the production that is done with the help of renewable materials, thus flipping the concept of its head. With old clothes can be turned into new, circular fashion, instead of being a trend, can become a lifestyle norm in the new future.
Clothes have always been considered as part of one's expression, so it is clear that whether or not the popularity of the term increases in the next few years, it is still going to have a heavy influence on those who choose to practice it.