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Why (fast) fashion steps forward circularity

by Admin Vivify Textiles on February 01, 2022

- Kayla Poe

Fast fashion has been on the rise in the fashion industry; however, this causes issues.  The fast fashion industry is responsible for a lot of waste and environmental issues  . For example, the fast fashion industry uses 1.5 trillion litres of water every year. The industry also is responsible for one garbage truck of textile waste every second  . Not everything is sold and is thrown out and consumers also quickly throw out the garments they purchase.  The fashion industry has  become one of the most  polluting industries in the world. With the environmental issue on the rise, consumers are demanding for more circular fashion and slow fashion alternatives. 

So what is Circular Fashion and what does slow fashion mean? Circular fashion according to Motif is a regenerative system where garments are circulated for as long as they can be to reach their maximum value, the garment is then retained and either recycled into new fabric or processed so the little waste produced can be safely returned to nature. When creating products to fit in the circular model it is important to consider the products ‘end-of-life’, which is the stage where the product can no longer be reused. When doing so, designers must consider two very important things, designing for longevity and material that allows textile recycling. Designing a product with longevity in mind will make sure products can be used and reused for as long as possible. Material cyclability consideration will ensure that when the products reach the end of their life, they can be regenerated into new resources. 

As talked about before the pollution caused by the fast fashion industry has caused consumers to push companies to become more sustainable. But can fast fashion companies really become circular or sustainable. In short, the answer is yes and no, fast fashion companies cannot really become completely circular or sustainable, due to the nature of what they do. As so much product is being produced and wasted, the companies would have to completely rework their business model. Currently, companies like H&M are trying to become more sustainable by using recycled material rather than new raw material. H&M have also created the H&M foundation where they support innovations in the textile industry.  For example, the H&M foundation has the goal that by 2030 the company will only use recycled or sustainably sourced materials. The group is also working closely with the UN to reach UN Sustainable Development Goals. Like stated before the only way for fast fashion companies to become completely sustainable they would have to no longer be fast fashion companies. 

Benefits of the circular Fashion:

  1. It reduces the dependency on the linear production approach and has made waste become new materials for the new economy. 
  2.  It shifts demand to reward companies which are sustainable and doing the right thing for more job creations and rewarded by making sustainable products.
  3. It allows eco-friendly brands and designers to resonate better with their consumers, instead of “green washing”, they are actually doing the right thing by measuring and monitoring their production cycle. .
  4. It reduces the environmental damage that is caused by resource extraction.

Limitations to the circular economy:

  • It is dependent on consumer actions and how fast consumers can shift their demand to sustainable companies.
  • It is difficult to create a new business model on the basis of recycled goods.
  • The cycle requires integrating the product life cycle from raw material to disposal.

Even though this is the case, there are plenty of brands that participate or are moving toward a circular economy today. You can check our “Good on You” app for more comprehensive comparison of different sustainable brands and how they are tracking on their sustainability approach. :

  • Patagonia- Though they are not completely circular they are moving in that direction. Not only does the company produce designs that are durable and long-lasting but if a customer no longer wants a product the company will resell it through their ‘Worn Wear’ Program. 
  • Thousand Fell- This company produces recyclable sneakers. When a customer is done with their sneakers, they can send them back to the brand. The brand will then take returned shoes and recycle and/or compost them, the recycle materials are brought back into Thousand Fell’s supply chain. 
  • For Days- This company produces organic cotton clothing, they also allow customers to swap products out if they are past their prime, ripped, full of holes, or stained. They then take the swapped clothing and up-cycle the old garments into new products. 
  • H&M- H&M is moving toward a more sustainable model. The company is hoping to use only recycled or sustainable sourced material by 2030. The company has also made several lines of clothing that use recycled materials.