6 tips from 10 Pros to design a circular fashion system
Setting the scene for the future of circular fashion
After delving into this area, I came across many sustainable fashion designers and influencers.
So, I thought I could leverage their portfolio to build up a capsule wardrobe of fresh ideas.
I came up with the following two questions for each of the experts to answer:
1) “Which are the top 3 solutions the textile industry should pursue to catalyse circular fashion?”
2) “Which are the top 3 things consumers can do to promote a circular fashion system?”
Heaps of circular tips for promoting sustainable fashion in the future!
And I’m now getting them out of the closet for you…
I’m a master trainer in corporate etiquette by profession and a Slow Fashion Campaigner, by passion. Also, I’m a Global Ambassadors Manager for Slow Fashion Movement—a global NGO— uniting people to take action and demand a better fashion industry. On top of that, I write on a lifestyle blog, named NVogue, where I share tips about "Mindful Living".
As a solution to pave its way into circularity, the textile industry should align with the principles of circular economy, considering regenerative and restorative models. They should make durability more attractive, giving flexibility on cloth designing and functionality like modifiable clothes which is possible to styling in varied ways by the consumer.
Produce high quality yet affordable clothing, durable rather than disposable. Also, if you don’t know what materials go in and what properties they have, you can’t figure out what can go circular.
Providing access to inputs that are safe and renewable. Caring for the fabric, thereby supporting the efforts of consumers to keep their clothes for a longer time.
To start with, STOP blindly chasing trends. To make well-informed purchasing decision, you should be mindful of the type of designs, fabrics used, and the number of times you can wear a garment.
Sign up for rental and resale platforms. Sell and upcycle your clothes. Swap clothes and most importantly care for the fabric to prolong their lifespan.
Sign up for a crowdaction or plead for No New Clothes or Fashion Detox campaigns run by virtual movements like Remake and Slow Fashion MOvement. This helps to avoid mindless and unconscious purchasing tendencies.
I studied a BSC in Physical Geography and then a MSc in Hydrology before becoming a Hydrologist who then went on to specialize in flood management and prediction. I started to become interested in water usage and how water can become circular. The sheer volume of water used, and the carbon footprint of the fashion industry is of particular interest to me in addition to chemical usage and microplastics from synthetic clothing.
Design out waste: There is a lot of waste produced from the fashion industry, so one way the industry can help is by designing out waste. This can be done by using laser technology to cut the clothes to ensure minimum material waste, by using good quality and durable material that can withstand 100+ washes and by using recycled and upcycled materials.
Offer repair services: The industry could do a lot more to keep clothes in circulation for longer and extending their length of wear by offering repair services that are easily accessible for people to use.
Cut down the number of collections released per year: Promoting collections on websites and social media only encourages consumers to buy more, which in turn adds to the Take-Make-Wear-Dispose problem known as the linear economy model. The fashion industry needs to embrace a circular system and think about every stage of a garments life, including the final one.
"Consumers have the power to vote with their wallets. Consumers have the power to steer the fashion industry in the right direction, but it all depends on how much people actually care. They will have to learn to adopt Vivienne Westwood’s mantra: Buy less, choose well, make it last”.
Consumers can start by shopping in their own wardrobes. By adding an accessory or styling a piece of clothing in a new way, they can create new looks without buying. Pinterest for example has great styling inspiration and there are even apps where you can add items from your own wardrobe to create fresh looks.
The second tip I can advise on is borrowing or swapping an item. For example, you could swap an item of clothing with your best friend or relative.
The third tip is to explore the clothes rental and second-hand market. There are more and more companies renting clothing to increase their wears and keep them in circulation longer. The second-hand market nowadays is easily accessible to a lot of people. Buying new, regardless of whether it’s fast or sustainable fashion, should be a consumers’ last choice as it still eats up on raw materials, energy, chemicals, and emissions. If consumers want to go more towards a circular economy, then we must start thinking differently about our clothes.
Founding Partner of imogo AB. Sales and marketing specialist with 20 years’ experience from the Textile and Printing industries
A lot of focus has been on new sustainable fibres. This has given result and the new fibres are entering the market. Now focus needs to shift to how the new fibres (and other fibres) are treated in making fabrics out of them. This part of the textile industry has been neglected for a long time and things need to happen. Here we’re looking for something that can disrupt the industry and force a change.
Look out for new business models. Today second-hand and refurbished garments are increasing. Also renting cloths is something that is being introduced on a larger scale.
Demand relevant information on the carbon footprint of each piece of clothing. Just because it’s organic cotton doesn’t mean that it’s sustainably manufactured.
Recycled polyester isn’t necessarily better than virgin polyester. The recycled polyester is not made of recycled cloths. Much is produced from other plastic materials that might have a working recycle process such as plastic bottles. Using used plastic bottles to make cloths means that new bottles need to be made out of virgin oil.
John Bertolaso is the co-founder and CTO of Materra. His work focuses on the development and implementation of the company’s products and technologies in the field. John has a background in mechanical engineering and design innovation, with experience leading complex engineering projects across industries internationally. He is passionate about the convergence of emerging technologies and future design practices to build resilience in natural and societal ecosystems.
Innovative new business models to shift from a linear extractive model to one that can support all stakeholders equitably and regenerate nature along the way.
Resource-efficient raw materials and processes, along with data to prove it.
The world is undergoing rapid changes, and we need solutions that aim for both climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Buy better garments and use them for longer.
Demand that brands step up their game.
Rosanne van der Meer
Rosanne van der Meer is Founder and Creative Concept Developer at New Industrial Order. She has 15+ years of experience in creative concept development in textiles and fashion design. MA of Law, award-winning knitwear designer. Founder of 3D Knitwear brand “The Girl and the Machine”.
Making the transition to true demand-driven production by connecting sales data—not just big data but very detailed data concerning the user of the product, such as size and preferences—to fast, flexible and local manufacturing methods.
Invest in design, research and development of products made with recycled content. While it’s not easy to make great products out of inferior material (which is what recycled content is by nature), it’s possible with a serious development.
Invest in good quality and accessible life cycle assessment (LCA) for new circular economy product ideas from designers, brands, and sustainable fashion manufacturers. For small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs), it takes a lot of work to find out what the impact of their solutions will be—and if it will actually counter climate change.
Take a moment to think: What item do I really need? Try to find that, instead of shopping randomly
Buy stuff with recycled content
Don't buy from fashion brands who show no intention of moving away from the business model that has made them thrive: Pushing clothes into the market, making you believe you need them.
Dr. Saremi is an inventor, entrepreneur, experienced polymer, fiber, and textile scientist, and consultant specializing in circular fashion and sustainable and innovative textiles. She is currently a research lab manager at the University of Georgia, where she continues to pursue research related to developing innovative, cost-effective, and sustainable textile technologies. Outside of the university, she is the CSO of Phoenxt, an international textile recycling company focused on eradicating environmental problems resulting from the textile industry, such as increased carbon dioxide production. She also founded EcoaTEX, a textile technology startup focused on creating eco-friendly textile coatings.
Adopting sustainable methods and technologies to recycle water & chemicals and decrease energy use. Use sustainable raw materials for clothing, eliminate or reduce toxic chemicals that hurt the environment and people's lives, and produce high-quality textile products that last for a long time.
Recycle fibers and reuse them in textile products, thus limiting the consumption of raw materials. Fashion tech brands like Phoenxt have been trying to recycle blended, natural, and synthetic fibers. With the support of the textile industry, these fashion tech designers could increase the amount of recycled textile waste to up to 95%.
Decrease the textile production’s carbon footprint. According to the 2021 @ACTA NSW Textile Data Report, the textile industry emits 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, which is 8% of total global CO2 emissions. Recycling textiles can also play a role in extending garment and fabric life cycles and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The best thing we can do as consumers is to buy less and reuse more.
Check the labels and buy textiles that are made of recycled synthetic and sustainable fibres.
Buy from brands adopting sustainable initiatives and those who are committed to build a circular fashion system.
Brazilian, Italian, and Portuguese citizen, inventor, and co-founder of Clean Ocean Fiber Technology—a family-owned business of textile innovation in sustainable yarns. Graduate of the University of Textile Technology in São Paulo. Inventor of a pending patent on a new technological breakthrough in process and product in 2018 based on several scientific studies and laboratory tests. This ground-breaking technology prevents fibre shedding and enables a high closed LOOP for circularity and biodegradability of clothes, thus promoting high level durability of fibres in clothes and preventing the pollution of the environment with fibre residues.
Invest in Clean Ocean technology to prevent fibre shedding, thus manufacturing more durable and circular textiles.
Adopt a chemical fibre separation
Avoid synthetic staple fibre. It’s an blend process from 1800
Consume more hemp, linen or wool product
Use coconut-based home, body, and laundry cleaners.
Harald joined Renewcell in 2017 as the company made the transition from research to commercialisation. He leads marketing and brand development for Circulose®, Renewcell’s 100% textile-to-textile recycled material. He manages brand and growth strategy for the company and played a key role in Renewcell’s IPO on Nasdaq First North Premier GM in Stockholm in 2020. Harald holds a B.Sc. in Economics from Uppsala University.
Design for circularity, meaning extending the use of the product and materials that went into it for as long as possible. All products should always be designed with end of life in mind. Will the fibers that make up your design slosh around as microplastic in the great Pacific garbage patch a hundred years from now or will they turn into nutrients for plants and animals?
Offtake agreements. Circularity needs scale to have an impact. Enough with the capsule collections, one-offs and experiments — sign deals with innovators that promises cash flow in the future so that they can fund their investment in hardware to get it done.
Clarity of purpose. Brands that try to strike a balance between “sustainable” and regular old conventional don’t have much of a future. Stop deferring to the consumer. Either you’re part of the problem or the solution. Sustainable fashion labels should make their choice and pursue it relentlessly.
Buy what lasts. The most sustainable garment is the one you already have, so make sure whatever you put in your closet is something either you or someone else can use for 10 years.
Buy second-hand. Pre-owned garments are cheap, stylish and better for the planet.
Wash your jeans less often. Hang them outside to air every now and then instead. They will look cooler, last longer, feel nicer and you’ll lower your electricity bill and CO2 footprint.
Richard is an experienced project management professional and entrepreneur fascinated by the circular economy. He joined Effekt Footwear with a background in e-commerce and a focus on reshaping the perception of waste. He contributed to design a sustainable sneaker made of >90% upcycled waste materials.
Design out waste. Think beyond the shelf life of the products and ensure they don‘t end up as waste but are repurposed/recycled/reintroduced as an other product or refurbished (i.e. you should rather produce on demand and tailor your output to the needs of the customer than offering 10 different opportunities for the customer to choose from)
Ensure accountability for the entire supply chain. You can‘t be sustainable if 1-2-3 steps down your supply chain there are poor working conditions or waste is released into the environment
Implement sustainable fashion practices into the business processes, including offsetting, process optimization and green energy usage. And do so even if the required initial investment doesn’t immediately pay off
Be willing to choose the sustainable solution over the convenient/better known/whatever alternative
Buy local products
Actively engage with initiatives to rethink waste and encourage recycling/refurbishing/reusing (e.g., second-hand fashion)
Jesse studied International Business and started his professional career in a very different sector, at a fintech startup, being responsible for Dutch partnerships and business development. Jesse then joined the REMOkey team in early 2021. Being convinced that the time to help change the textile industry is now, Jesse is enthusiastic and eager to help brands better understand their sustainability data so they can effectively inform consumers about the impact of their products.
New business models that extend the life of textiles
Safe, sustainable, and renewable inputs for textile production
Recycling solutions so used textiles are turned into new
When you need to buy clothes, buy vintage, used or circular fashion.
Educate friends and family about the story and value of a circular fashion system.
Try to look at your own wardrobe and sell, give away or hand in any clothes or textiles you don't need.
Right, that was a lot of circular information! Hope it didn’t make your head spin…
There seems to be a common thread among tips given by the experts to manufacturers and consumers: Using less materials with a higher quality.
Designing a circular fashion system means designing out waste.
Textile producers can achieve that by recycling fibers and reuse them for making new garments, for instance. As for consumers, we should buy less (rent instead) yet more durable (possibly second-hand) clothing.
On top of that, people should be able to verify whether clothes are actually made by sustainable fashion materials. Which leads me to the other crucial point raised by the interviewees: Traceability.
If a piece of clothing is fully traceable, consumers can check its history before buying it. That would be the only way shoppers can figure out whether there’s a sustainable supply chain in the fashion industry.
Overall, according to these professionals, there’s a lot that can be done.
So, let’s roll up our circular sleeves and get to work!