The Weekly Journal | Fashion

By Yenia Hernandez Fonseca- July 27, 2022


Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Since late 2018, circularity has quickly become one of the most embraced sustainability concepts across the world. We break it down for you below. 

What is circular fashion?

A circular economy is the leading, fast-moving effort based on a model of sustainable production and consumption of goods, eliminating waste and pollutants by reusing and recycling materials.

In fashion, a circular economy creates better products and services for customers, contributes to a resilient and thriving industry. Anna Brismar first coined ‘circular fashion’ back in 2017. Circular fashion refers to clothes, shoes and accessories that are designed, sourced, produced and sold with the intention to be used responsibly and circulated effectively among society in their most valuable form, for as long as possible, in order to eventually return safely into the biosphere when it’s no longer of human use. 

Circular fashion is all about creating a cycle from your purchases, avoiding the need to create new materials or new garments, and instead reusing what is already circulating out there.

What are the environmental benefits of circular fashion?

A circular economy in fashion is a viable alternative to replace the linear, take-make-waste model with a circular, recover-recycle-reuse model. 

Fashion as we know it is linear. A linear fashion economy moves in a straight line, from design to disposal. Since the industry is designed to maximize clothing sales it mostly benefits from a current linear business model, which starts with material extraction, textile production, and design, to manufacturing, sales, marketing, and end of life. But what if this business model could shift? 

Transitioning to a circular economy not only reduces the negative impacts of a linear economy, but it also represents a systemic shift that will build long-term resilience, generate business and economic opportunities, and provide environmental benefits for the future.

A circular economy adds value to every product because it turns waste into materials that can be reinjected into the chain. As the fashion industry continues to face heavy pressure to reduce carbon emissions and waste, it has given added impetus to the argument for circularity. 

A circular economy in fashion is a viable alternative to replace the linear, take-make-waste model with a circular, recover-recycle-reuse model. 

What are the economic benefits of circular fashion?

Reshaping how products are designed and sold is expected to not only deliver environmental and social benefits, but adopting a circular business model also unlocks significant economic opportunities. 

According to a 2020 Circular Fashion Report, compiled by a group of industry and academics, the potential value of fashion’s circular economy could be as high as $5 trillion USD. It argues for a digitalized product-centric, rather than consumer-centric approach. 

A circular economy aims to close the loop, focusing on turning waste into renewable materials and energy. Circular design keeps products and services in a continuous cycle of recycling, repurposing and use. 

This rethink of how the industry currently operates is gaining traction among sustainable fashion brands. Patagonia is applauded for its equipment rental programme and use of recycled fabrics, Levi Strauss launched a rental-only capsule collection of upcycled denim made with vintage jeans under the Ganni brand, while secondhand retailers like thredUP, The RealReal, and Rent the Runway keep clothes in use for as long as possible as their central business strategy.

While most products end up in landfills they are easily resellable. Improved recycling technologies have also proved to be potentially transformative. Therefore, as we aim to steer away from the traditional, linear ecosystem, another goal is making fashion traceable, transparent and more sustainable for businesses, consumers, and the planet.

Why should more brands transition from a linear to a circular business model?

A sustainable fashion industry is the sum of all its details. It takes a global village to save the planet and create a clean environment for everyone. Here are the main reasons why circular clothing brands are important in this transition:

Reduced waste 

Circular fashion items are manufactured with waste reduction as the top priority. Reusing materials means less waste in our landfills.

Reduced environmental impact of production

Since circular fashion advocates for reusing materials that already exist, less natural materials are created. A circular economy in fashion reduces the need to create new resources from raw materials.

Renewable energy sources

With a circular fashion business model, manufacturing and transportation processes use renewable energy such as wind and solar power to promote green energy and decrease air pollution. This means reduction of greenhouse gases, less water use, less water and soil contamination.