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Circular Fashion – Future of Fashion?

When it comes to sustainability in fashion, it is increasingly about “circular fashion”. What does that mean and why is it important? Find out more here.

When people talk about sustainability in fashion, the term “circular fashion” comes up more and more often. But what does that actually mean and why should we take a closer look at the topic? This article explains the future of sustainable fashion and the benefits of the circular economy.

Take, make, waste

The linear economic system, which is still predominantly used in the fashion industry, is not exactly sustainable or resource-efficient. Take, Make, Waste is the motto and
that means a lot of garbage. To be precise, 92 million tons of textile waste annually (1).
Of this, just 10% is recycled and only 1% finds its way back into new clothing (2).

It is quite clear that this system not only cannot function in the long term, but also contributes significantly to environmental pollution and all the problems that come with it. But how did it even come to this?

The development of the fashion industry

In the last 20 years, the production of our clothing has doubled, but overall we wear our clothing much less often than before before we decide to throw it away (3). This may be due to the lower quality or simply because we no longer like the items because they are out of fashion. Approximately 2/3 of all textiles today are synthetic (4) and therefore cause so-called microplastics during use (for example when washing). It is still unclear what effects microplastics have on humans and animals, but it is clear that something has to change. In the worst case scenario, it is estimated that people consume around the size of a credit card worth of microplastics per year. (5)

The principle of circular fashion

So how does circular fashion work? As the word circular suggests, it's all about creating a cycle. The purpose is to keep materials and resources alive for as long as possible. In order for this to succeed, the design must be rethought. It's not just about appearance and function, but also about longevity and how recyclable textiles are designed. Clothing must either consist of 100% of one type of fiber (monofibers) or of fibers that can be recycled together and are therefore fully compostable or recyclable and must be designed and produced in such a way that individual parts can be easily replaced and reused. In a perfect circular system there is no waste, everything is recycled or returned to nature (6) .
The materials should not have a negative impact on people or the environment, quality should trump quantity and the design should be wearable for more than just one season. If we take all of this into account, we can get some benefits from the circular economic system.

The advantages

On the one hand, a circular system is sustainable and better for the environment in many ways. There is hardly any waste, resources are conserved and clothing can achieve its true value through durability and timeless design. In addition, significantly less wastewater and fewer greenhouse gases would be produced and we could save around 1.3 million tons of clothing from the trash every year in Germany alone (7) .

On the other hand, it also brings a lot of economic advantages, because the mountain of waste is expensive. The linear economic system costs us a whopping $500 billion annually (7) . By switching to a circular system, additional new jobs could be created and the money we save by reducing waste could be invested in promoting new innovations.

The disadvantages

There is none! Only the switch to circular fashion takes some time, as well as better methods to exploit the full potential of old clothing. For example, drop-off points for targeted recycling or company take-back services can be a first step.

What can we do as a company?

As designers and manufacturers of clothing, we can design garments that outlast trends and can still be worn for many years to come. On the other hand, we can work with monofibers or with combinations that can be reprocessed together so that the entire garment can be recycled at the end of its life. Natural materials are ideal for this. At the moment 95% of our products are made from monofibers. From 2022, we will no longer produce clothing items that are not recyclable.

What can I do as a consumer?

We are clothing manufacturers, but also consumers and we have more power than we think. Our purchasing behavior has an enormous influence on market developments. There are a lot of things you can do to make a positive contribution to circular fashion. A look at the textile label tells us a lot about a piece of clothing. Is it made from 100% one resource (e.g. cotton)? Excellent! That means it can be recycled. Is it perhaps even made from recycled material? Great! Made in Europe? Even better. We should also always ask ourselves: Do I need this? How long will I wear it? Will I still like it next year?

 

Back to the roots

To really make a difference we should go back to the roots. This means leaving fast fashion behind, appreciating slow fashion and thinking holistically. In combination with new and innovative solutions, we may be able to turn the corner and protect people and the environment instead of destroying them.

- by Marlina Laß for Studio Hertzberg -

(1) https://www.qut.edu.au/study/creative-industries/news?id=177289

(2) Kyle-J-Ritchie, Circular Economy for Dummies, Chapter 18: the Economy for Fashion and Clothing

(3) https://www.lepicot.com/de/story/mode-in-der-kreiswirtschaft

(4) Kyle-J-Ritchie, Circular Economy for Dummies, Chapter 18: the Economy for Fashion and Clothing

(5) https://www.spektrum.de/news/umwelt-wie-schaedlich-ist-microplastik-real/1872625

(6) Kyle-J-Ritchie, Circular Economy for Dummies, Chapter 18: the Economy for Fashion and Clothing

(7) https://www.itfits.de/newsletter/journal-02-19/morgen-müll/

(8) Kyle-J-Ritchie, Circular Economy for Dummies, Chapter 18: the Economy for Fashion and Clothing

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