Circular Fashion before it is too late!

by Alice Beyer Schuch – Sep/2016


We must think about sustainable fashion and circular economy before it is too late. We will see why…

(This article was written to Slow Fashion Next – in Spanish)

By definition, we have “fashion”, a temporal use that regulates, according to the taste of the moment, the dress code, manners, behaviors… To this term, we add “sustainable” something that can be sustained, which is able to be preserved and maintained. Two contradictory concepts, one about transitions, another about continuity, but that definitely should go hand in hand. The math is simple …

The fashion industry is a giant which employs about 60 million people around the globe and is also one of the most polluting industries on the planet. We produce nearly 90 million tons of textiles per year, and for that, we finish our water reserves, pollute our rivers with the most toxic pesticides and chemicals, destroy soil and forests, use high energy levels, pollute the air we breathe, and irresponsibly exploit lives.

We know how (un)glamorous fashion can be… We are consuming our natural and social resources in front of our eyes. And if we intend to continue our journey, we need to incorporate sustainability into our action plans. And after all, we are more than 7 billion people on Earth, and forecasts point to more than 9 billion by 2050!

Definitely, if we continue like this, we will have to move to another planet!

global-footprint-networkSource: Global Footprint Network

Experts estimate that in 2030 we will consume 40% more water (from where? I wonder), and we will need 200 million additional hectares for food crops. Besides that, unless we decide to adopt “naked-trend” as the new dress-code, we will also need more clothes – something like an additional demand of about 15 million tons only in natural fibres. And knowing that fashion is one of the most dependent industries on natural resources, how to proceed in this way?

 Fashion consumption has doubled in the last 30 years. We produce annually about 80 billion garments, which hit the stores weekly. We buy, give little value to it, we throw it! The proof? In 2014 in Hong Kong they dumped 110,000 tons of textiles – something like 1,400 shirts per minute. In the United States, today’s consumers buy twice as much as 20 years ago – in 2007 an average of each 4 or 5 days a new purchase. In the same year, in Europe, 3 pairs of jeans per second were sold.

The worst of all? Our weakness has become the main trade currency. Why? Indeed, often we do not even use what we buy! How many pair of jeans do you have in the closet? How many of them you wear regularly? In Germany, a study showed that 40% of what we have in our closet is rarely (or never) used.

We need to think urgently, in circularize fashion! Thinking about new perspectives in design and businesses, where sustainable fashion and circular economy meet.  We must develop actions and guide lines that focus on the circular way, thinking about the end of the cycle of a product before you create it. But not only that …. Let’s do not restrict the idea of circular economy only to the recycling of materials. There are other loops, other sectors which also pertain to the subject.

 Circular fashion rethinks textiles, processes, forms of consumption, design and even business models that preserve natural capital, prolong the life-time of products, capture the maximum value of the existing products and structures, and eliminate the concept of waste.

 And talking about waste… Globally, an estimated 400 million square meters of fabric are produced each year, of which more than 60 million square meters are left on the cutting room – enough material to cover San Marino. Moreover, of the 80 billion garments produced annually, it is estimated that only 20% is destined for recycling worldwide. And the rest?

Could it be that there is no value in all that we discard? Or should we be expose to the shortage of primary resources and price volatility? Could it be that there is no room for the development of new systems, ideas, dematerialization? Can we think of other ways to offer products? Are there new alternatives to this immense need for consumption?

Circular Fashion Chain by Alice Beyer Schuch

With so many changes in the way, isn’t important to think about what can be done now, before it is too late? Circular sustainable fashion is not a trend, it is the alternative to current problems, which must be urgently applied in case we want to move forward.

As Albert Einstein said, insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect from that different results.


If you are interested on the topic, keep in touch! There is a new project getting ready for you!

*** References:

Reporte McKinse 2011; Reporte WRAP Evaluating new business models in the clothing sector 2013; Livro To Dye For – Is fashion wearing out the world? Lucy Siegle, 2011; Greenpeace News; Greenpeace Study „Wegwerfware Kleidung”; and Fashion Revolution White Paper. Dez, 2015.

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