Circular Fashion – Where To Next?

The current fashion model operates following a linear economy view, by prioritizing mass production and consumption of clothing and footwear. In fact, some problems such as green washing arise, leading the sector of fashion and luxury to be one of the most polluting. According to Cristina Gennari (2023), journalist for “Il sole 24 ore”, fashion industry is responsible for the exploitation of $ 93 billion cubic meters of water and for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions, estimated to be between 8% and 10% of the global total. 

The result is also a huge increase in waste produced, with landfills such as the Atacama Desert overflowing with discarded clothes, some of which have never even been used. Moreover, overconsumption and overproduction continue to be requested by the market, and fueled by aggressive marketing campaigns, omnipresent advertising, and power of influencers. 

Consumers are really attracted due to the low prices offered but also for a personal and social acceptance condition. However, on the other hand, many agents are recognizing the pressing threat coming from the limited resources, and the increasing impact on environmental issues coming from this sector, thus they are starting to think about the circular economy in fashion. 

What is circular fashion? 

According to Bas Fransen (2023), “A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. In the context of the fashion industry, circular fashion refers to a regenerative approach where clothing and textiles are designed, produced, and consumed with the aim of minimising waste, pollution, and the use of natural resources.”

From this definition, the main principles that emerge are especially related to a change in the production chain, from the selection of natural resources, their use, and the recycling process. The main purposes to take in mind are a design that should be based on longevity and durability, with possibilities to recycle the entire product or some of its components at the end of life. To reach this objective, the main idea to be applied is the one of closed loop systems where the materials are continuously cycled back into the economy, thus reducing the need for new resource extraction. 

What are the main benefits of circular fashion? 

Adopting a circular economy system leads to a variety of attractive benefits extending beyond style and trends. 

First, surely, waste is supposed to decrease close to 60% over the next 7 years (Hamurari, 2023) thanks to conscientious manufacturing, recycling, and upcycling textile waste. Moreover, this will enable a conservation system of resources, thus invoking the system to maximize its longevity, especially when dealing with energy, water and raw materials not highly renewable. Finally, this will allow the firms to experience high cost savings since by recycling, repairing and reusing they are able to close the loop on product, and this results in a reduction in operational spending. Finally in terms of environmental benefits, beyond the reduction of waste, there will be a conservation of natural resources since producing sustainable garments has the main aim of conserving more of the resources. 

To conclude, it is worth to say that many brands are adopting circular economy practices within their business models. Although it might seem difficult and costly, the transition is starting to occur, also because of the need to align with consumers’ awareness about the topic, and their consequent higher demand for sustainable practices. Finally, concerning the economic benefits arising, firms may consider the expansion to more sustainable practices as an investment for the future, mainly in terms of innovation, at the same time benefiting the environment.

By Anastasia Binando and Elena Molinari.


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