Year after year more is being done to tackle the problems created and faced by the fashion industry. Brands are launching lines made from entirely recycled clothes, people are waking up to the harmful effects of synthetic fabrics that are polluting our ecosystems. Some support the idea of only buying second hand, possibly the eco-friendliest choice that exists for us consumers. However it’s not an accessible choice for everyone – some prefer to keep on top of the seasonal trends, and some find that it does not cater to plus sizes. We shouldn’t be forced to forgo our love of fashion or settle for the wrong sizes, but the issue of waste needs to be addressed.
This is where the concept of circular fashion comes into the equation. Like the circular economy theory, it disregards the making, using and throwing away chain of events we are used to, and promotes getting the most out of our garments for as long as possible before recycling them into shiny new things at the end of their life.
Both Anna Brismar, owner of consultancy company Green Strategy, and international fashion brand H&M coined the term “circular fashion” back in 2014 in Sweden. The concept aligns strongly with sustainable living and caring about the entire life cycle of products. Ideally, all items would be designed with longevity in mind, created from non-toxic and environmentally friendly materials, being repaired when they break or wear instead of constantly buying new, minimising virgin material production. When the items can no longer be mended, they would be reused to create new dresses, shoes and so on. In short, over the entire life cycle, the garments should only promote sustainability and not cause any damage to the environment or society through disposal or harmful manufacturing processes.
To emphasise the key goals of circular fashion: it’s all about reducing pollution, promoting repairing instead of replacing, minimising emissions and pollutants and recycling all existing clothing to new stock.
But this isn’t some kind of unachievable utopia. Although real change starts at the top with the biggest corporate offenders that churn out the most waste and energy, as consumers we can all play a part in fashioning our own circular economies. The system promotes repairing, with the help of a sewing machine, skilled friend or seamstress, fixing up holes and hems has never been easier. Even bad stains can be removed or tie-dyed for a different look. Using apps like Depop to shift unwanted garments instead of the landfill. Recycling a top for every new top you buy. Checking the labels and shopping with sustainable fabrics in mind.
They may seem like small steps but with the influx of information and transparency in recent years about the impact fast fashion is having on the planet, we can mould the linear trajectory into a circular one and incorporate some mindful shopping into our personal lives.