Updated: Jun 15
In a society where everything - lattes, housing and education is becoming more expensive, how is clothing becoming less expensive?
It is the awareness for social and environmental detriment of the fast fashion industry that has given rise to a circular economy, or more specifically, circular fashion.
The system in which majority of the fashion industry functions on is a linear one of Take, Make and Waste. With a growing global population comes a demand for clothing further accelerated by fast fashion retail culture. This excessive supply of low-quality seasonal styles encourages a vicious cycle of disposal and acquisition of what is trending for next season. What comes out of this process is land and water scarcity, pollution, habitat loss and labour exploitation that have altogether resulted in irreversible consequences such as death and extinction at its most extreme.
“In a society where everything - lattes, housing and education is becoming more expensive, how is clothing becoming less expensive?” - Tamara Jones, Life in The Slow Lane: Sustainable Fashion 101
A circular model is a system where raw materials are fed back to the system when they reach their end of life. It is hardly a band-aid to the damage done but certainly a chance for the fashion industry to redeem itself from the quagmire of fabric dye-contaminated rivers, landfills of past-season textile and plastic traps set in the ocean and eventually into our food chain.
80% of the industry’s environmental impact is a result of poor decisions made in the design phase. In order for a circular system to take effect, every stage of the business requires conscious consideration. We’re talking everything that makes a sustainable, biodegradable product - from the ignition of an idea to the process of choosing recycled fabric and progressively improving the manufacturing process to educating consumers to optimise the longevity and commit to the maintenance of their item.
Essentially, a circular system aims to replace the linear system and put in place a never-ending production cycle that works on a more efficient and cost-effective operation. If brands knew their resale value, they’d be more than likely to invest in producing high quality garments.
IS CIRCULAR FASHION THE NEW SUSTAINABLE?
Does circular equate to sustainable and vice versa? As with sustainability - the buzziest word of the industry, circular fashion also carries with itself a series of definitions.
According to Dr. Anna Brismar, founder and owner of Green Strategy, circular fashion is "clothes, shoes or accessories that are designed, sourced, produced and provided with the intention to be used and circulated responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use”.
The way we see it, sustainability supports the system of circular fashion.
Participating in the process of circular fashion is choosing sustainable fabrics with uncompromising quality such as linen, sustainable wool and silk so that they can live in your closet for ever or if you have a change of heart, reach its next user in an equally beautiful state experienced by yourself. It means ensuring the longevity of a piece of garment by paying attention to its washing instructions and looking into alternative methods such as steaming and laundry sprays. Finally, it also means supporting brands that participate in fair and ethical manufacturing and encouraging other brands to be transparent about their procedure.
“What was desirable to you will be equally desirable to someone else once you decide to part ways with it.” - Azza Yousif, Stylist
The role of an individual in the operation of circular fashion also means to primarily eliminate disposal as an option - mending a tear in your jeans instead of throwing them out for a new one at the store saves 2,000 gallons of water and an unquantifiable amount of chemicals. It also entails reflecting upon our behaviour towards shopping and being more conscious about the impact - no matter how seemingly small, we have on our world.
Eliminating disposal doesn’t mean hoarding styles you’ve grown out of but engaging with other avenues to renew your closet and this is really where the most fun happens.
“Ditching fast fashion means giving ourselves a chance to develop our own personal styles. Who are we? Where is our tribe? How do we want the world to see us?
There is so much joy to be had in developing our own look as a source of self expression. Ditching fast fashion leaves us free to explore and create.” - Mhairi McClymont, 3 More Reasons to Ditch Fast Fashion
The True Cost by Andrew Morgan
Life in The Slow Lane: Sustainable Fashion 101 by Tamara Jones
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hello, my name is Claudia Ho.
Fashion, sappy poetry and building small virtual worlds are amongst some things I enjoy.
Sometimes I cut up the IKEA catalogue, ponder about the here and now and draw boys on Tinder - all of which you can view here.