Over the past few years, fashion retailers have increasingly had to answer to consumers' calls for them to make their production and supply chains more sustainable. According to last year's McKinsey report entitled The State of Fashion, sustainability is becoming a key driver of consumer decisions, with more than 65 per cent of consumers actively seeking out sustainable fashion.
So while the industry keeps on growing year upon year, the environmental conscience of fashion's consumers is spreading too. Slow Fashion, ethically-produced and sustainable clothes, upcycling and recycling, renting clothes - they're all trends that are starting to become part of the fashion industry, even the fast one.
However, as the World Resources Institute points out, we are still missing important data from the apparel industry. Not only is the industry's carbon footprint still unknown, but also the exact amount of waste that is being created. Reverse Resources estimates - optimistically - that every year 40 billion square metres of textile waste is created (enough to cover Estonia completely), but it could be up to more like 120 billion square metres (the area of North Korea!). And if we're only talking about the waste fabric here, can you imagine the figures when it comes to looking at the resources used?
Design for Circularity's Plan to Make the Fashion Industry Circular
Inspired by the idea that "waste is design gone wrong", Inga Budde developed Design for Circularity as part of her masters thesis at the International Academy of Fashion ESMOD in Berlin. Based on the principle of cradle to cradle, which seeks to create efficient waste free systems, Design for Circularity came up with an extended closed-loop platform that wants to help to:
“co-create circular products with future thinking brands and establish the circular infrastructures between all participants to keep the products in the loop while generating advantages for everyone involved."
It seeks to revolutionise the garment industry - transforming it from a linear system, full of products that are not designed to be recycled into a circular system with products made from completely recyclable materials. Connecting material developers, circular design, circular retail models and closed loop recycling technologies, all following the principles of the circular economy to create products that can be reused and recycled long into the future. The loop is extending their lifespan by using “their created infinite value to full capacity” - as its website explains - recycling and reusing the fibres over and over again until its quality no longer allows it.
Transparency and traceability are also key in this extended closed loop model. Each product comes with a scannable QR code that has all the information of the product's lifecycle and how and where it can be recycled. So all the relevant information about the materials, how it was distributed, end users and even recycling and sorting companies can be checked at any time.
Any textile producer or fashion brand can collaborate with Design for Circularity to start producing and generating clothes following its principles. It may be early days for the platform, but it's a project which demonstrates that fundamental change is possible within the fashion industry, and that technologies do exist to make textiles reusable and recyclable. And in a world where there is enough discarded clothing to power whole power plants - like the one in Sweden powered by unrecyclable clothing from H&M, that can only be a good thing.
For more on closed-loop textile recycling, check out the video below.