Understanding How the Fashion Economy is Changing From Linear to Circular

“I want to buy that!”… A simple, yet highly effective phrase. A phrase we utter everyday, from food to books to jewellery to clothes to handbags… and the list goes on. It is the inevitable truth! Consumerism lies at the centre of our lives! 

Now lets think of it! We buy, we use, and then we discard! But what happens next? Many industries in the market today are designed and catered to a linear take-make-dispose approach, a 100% consumption model based on units sold. The fashion industry is no different.

According to the Circular Fashion Summit (CFS) report 2020, the current apparel system is extremely wasteful and polluting. The average number of times a garment is worn before being disposed of has decreased 36 percent in comparison to 15 years ago. Every second, around one garbage bag of textiles is landfilled or burned globally. Imagine the pollution resulting in that! Terrible, isn’t it? 

The linear fashion system also uses abundant amounts of resources that have a negative impact on the environment as well as the people! The textiles industry in fact relies mostly on non-renewable resources…98 million tons in total every year!

Nevertheless, 2020, according to CFS is witnessing changes in the fashion industry that is challenging the way products are produced, used and disposed. Year Zero, the beginning of the circular economy in fashion. A starting point for radical change, the awakening of humanity and the year that the fashion industry started adjusting to digitisation and circularity. Changing the business model of fashion from a consumption model to ownership, monetising fashion in a more sustainable approach. This, however, requires strategic, industry-wide transformation, which include product design, as well as infrastructure. You may wonder how such an ambitious goal is achieved? The answer is new technology and innovations, which are paving the path to a more sustainable fashion system. 

Its a 4 man show! Designer, manufacturer, retailer and consumer! The fashion industry is now introducing different practices that can lead to a more eco-friendly future. Subscription models, swap & take programs, resale and digital fashion, are just some methods the fashion industry is taking to change KPI from “units sold” to “times used”. Imagine that! We no longer just dispose, but recycle, reuse and reduce, the famous 3 r’s! Ha!

Materials are being reinvented to sustainable and greener materials, through regenerative production, biotechnology, renewable processes, and chemical science. Today, fashion designers are trying to shift their practice to a greener one, looking at materials that act as environmentally friendly substitutes to chemically dyed ones. Alongside, reducing waste, through introducing new technologies that have made it possible to turn waste into textiles. Hopefully, to go back as food for the earth! Mother nature is hungry!

But what about the digitisation? How can that assist in shifting the industry to a more sustainable one? Fashion brands today are utilising digital approaches throughout the whole design process, from production to end. With the rise of COVID-19, businesses needed to find a solution to operating at a time where working face to face is no longer the only way to do so! Digital production is a booming concept, emphasised by new technologies such as 3D design, traceability, blockchain and digital modelling…etc, which can increase product value for the consumer, and may require less materials and a more efficient way of production. 

Digital retail and digital circularity are also being introduced as a way to make it more accessible to the consumers. Retail is radically changing! Fashion brands are constantly working with virtual and augmented reality providers to digitise their physical stores, leading to a more conscious consumption, making sustainable shopping easy! We no longer buy insensibly, but more consciously! Parallel to that comes the digital circularity system, which is adopted by several fashion brands today, through implementing take-back programs, aiding in the control of products after their cycles end, an issue that luxury fashion always witnessed. 

Nevertheless, regardless of the incentives and techniques that fashion brands are adopting for a more sustainable future, the consumer is the core drive for business growth, and therefore an essential in the proliferation of sustainable and ethical fashion systems. Without the consumer’s effort the fashion industry will not be able to move forward to a greener path! So what are we waiting for?

Its a 4 man show! I don’t know about you, but I, as a consumer will definitely take a part of it!