What Does The Circular Economy Look Like in Fashion?

Imagine this, emptying your unworn or overworn clothing into a compost bin- just like you do with your banana and avocado skins. The clothes we wear today could be nutrients for the earth in 10 years. An incredible concept, isn’t it? In terms of circularity, this concept is probably the most sustainable but currently, it is unrealistic.


Right now, much of the planet lives in excess. The fashion industry thrives on the hyper-consumerist model of buy, use, and throw out. There is a demand to have a new item for every occasion and fast fashion supplies it. For designers and brands, this response is a profitable model, but not for the planet. The concept of a circular economy leaves no room to ignore what a circular fashion industry could look like. 


The circular economy model focuses on building not just economic capital but natural and social capital. The concept is based on three main principles: Design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use and regenerate natural systems.


So what are some solutions to this growing problem? In 2013, Patrick Duffy was looking for a way to make a difference in the world, and amid his thinking, he attended his first Clothing Swap. This experience gave him the immense inspiration to start the Global Fashion Exchange. GFX is an international platform promoting sustainability in the fashion industry with motivating forums, educational content, and cultural events. 


On The Wardrobe Crisis podcast hosted by Clare Press, Duffy mentioned how his background in experiential marketing has given him teaching tools to use with GFX. Duffy explained the need for consumers to have a memorable experience to engage in a product. Duffy uses these marketing tools and uses them in GFX activities (such as Clothing Swaps) to consciously and unconsciously introduce the negative truth about the fashion industry to consumers. In the podcast, Duffy touches on an important metaphor for shopping- like the hunt and kill – the thrill you get when purchasing a new item. This sense of excitement is what leads consumers to continue buying. With swapping, that sense of thrill isn’t there, but what is present is a sense of community, empowerment, and the generation of new ideas. Swapping allows people to engage with one another, something that shopping doesn’t always offer. This engagement provides the opportunity for people to learn from each other which builds consumer awareness- a necessity for change in the fashion industry.


In June of 2020, GFX founder Patrick Duffy and co-founder of lablaco, Lorenzo Albrighi launched Swapchain, a blockchain-powered clothing swap tool. Swaps introduced a new currency to consumers, your currency is your closet. With Swapchain, transparency between consumers becomes seamless, each member is provided a digital toolkit that allows them to make accounts, upload items, and track their journey beyond the initial exchange.


Encourage yourself and others to take the time to reflect on the journey of our clothes from the time they are sewn together to when they leave our homes in trash bags with the word ‘donate’ written across in big letters.