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Finding Circular Solutions in the Fashion Industry

Updated: May 30, 2021



The next big thing in fashion and design is circular. As design itself is key to the first principle of circular economy, “design out waste and pollution.” But the harsh reality is that most things today are still designed for the linear model instead.

However, an emerging way for sustainable fashion businesses to combat waste, and help consumers get the most out of their products, is now referred to as the "circular". To transition to the circular design approach, the professionals within the fashion and design industry need to expand their horizons and to understand the use and end-of-use phases of a product’s lifecycle.

The promise of a circular design is enabled by the corresponding business model. The garments, when designed for durability, can reach their full potential through a business model that promotes care and facilitates repair, recycled only if there is a process to collect them from the consumer and to effectively re-introduce them back into the system. Therefore, a parallel effort should be made to rethink both the design of the products and the design of the underlying existing business model.

Also, the fashion industry must prioritize strategies that extend the active life of a garment, such as renting, thrifting and resale. But this requires that the existing fashion businesses to shift their mindsets, but also their business models, completely.

As traditionally, the business model is centered around the linear design theory. The clothes that were designed and produced are only produced with one, or at least the first, owner in mind. Renting or buying second-hand garments means that the garment will have multiple owners in its lifetime. This has two effects. Firstly, the costing structure of the garment will change significantly, so that multiple owners will bear the cost of the garment where previously only one owner would. Secondly, clothes will need to be redesigned to accommodate the multiple owners using the garment.

Lastly the fashion industry is calling for change. The issue of the current industry are complex and there is often confusion as to how the industry can focus its efforts to begin to drive this change inorder to move towards a sustainable future.

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