The future of fashion is circular. How innovative fashion brands are working on circularity
The end of last year and the start of 2019 have seen a sharp increase in consumers’ awareness of the damage associated with fashion production and consumption. Clothes are an essential part of our lives, and fashion represents an important expression of individuality. Nevertheless, as is the case for many aspects of our life, we have reached a point where we have lost control of what we consume and how we consume. The need for a redesign of the textile economy has emerged with two main themes: workers’ rights for decent wages, safe and healthy working conditions, and the burning issue of the amount of waste generated by a faster consumption and disposal of clothes. When thinking about solutions to transition to a sustainable fashion system, the word circular economy comes to mind. A recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey offers a vision of a “new textiles economy, in which clothes, textiles, and fibres are kept at their highest value during use and never end up as waste”. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimated that USD 500 billion of value is lost every year due to the underutilisation of clothing and the lack of recycling. The textiles system operates on a take-make-dispose model that has significant economic, environmental, and social costs. Large amounts of non-renewable resources are extracted to make garments that are often used for only a short time, after which the materials are mostly sent to landfill or incinerated. Toxic chemicals used in the production of textiles and clothing affect the health of both workers and wearers of clothes. Moreover, they are often released into the environment, polluting the ecosystem and harming the population that lives in the area.
If we look at clothes consumption, the data is alarming. In the last fifteen years, global clothing production has approximately doubled, driven by an expanding middle-class population and increased per capita demand in mature markets. At the same time, the average number of times a garment is worn before it is discarded has decreased by 36 per cent, with research suggesting that more than half of fast fashion produced is disposed in under a year. Additionally, the latest figures indicate that the amount of clothing being purchased is expected to increase by 63 per cent, from 62 million tons today to 102 million tons in 2030. It is clear that the whole fashion system has to be transformed and that a radical approach to the way it functions has to be taken.
If in the past shoppers either overlooked or tolerated the social and environmental costs of fashion and especially fast fashion, there are now promising signs of a shift in attitude and a demand for transparency and a transformation of the fashion system. Searches for sustainable fashion have increased by 66 per cent according to research by fashion search engine Lyst. Consumers are more aware and careful about what they purchase, and they are using technology to become more literate and make their choices. Apps such as Good on You are useful tools to search for more responsible brands and to know what the company’s commitments for the environment, garments workers’ working conditions and animal welfare are.
As we often do, we close our post by talking about brands that we have been following closely for their philosophy and vision of a better fashion system. Here two that are very close to our heart. Both have been created by extraordinary women that want fashion to be a Force for Good.
Rakha does not follow seasons or trends but instead focuses on redesigning classic pieces. The brands’ approach to sustainability is through creating garments made from bio-degradable or recycled natural materials, aiming to achieve a closed loop system, where everything is either a technical or biological nutrition. Social and environmental responsibility is an integral part of the brand’s strategy and practice. Rakha designs for longevity and the materials in mind to ensure a circular approach is taken from the design stage throughout the whole processes involved in its supply chain with a Life Cycle Thinking approach. Rakha’s sustainability approach is built on four principles: Ethically Sourced; Made with Sustainable Materials; Reduce Reuse Recycle and the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN.
To know more and shop Rakha:
BEEN London is a freshly launched brand based on a simple yet fundamental principle: to turn materials that would otherwise end up in landfill into beautiful things. BEEN London offers beautifully designed bags made of recycled leather and recycled polyester.
The world’s leather industry creates enormous amounts of waste. It is estimated that at least 40% of every hide is usually discarded. A large proportion of this wastage happens at tanneries where hides are treated. The leather used at BEEN London is a waste product of the so-called ‘blue-wet’ stage of leather processing before it gets dyed and treated. Clean waste trimmings are milled into a powder and are then pressed onto a fabric core using just high-pressure water. No chemicals or rubber is needed to keep the material together. The production uses a closed loop system to recycle 95% of the water and converts its own waste streams into energy which is fed back into the process. Fabric made out of recycled plastic bottles is used for the lining and zip tapes of the bags. The material has significantly lower carbon footprint compared to virgin polyester, it reduces both the need for virgin materials and waste, and is fully recyclable at the end of its life.
To know more and shop BEEN London: