The necessity of the circular economy in the Fashion Industry

May 10, 2022

Clemence Bessieres

Inspired from the youtube video by Business of Fashion: ​​How Can Fashion Become Truly Circular? | BoF VOICES 2021

Nowadays, we question a lot our energy consumption and especially our overconsumption of food and clothes. However, if our consumption system presents many problems, the management of our waste and the life expectancy of our purchases is also one of the main factors of pollution.

Indeed, the way our economy functions is related to our pollution, instead of just the intake of energy. We can wonder with the creativity which characterizes the fashion industry, why the system is not avoiding waste?

The need to rethink the business model of the majority of the Fashion industry is urgent and should be the priority now and for the next decade. To quote Dame Ellen MacArthurs;” a circular economy in Fashion should allow  USD 700 billion by 2030, making up 23% of the global fashion market”. Between 2000 and 2015, clothing production doubled, while over the same period utilisation the number of times an item of clothing is worn before it is thrown away, decreased by 36%. As a result of this trend, the global fashion industry generated approximately 2.1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2018, accounting for 4% of the global total. On top of this, due to ever lower prices and lost revenues – from overstock, stockouts, and returns – profit margins of the world’s leading apparel retailers decreased by an average of 40% from 2016 to 2019. This issue has been accelerated in 2020 by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, which highlighted the fragility of fashion’s supply chains and saw the industry suffer a staggering 90% profit decline compared to 2019. We observe new brands with innovative concepts grabbing new parts of the market everyday because they match today’s fundamental criterias: sustainability, creativity and innovation.

The market must consider the obsolescence  of the linear process, from the creation to the sales, and adopt a circular process, to survive through the stake of this century. If we continue to process this way, our GDP will go down 25% in the following decade. The innovation of the digital field is another asset to measure and control our impact on pollution. Therefore, we must create valuable clothes by designing better, using great fabrics and enabling access to the people. We need to extend the life of products and incorporate them into a reuse cycle.

The Macarthur foundation

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation strives to accelerate the shift to a circular economy. They develop and promote the idea of a circular economy, and work with companies, universities, decision-makers and institutions to mobilize global systems solutions. It’s an economic system that delivers better outcomes for people, and the environment. It was launched at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2017 as “Make fashion circular”, and gathered leaders from the fashion industry with NGOs, philanthropists and innovators. Several powerful companies have already joined the movement, such as H&M Group. Partners - Inditex. Lacoste. Primark. PVH Corp.

Ralph Lauren and Zalando. Their aim is to transform fashion into a closed loop economy where the concept of waste disappears  

Through their foundation you can increase your awareness of the worldwide problem of waste in the Fashion market and become educated on how to reduce it. They provide information on the different key solutions to reduce the unsold fashion inventory, give a longer life expectancy to clothes, through the 4 main solutions: Rental, Resale, Repair and Remaking.