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What Is Circular Fashion and Why Is It The Solution To The Global Fashion Crisis?

Updated: Sep 8, 2022

Blog by Conor Blessing for Circular Economy Wardrobe

Four years ago, I applied to study International Fashion Business at Glasgow Caledonian University with the goal of becoming a designer. Since then, I have entered the world of sustainable fashion and see the need for it in the coming future. This blog aims to educate my own generation (Z) about the problems with mainstream fashion and encourage the use of a new model to combat these issues.

According to WRAP, 1.6 million tonnes of clothing is bought every year in the UK but used less often and disposed of ever quicker, even though 95% of disposed clothing has the opportunity to be recycled. As a result, more textiles are produced leading to severe water depletion, environmental damage and excessive health risks, especially regarding cotton. The textiles produced are shipped to counties, leading to increased carbon footprints, to be stitched by a labour force and shipped again to developed countries. Fashion Revolution was founded after the Rana Plaza collapse launched public concerns into the strain put on these workers, as well as the environment, by the industry. However, consumers may be more focused on the environmental side and view these labour concerns as issues of the country they occur in.

In response to what fashion has become over the last couple decades, the term ‘Circular Fashion’ has risen in popularity. In short, Circular Fashion is a system which emphasises the importance of the production of clothing and the end of its life cycle. This is based on the concept of ‘Circular Economy’ supported by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation emphasising three principles:

  • Removing all possible waste and pollutants

  • Ensuring all materials involved are continuously used

  • Support natural practices and resources

(Own design)

I have observed this process in practice by volunteering at Scottish social enterprise R:evolve Recycle. This business swaps preowned clothes with consumers using a card point system for the purposes of reducing waste going to landfills. According to their own records, they have repurposed 100,000 tonnes of clothing that would have otherwise been disposed of in the seven years they have been operating, demonstrating the success of circular fashion in practice. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that “one pre-owned purchase is said to save on average 1kg of waste, 3,040 litres of water, and 22kg of CO2.” This would also stall the excessive production of clothing that puts stain on both natural resources and labour as discussed. However, these efforts are likely to have a limited impact as these practices have yet to be fully embraced by major labels.

(Own photos)

It is evident that circular fashion can greatly reduce the disastrous impact of modern fashion, but it needs to be implemented by big brands to truly improve the world. As generation Z is a core influencer in the market, they have the power to convince, even force, the industry to truly use circular fashion. Rather than put on a green face. Start with your own research and go from there, future eco-warriors.


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