circular economy, sustainable fabrics

What is Circular fashion economy?

circular fashion economy featured image

You bought a new pair of jeans a year ago. But as the world went into isolation and working became work from home, you gained a few pounds around your waist. Fast forwards a year, your favorite jeans are now small to fit your newly grown body. It is a tragedy. You have barely worn it. Some would decide that it is time to lose weight and fit back into the jeans. Others, like me, would keep the jeans in a corner of the wardrobe and never look back at it. Sometimes in the future, it would end up in waste.

This could be the story of many of us. It could be jeans, a shirt, a skirt or any fashion item. We always hoard the old items until it is time to throw them away and make space for new items. Today the entire human being is causing this planet a lot of problems due to this ‘use and throw’ habit. The planet is bleeding and it really needs support. What can we do with our fashion items that could help heal the planet faster? In this article, we will understand the concept of ‘circular economy in fashion in detail.


What is a circular fashion economy?

A circular fashion economy is one that does not accumulate waste as its end product. The entire economy and supply chain will be designed in such a way that wastages will be recycled and reused until the entire value is utilized from it.

It is fact that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world after fossil fuels. The hazardous chemicals used for dyeing, fabric treatments, huge about of energy used in cultivations, and microfibers ending up in drinking water and air supply are slowly killing us all. There have been a huge number of documentaries, talk shows, and videos published based on the side effects of the fashion industry.

The term circular fashion was first coined in the year 2014 by two actors in a talk show that was conducted in Stockholm. The idea was later spread to Europe and the rest of the world. It is an idea that is based on two popular concepts.

  1. Circular economy
  2. Sustainable development

Dr. Brismar has identified sixteen key principles to support a more circular and sustainable fashion and textile industry. They can be applied to any type of fashion item like apparel, sportswear, outdoor, etc.

  1. Design with purpose
  2. Design for longevity
  3. Design for resource efficiency
  4. Design for biodegradability
  5. Design for recyclability
  6. Source and procure more locally
  7. Source and procure without toxicity
  8. Source and produce with efficiency
  9. Source and produce with renewables
  10. Source and produce with good ethics
  11. Provide services to support long life
  12. Reuse, recycle, and compost all remains
  13. Collaborate well and widely
  14. Use, wash, and repair with care
  15. Consider rent, loan, swap, second hand or redesign instead of buying new
  16. Buy quality as opposed to quantity

circular economy graphical representation

It is believed that implementing these principles in the manufacturing and developing process will definitely help reduce wastage. Thus helping to change from a linear fashion economy to a circular fashion economy.


What are the advantages of the Circular fashion economy?

  1. It can open up new economic opportunities
  2. Reduce global textile waste drastically
  3. New roles in factories will come, more jobs
  4. Farmers grow organic and better fibers
  5. Reduced dependency on imported raw materials
  6. Creation of eco-friendly companies
  7. Better public image for companies
  8. Reduction in global pollution

Even though there are a lot of advantages to becoming a circular economy, there can be some limitations to it as well. Circular fashion is highly dependent on the actions consumers take. Unless people follow these principles and actions, it will be very difficult to bring change into place. Creating a new business that is totally dependent on recycled products is very challenging. There can be a huge number of challenges to source and develop new products from recycled items.

Recycled cotton and climate crisis


Which are the top brands that are embracing a circular fashion economy model?

As per the record in 2018, a total of 64 of the world-leading brands have started to embrace the circular fashion economy in their products. Brands like Adidas, H&M, Zara, etc. have dedicated products that are made exclusively from recycled items.

These top brands are trying to improve four immediate action points in their manufacturing process:

  1. Implement design strategies for recyclability
  2. Increase the volume of used garments and footwear collected
  3. Increase the volume of used garments and footwear sold
  4. Increase the share of garments and footwear made from recycled post-consumer textile fibers.


Is ‘circular fashion economy’ another gimmick?

We have seen accusations against fast fashion brands for greenwashing the consumers with propaganda. Companies have tried to poster themselves as an eco-friendly companies while they were not following sustainable processes and guidelines. History makes it really difficult for us to believe in these terms.

Certainly, brands have started to incorporate circular fashion economy principles in their manufacturing. This itself is a great start. What we have to consider is the fact that a circular fashion economy cannot be achieved by a single person or a company. There should be information sharing and collaborative efforts between governments, companies, individuals, non-profit organizations, etc. to truly make this work. As per the initiative, the entire fashion industry needs to be changed and redesigned.

We can certainly say that it is not a marketing gimmick. In today’s transparent world, it is not possible to fool millions of people. We have seen legit changes from brands across the world.


How can individuals participate in the circular fashion economy?

It is easy to get caught up in popular culture and habits. One must consciously decide to replace the ‘use and throw’ mentality with a ‘use and upcycle’ mentality.

  • Start by buying material that has great quality. Buy items for its quality so that it may last years before it starts deteriorating.
  • Donate old clothes for the less privileged.
  • Sell old clothes on sites like eBay.
  • Shop from thrift stores
  • Embrace the idea of using longer
  • Take utmost care of your garments.
  • Understand the real value of goods.


Do you think companies and governments would be willing to come together to make out planet a better place to live? How do you see the ‘circular fashion economy’ coming to life in the future? Comment below.

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