What is Circular Fashion ?

Today, the production of the majority of the clothes we wear is harmful to the environment.

To produce the clothes that we will wear for a season and throw away, considerable and non-renewable natural resources are extracted.

This is the vicious circle of fast fashion: a model of overconsumption , extremely fast and ephemeral.

Circular fashion defines the opposite of the linear model of fast fashion . We are talking about sustainable consumption that considers the environment, the life cycle of the product, the present and the future of fashion. What is circular fashion ? What are its benefits ? How to contribute ? What are the organisms carrying this mode of consumption ? What is its future ? We try to explain it to you in this article. But before we start, let's start with a retrospective on the fashion industry since its beginnings

The fashion industry: retrospective

To fully understand the current challenges of circular fashion, here is a quick look back a few decades.

  • 1858 : The history of fashion begins in the 19th century. In 1858, the first haute couture boutique opened in Paris . Charles-Frédéric Worth becomes the pioneer of Parisian Haute Couture.
  • 1900 : There are about twenty haute couture boutiques in Paris. There will be a hundred in 1946 (21st century, we will only have fifteen).
  • 1950 : From Haute Couture to the birth of Ready-to-Wear. Fashion becomes “ fashion ” and this term alone defines a handover . Fashion is split between “classic” collections and “fashion” collections aimed at a younger, more numerous and new clientele on the market. It is the democratization of ready-to-wear with the impetus of mass distribution : the race for novelty and new trends is launched.
  • 2000 : The emergence of brands. For the first time, the name of the manufacturer of the garment matters more than its appearance , and this name will be propelled with the rise of advertising and sponsorship. At this time, in parallel, the era of slow fashion or slow wear developed timidly. It is an awareness of the excesses of the textile industry . Second- hand and second-hand are growing . Brands located between luxury and fast fashion (known as “premium” brands) are created. They favor quality, timeless clothing with a new environmental sensitivity .
  • 2005 : The boom of fast fashion or rather ready-to-throw. It is the beginning of the relocation to reduce the costs of textile production , the overexploitation of natural resources and humans, with the aim of mass producing at low prices.

Now that you have the history to understand the current issues of circular fashion, let's move on to its definition.

Circular fashion: definition

Let's start with the term " circular ".

Circularity is a virtuous cycle that applies to alternatives aimed at reducing waste on the planet. It consists of reusing, recycling, repairing and regenerating a product rather than disposing of it, from its design to the end of its life cycle.

In this context, circular fashion consists of fighting against disposable fashion by limiting the carbon footprint of a garment .

  • Upstream, it is necessary to look into the eco-design model of the garment : its production (local as much as possible with a reduced carbon footprint) and its supply of sustainable materials (natural fibers such as linen, hemp, organic cotton whose culture does not require fertilizer, and being easily recyclable fibres).
  • Downstream, the life of the garment should be extended by all possible alternatives : by reusing it, recycling it, repairing it, reselling it, renting it, etc.

Concretely, what are its advantages?

The benefits of circular fashion

Circular fashion has many advantages over the linear model of fast fashion where we make, use and throw away. Circular mode keeps resources in service for as long as possible in order to extract the maximum value from their use.

Its benefits are numerous for the planet:

  • Reduced waste used
  • A reduction in the environmental impact of production (less raw materials used added to the preservation of resources)
  • Boosting resource productivity

According to a study by the Elle MacArthur and Mc Kinsey Foundation, a circular model "could increase resource productivity in Europe by 3% by 2030, generating cost savings of 600 billion euros per year and 1.8 additional trillion euros in other economic benefits”.

So how can we participate in sustainable, ethical and responsible fashion? We give you the avenues to explore.

Contribute to circular fashion: alternatives

How to oppose the disposable society ? There are so many clothes on our planet that we could dress all of humanity without producing more new textiles , thanks to circularity and second-hand fashion. Here are some examples of alternatives.

  • Upcycling

That is to say, to recycle one's clothes and/or by giving them a new utility. For example transforming a dress into a skirt.

  • Consume less, but better

Buy reason . Pay attention to the material, the quality, the origin and prolong the consumption of the product as much as possible.

Buy second hand . By consuming already produced and existing pieces, you reduce the ecological impact of your purchases by reducing the production of new garments.

  • Donate the clothes you no longer wear

Don is circular mode motor . Some people will be able to extend the life of the product rather than buying it new.

  • Sell ​​the clothes you no longer wear

This is one of the most common ways to participate in the circular fashion circuit while saving money .

Organizations supporting the circular mode

There are organizations that strongly encourage the production and consumption of circular clothing around the world. We have prepared a small list for your personal culture:

Ellen MacArthur Foundation - Founded in 2010, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation's primary mission is to accelerate the transition to the circular economy. An influential organization, the foundation has quickly become a global thought leader on the circular economy. It stimulates its innovation and educates business leaders and governments on the issues of circularity in the economy. It also has a complete learning center on circular fashion.

Depop & Thred Up & CrushON & Imparfaite & Entremains & Vinted & Vestiaire Collective & Vide Dressing – so many online resale platforms pursue the goal of offering an easy and effortless way to buy second-hand clothes. This extends the life of the garments and therefore reduces their environmental impact.

Ecoalf – a Spanish brand with a 100% eco-responsible positioning, ECOALF places 'innovative' eco-responsible fibers at the heart of its business model. The brand recycles plastic bottles, tires, fishing nets to produce down jackets, flip flops or other clothing. In particular, she uses coffee grounds which she mixes with recycled polyester to give the fabric UV resistance, water evacuation and odor control.

Les Récupérables - Created in 2016 on the model of upcycling, this French brand produces pieces (10 models per collection) which are formed from fabric scraps, recovered from various partners such as Emmaüs.

Recoverfiber – Expert in recycling, the Spanish company offers the best ranges of recycled fiber products by transforming textile waste into new high-end recycled yarns. In 2019, they saved 40 billion liters of water, 2.7 million kg of textile waste and 2.9 million kg of pollutants.

Hurr Collective & Une Robe pour un soir - an example of clothing rental that allows you to wear several different clothes while reducing the demand for new clothes.

The future of circular fashion

The Covid 19 pandemic has accelerated the environmental considerations of consumers looking for more sustainable ways to buy their clothes .

The second-hand market is an essential alternative promoting ethical and responsible fashion.

In 2019, the second-hand resale market grew 21 times faster than the retail apparel market in the previous three years according to ThredUp's Second Hand Fashion Report.

Nevertheless, the new market, said to be first-hand, must also adapt so that fashion becomes completely circular. It is also always essential, if only for innovation and performance.

The future will lie in the balance between new and second hand . Each object is led to live a richer life cycle , first as a new product, then passing from hand to hand to find each time a greater use value, until recycling.

Within this balance is sketched a new way of consuming , correcting the excesses of past decades and finally taking the measure of ecological challenges, while preserving what is at the heart of the act of purchase: pleasure .