Fashioning a circular economy

Circular economy

The fashion industry has a problem. It’s called sustainability.

Cumulatively, the fashion industry produces approximately 20 percent of all global water waste. Additionally, 85 percent of textiles end up in landfills or are incinerated, when most of these materials could be reused.

Yet over the last few years, the fashion industry and its consumers have finally started focusing more on the humungous problem of sustainability. Consequently, a big (and necessary!) spotlight has been cast on the circular economy as an alternative to the old linear economy that the fashion industry has exhausted for so long.

A circular economy feeds back into its own development and thus closes the loop. It is a regenerative economic model aimed at minimising waste and maximising resources. This sustainable economic approach uses a ‘repair, reuse, recycle’ model of production - which is in stark contrast to the traditional linear model of ‘take, make, dispose’.

Fashion labels, such as The R Collective, are VIP players in the circular economy. The R Collective is a social impact upcycled fashion brand with a mission to create beautiful clothes using waste materials. Born from Redress - the pioneering Hong Kong based charity working to reduce waste in fashion - this conscious fashion label has its heart set on reducing the estimated 92 million tons of industry textile waste that is created annually, pairing creativity, courage and conviction to divert waste from landfill and incineration and into wardrobes.

Believing in the importance of keeping heritage brands alive, RE/DONE founders, Sean Barron and Jamie Mazur, began their cult LA label by re-purposing vintage Levi’s. They hand-pick and cut each design so no two pairs in the collections are exactly alike, repurposing vintage pieces into fresh, new styles.

Yet what we wear under our clothes, is just as important as the outer. Proclaim, the lingerie line made from 100 percent post-consumer plastic water bottles, was created by Shobha Philips who was sick of not being able to find a ‘nude’ bra that matched her brown skin tone. As well as being inclusive and circular in its business model, these unique, ethically-made bras are amongst the most comfortable I’ve worn.

And then of course, there’s Mara Hoffman, the New York designer who has been striving to make the brand as sustainable as possible by crafting each collection in socially responsible conditions using ethically sourced and recycled fabrics. 100 percent of Mara’s swimwear range is now produced using recycled nylon or recycled polyester.

Also in the swimwear space, we have children’s sustainable line, Joe Sun, and chic surf and swim label, My Marini, whose classics range is entirely made from ECONYL® regenerated nylon fibre (fibres 100 percent made from fishing nets and other nylon waste).

Yet then there’s also accessories, with one of my favourites being Alienina from Italian designer, Eliana Venier. Each of the Alienina pieces are hand-made and thus unique, crafted from upcycled non-toxic materials such as sailing and mountain climbing cords, cotton wicks for oil lamps, and fabric and straps used for blinds.

While a circular economy is mainly implemented via governments, businesses and social entrepreneurs, we all have a role to play. The businesses we support and the choices we make all cast a vote for the future we want.

Jo dressed in a circular economy look. Jeans by  RE/DONE ; trench by  The R Collective ; swim crop-top by  My Marini , bracelet by  Alienina .

Jo dressed in a circular economy look. Jeans by RE/DONE; trench by The R Collective; swim crop-top by My Marini, bracelet by Alienina.

How to contribute to a circular economy, as a consumer:

1) Don’t buy more than you need!

Tempted to buy that ‘I kinda like it’ sales item? Please don’t. According to environmental statistics website ‘The World Counts’, every two hours we collectively throw out enough rubbish to fill the world’s largest container ship. This equates to 12 container ships every single day, and 4380 container ships in one year. Yikes.

Most of this unbelievable and unnecessary waste ends up in landfills or, worse still, is sent to an incinerator where it burns and thus turns into the world’s largest source of dioxins (i.e. one of the planet’s most toxic compounds).

So please people, put down the crappy sales item and exercise some constraint. Do your part, be conscious and aware when it comes to your consumerism, and encourage others to be the same! You’ll feel better for it!

2) Buy local food, where possible

Eating locally means more money stays within your community. In fact, there is research to suggest that every dollar spent generates twice as much income for the local economy!

Usually sold within approx 24 hours of being picked, local produce is fresher and thus way more tasty and healthy (supermarket produce may have been in storage for days or weeks).

Green and pure
Eating locally reduces your carbon footprint as your food doesn’t have to travel to get to you - it also means the food has come in contact with less hands and therefore less opportunity to be tampered with.

Buying local food keeps you in touch with the seasons, as not all produce is available all year round. This not only means that your cooking prowess gets the chance to get jiggy, yet also means the food itself will actually be less expensive as there’s an abundance of it growing when you buy it.

When we buy local foods, we are supporting our local farmers. This gives those farmers incentive to keep on trucking and stay undeveloped.

The more that land is cultivated organically lessens the need for chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilisers - which increases biodiversity in our local ecosystem!

Feel good factor
And finally, knowing that your food has a lovely little backstory makes eating it even more delightful!

3) Support circular economy businesses - and close the loop!

There are a growing number of innovative, new companies out there that have crafted their entire business around feeding back into a circular economy and closing the loop (as evidenced with my above examples - although there are many, many more!). Adopting a circular economy approach enables organisations to move towards business models that allow goods to be designed and produced for extended use, disassembly, reuse and recycling from the outset.

Given the rise in popularity of the circular economy, it is no longer the province of just multinational corporations, yet one which all organisations need to consider for future resilience and competitive advantage. And finally, one which all #ConsciousCitizens needs to adapt in order to maintain sustainable consumer habits.