Let’s Make Fashion Circular




Let’s Make Fashion Circular



Clothing like food and shelter is the basic and fundamental requirement of daily life. The textile and apparel sector also holds a major share in the global economy. However, the industry is growing in a linear model and is not sustainably fit for the world. The principles of circular economy need to be applied to this sector. There are three main areas that need attention to achieve the same. These are:

1. Increasing clothing utilisation by implementing new business models.

2. Material and energy input that are clean and renewable

3. Design solution targeted at recycling

The textile and clothing sector is a $1.3 trillion industry. It provides employment to 300 million people across the entire supply chain. According to a report by Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 60 per cent of the textile production consists of apparels. The report suggests that about twice the volume of clothing is produced currently as compared to 15 years ago. Along with this the utilisation of these garments has reduced by 40 per cent. This is due to the growth of fast fashion apparel productions that has shorter lifespan, more number of collections annually and is cheaper.


The report claims that the transition of the textile and apparel industry to a circular economy can bring along an opportunity that be of about $560 billion economic value. This will need new business models and collaboration of all stakeholders in the supply chain.

The current model of the textile and clothing industry has a number of challenges. This begins with the massive underutilisation of garments. The rates are higher in lower income countries. However, in higher income countries, the rates decline. In the US, for example, the rate is one fourth of the global average. An estimate indicates that a value of $460 billion dollars is lost as consumers discard clothes that are still wearable. A percentage of clothing is thrown away after only seven to eight wears.

The carbon footprint of this sector is also very high. The industry mostly depends on non-renewable resources. About 98 million tons of resources are required annually. This includes oils for synthetic fibre production, fertilisers and pesticides for cotton production and chemicals for dyeing and finishing of fabrics. This dependency, in addition to the low rates of utilisation and low levels of recycling, creates a massive pressure on the environment and its resources. The pollution thus caused due to this sector is also paving the way to 2oC temperature rise by 2050.


Thus, it is important that the textile and clothing industry shifts to a circular model of business. Ellen Macarthur Foundation in its report of A New Textiles Economy proposes a vision that is in correspondence with the principles of circular economy. These business models are restorative and regenerative, which in turn should be beneficial for business, society, and environment. This system targets to keep garments, textile, and fibres at their highest value at the usage phase. These clothes should again re-enter the economy after the potential life ends and never becomes a waste. This model is based on the three focus areas as discussed earlier and shown in the image below.

part one 

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