By Sophie Wilson
Embracing a circular economy can help you save the planet and refresh your wardrobe at the same time.
It’s no secret that fashion is wearing out the world. For too long the fashion industry has been based on a linear economy where brands mass produce garments so that consumers can keep up with the trends without having to spend a lot of money. Sure, it sounds like everyone gets what they want but this system results in 26 billion pounds of textiles and clothes ending up in landfills each year from US citizens alone. What if there was another way for fashion to function? One that helped the planet, the economy and you, the customer? This is where the circular economy comes in.
A circular fashion industry is defined as a regenerative system in which garments are repaired, resold and rented to keep them circulating as long as they retain their value, and then recycling them or returning them safely to the biosphere when they are no longer of use. The circular economy would involve industry and individuals reframing the way they think about clothing. While the onus is on big business to really drive the change, there are a few habits we can try to adopt as consumers to cultivate a more circular fashion economy.
Buy less, buy better
Firstly, when you visual your wardrobe you can probably split it in two halves: clothes you hope to keep forever, and the rest. Some items are bought with longevity in mind. A high-quality coat, sweater or pair of jeans are made to be lived in and cherished. These are the clothes you actually own. They’re worth the investment because you will keep them for years and expect them to last. However, there’s currently no industry standard for assessing durability so you’ll have to find a brand you trust. Remember, a high price tag does not always indicate high quality.
Resale, repair, recycle
If you often stare at a wardrobe full of clothes and lament the fact that you have ‘nothing to wear’, wouldn’t it make sense to allow garments to come and go without creating any waste? One solution is resale. When you get rid of clothes try listing them on resale sites rather than throwing them away. This way you make money and keep your old clothing in circulation. If it’s a durable garment with practical and/or sentimental value you may want to get it repaired then have it returned to your own wardrobe as new. Of course, sometimes clothes are just worn beyond repair and resale. In these circumstances the best course of action is to recycle them where possible so they can be made into new products and come back into the system that way.
Another solution is clothing rental. If you have a special event coming up or there’s a trend you want to try but you’re not 100% sure that you’ll keep wearing it in a few seasons’ time then rental could be an option. Rental fashion is yet to really take the menswear industry by storm, but it has quietly been making waves for some time. It’s most popular for special events – weddings, anniversaries, job interviews – because then you can return the outfit after that event. It also makes luxury fashion more accessible by allowing you to wear pieces for lower prices because you never actually own them. Despite its growing popularity, most rental companies have a womenswear focus with menswear rentals, like The Black Tux, only offer formalwear. However, experts predict that rental fashion will grow in coming years with the rental fashion market growing by 10.6% year on year from 2017 and 2023 so watch this space.
Overall, there are many components involved in transitioning from a linear to a more circular fashion economy but these goals are achievable. If you want to find out more about what you can do, check out Google’s Your Plan Your Planet tool for some super helpful tips. By embracing new habits and ways of thinking we can create a fashion industry that is truly kinder to our planet.