After talking about sustainable and slow fashion the new trend now is circular fashion. But what does this mean? Fashion still has a link with seasons, is still strongly influenced by the big fashion shows and is linked to seasons. But circular fashion if well-done can be the future of the fashion industry. And probably should be to save our planet.

Circular Fashion- the definition

Circularity is the opposite of linearity. Instead of input and output, circularity leads to use and reuse keeping resources in a circle.

The definition describing it perfectly comes from motif: “A circular fashion industry is defined as a regenerative system in which garments are circulated for as long as their maximum value is retained, and then returned safely to the biosphere when they are no longer of use.”

To make it easier to understand we did draw this scheme:

It all starts with raw materials like for Bag Affair cotton and cork. They are worked together to make a textile out of them (you can discover this process here). Of course it could be any other raw material like wool which is spun or linen which is spun and knitted and so on.

The cork- cotton textile is used to make bags and accessories. Again also here the step could be knitting instead or making shoes. The results anyhow are final products to be worn.

In a circular fashion model they are worn, repaired, re-worn, maybe upcycled and used a maximum of time. If they cannot be used anymore they are either recycled or even better biodegraded.

You will learn more details in the following text.

Origin of the term and concept

Used the first time in spring 2014 by two parties without link the term circular fashion did show up. Anne Brismar the owner of Green Strategy, a consultancy firm from Sweden used the term when planning a fashion event in Stockholm the same year which finally was named “Circular fashion– show and talk”. She introduced this new concept that time. It was an event with Swedish brands like Nudie jeans and panellists from the fashion industry.

The second actor using the term was H&M. Used first time internally in 2014 and in public during an event in Gotland.

Who really started with the term is not clear. But to know that this is when it started and it started in Sweden.

Upcycling, Biodegradation and Recycling

Upcycling as part of circular fashion

Circular fashion means to use and reuse until there is no further way than recycling or biodegradation. Upcycling of clothe is part of this process. Instead of only repairing upcycling offers a great way to revalue tissues. Young brands are using now unused clothes or tissues from curtains or upholstery to create something new of it.

We did already present Second Sew before, but it is just the perfect example. Camille uses tissues which are unused, to make new clothes for babies and children. Not only does she make beautiful pieces, but she also avoids trash. The tissue used would have been otherwise thrown away- here she gives them a second life.

Biodegradation should be the final step

The final goal after usage, re-usage, repair and upcycling should be biodegradation. If we can bring back the fibres to earth without any negative impact and pollution, we closed the circle in perfection. Biodegradation is much better than recycling. It means that we took a source from nature which we can bring back without any negative impact. This is what sustainable fashion means!

Circular fashion needs clear rules to work

To recycle a fibre is only possible if the fibre is pure. As soon as two fibres are mixed up together it is not possible anymore to get the separated. So clothes out of 100% wool for example can be recycled and “recycled wool” can be made of it. Same for cotton for example.

For Polyester it is already different. You can make polyester fibres out of plastic bottles and of the used polyester sweater, but to make something new out of it you need to inject “new” polyester, meaning plastic to it. Most of the times recycles clothes have a limit and need new fibres in the mix to re-make fashion of it. 

But is two fibres are mixed you can never again separate these. A typical mix is cotton polyamide to make the tissue more flexible.  There is no chance to recycle this piece of textile. The only solution is to upcycle if possible or to use in small pieces as isolation. Following the studies of the Ellen McArthur foundation until now only 1% of clothes are recycled into new clothes. Recycling is a delicate topic and numbers often not clear – more in our blog about the lie of recycling.

Fast fashion is linear fashion

The idea of fast fashion is the opposite of circular fashion. Fast fashion is linear from purchase to bin. You buy, you wear, and you throw it out. There is just one way.

Plus cheaply made clothes sold for cheap prices are not using raw materials of quality. Even if let’s say your t-shirt is made of cotton, this often is genetically modified cotton. Cotton made to grow fast and with short fibres. These are not possible to recycle or reuse. And depending on colouring, mix with other fibres as polyamide the t-shirt won’t be recyclable. It will end up as landfill or be burned.

In and out it goes in a straight line without any sustainable aspect.

Circular fashion – the new trend 2020

Many journals and blogs already announced circularity to be the new trend in 2020. This is awesome!

Vogue did write about it in December 2019 as well as in their January 2020 print issue. “A more sustainable fashion industry depends on using what exists, eliminating the problem of clothing in landfills, and reframing the way we value our garments.”

Elle UK gives tips how to consume towards circularity as buying second hand and buying according to the fabrics. These are definitely the first general steps to go for.

But keep in mind that there is a lot of Greenwashing out there. More information about detecting greenwashing here.

Circularity means to add some value to clothes. To think again before purchase and to stop with fast fashion.  The Corona crisis leads to a huge demand of locally made products and this is great. Giving a real value means to pay the true cost.

So if you want to do something, ask questions and assure that the clothes are truly sustainable.

Keep Justin Timberlake in mind:

“What goes around, goes around, goes around  – Comes all the way back around”.

Stop going around in circles. Look out for already upcycled products. Or better chose fashion which is 100% certified to be biodegradable. This should be the next goal as just running in circles is not enough.