Over the past few years, the fashion industry has definitely faced a reckoning, especially its environmental impact. Clothes are under-utilised and tend to end up in landfills, the industry has a massive carbon footprint, and there’s a huge wastage of resources. And while terms like sustainability and organic have been doing the rounds for years, another term we need to pay attention to is circular fashion. For a phrase that was originally used in 2014 for the fashion industry, circular fashion has quickly become a buzzword in the industry – and for a very good reason.
But before we delve any further, what does it really mean? Put simply, circular fashion is derived from the principles of a circular economy. If you’re not an Econ major, that essentially means that instead of making any sort of waste, you regenerate all your resources into new products, and overall reduce consumption. So how does it translate into fashion? Well, the sixteen principles of circular fashion deal with the life-cycle of a product, right from design and sourcing to the user phase and the product’s end of life.
Think about it this way. Fashion products should be designed, sourced and produced with high longevity, efficiency, non-toxicity, biodegradability, recyclability and good ethics in mind, right? Similarly, they should be sourced and produced with priority given to local, non-toxic, renewable, biodegradable and recyclable resources, as well as efficient, safe and ethical practices. And once you, as the user, have used them to completion, to the point where there’s no hope of refurbishment? The material and components should be recycled and reused for the manufacturing of new products or composted. The bottom line being, the life cycle of products should bring no environmental or socio-economic harm but instead contribute to positive development and well-being of humans, ecosystems and societies at large – and that’s what circular fashion aims to accomplish.
While it seems like a Goliath of a goal to accomplish, there are companies worldwide that are accomplishing the goals of circular fashion – and doing it in style, if I may add. For instance, we have fashion designer Stella McCartney, whose eponymous label follows the principles of circularity to the T. With her latest venture, the A-Z manifesto, for instance, she’s collaborated with artists including Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha and Cindy Sherman, to find meaning in the age of meaningless greenwashing. And that’s not all – her line also includes clothing which followed the principles of circular fashion.
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Other major brands, such as Hugo Boss and Salvatore Ferragamo have released one-off collections following circular fashion principles, with their Piñatex (which is a pineapple-based fabric that imitates leather) footwear, and ensembles made of orange-peels respectively. Major high-street retailers too, have become more conscious of their gigantic carbon footprint looming large, and have made efforts to follow the principles of circular fashion – and while it’s not enough, we’d still like to be optimistic and say that it’s a start.
Closer to home, brands such as Malai are making waves with their positive environmental impact. Also the winners of the Circular Design Challenge at LFW’20, the brand uses a newly developed biocomposite material made from entirely organic and sustainable bacterial cellulose, grown on agricultural waste sourced from the coconut industry in Southern India for its products. Cancelled Plans is another brand that drives circular fashion in India – with its creative use of materials that are rejected, considered waste and usually end up in landfills or our oceans without serving their purpose.
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So, is circularity in fashion the way forward? We certainly think so. With high-quality clothing that’s ethically sourced, made of a material that’s regenerative and better for the environment, and overarchingly, holds a positive environmental impact, we’re definitely leaning towards circular fashion in terms of our future purchases. And as for its real-life impact? As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and this pudding has statistically been shown to be durable, reduce carbon footprints, and increase product longevity. And let’s not forget – it’s fashionable too.