The core of a circular economy overall rests on the principle of natural raw materials returning to the economy as often as possible. When it comes to fashion, this is overwhelmingly not the case.
Not only does manufacturing clothing and fashion products require an enormous amount of resources, but they often have a short life cycle and find their way into landfills. A recent study of the fashion industry showed that it contributed 92 million tons of the world’s waste each year!
When it comes to circularity in fashion, it means ensuring clothes and accessories are used more, are made so they can be repurposed, and are made from safe and renewable materials using sustainable manufacturing processes.
A Mindset Promoting Circularity in Fashion
In a circular fashion economy, products need to be designed to eliminate waste by enabling the recovery and reuse of all materials at the highest value possible across multiple lifecycles. And it all starts with crafting a circularity mindset.
When we place our focus on going beyond shopping sustainably to shopping with a circular mindset, we can change the future of how fashion affects our planet and our mood in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Here are some principles to look for when promoting a circular mindset.
Craftsmanship & Quality Materials for Longevity of Use
The craftsmanship of the product should be one of the first aspects you look at when shopping for new products. Fast fashion is a trend of cheaper products that expire quickly. And when they do, they are simply thrown in the trash. When crafted with quality materials designed for durability, maintenance and repair, it prolongs the product’s lifespan.
Typically, when a product is made with high levels of craftsmanship and high quality materials, the product simply ages better and slower. Beyond the obvious shortcomings of badly made products that easily break, rip or come undone, it is equally the combination of the owner taking better care of their more treasured, more valuable items, and the way the materials weather more elegantly to the human perception, that truly elongates the product’s lifespan.
When it comes to promoting a circular economy, material selection and design do truly matter. The better made and designed, the less infrequently items will end up in the landfills.
Reusability & Recyclability of the Product
When you are able to reuse or redistribute a product, it recovers the value of the materials. Before throwing clothes away, discover the best way to discard old clothes, bags and accessories rather than tossing it in the trash. You also want to ensure that renovations or repairs are available for older or damaged products to bring them to a better looking condition.
If repair is not a viable option, recyclability is the next step. It is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects.
While it is still rare to find this information on brand websites, asking about, or looking at the percentage of recyclability of a certain product is a good way to discover how the product fits into the circular economy.
Fair Trade & Labor
An increasing number of people want to buy products and services that neither pollute the environment nor are produced at the expense of others. A circular economy favours activities that preserve value in the form of energy, labour, and materials. Together with fair pay and working conditions, job satisfaction of workers would be increased and help to promote a circular economy.
Natural Nuance works with European artisans which workshops we have visited and where the above conditions have been met. This may imply higher cost of production however we can be 100% certain that workers do not respire toxins or children are employed.
The Mimosa Tree
Environmentally Safe and Progressive
“A circular economy reveals and designs out the negative impacts of economic activity that cause damage to human health and natural systems. This includes the release of greenhouse gases and hazardous substances, the pollution of air, land, and water, as well as structural waste such as traffic congestion.” The Ellen McArthur Foundation
Designing a product so that waste is not generated during or at the end of life of the product is essential. As for leather, this means the use of environmentally toxic tanning agents vs. good tanning agents or dyes makes all the difference.
How To Keep a Commitment to Circularity
Having a circular mindset is a constant commitment. It is understanding the day-to-day activities of a circular economy you can participate in that will better shift the world to this new way of consuming and enjoying fashion.
Before you purchase, here are some questions that you may want to ask to see if the company is committed to circularity and sustainability.
- What information can I as a consumer find out about the product?
- How transparent is the entire production chain?
- Which raw materials have been used.
- Where do the materials come from and who was in charge of them?
- Through which hands did the product pass during production.
- Can the packaging be reused?
If this information isn’t readily available, you may want to take a deeper dive into the ethics behind the company, or reach out to ask how they commit to circularity.