The Future of Sustainability And Circular Fashion

Even though sustainability has been 2021’s biggest buzzword, during the last decade we’ve also witnessed a steady increase in fashion connoisseurs’ demand for radical change. In fact, web searches for “Sustainable Fashion” have increased by 66 percent since 2018, according to Lyst.

Entrepreneur’s recent report comes as a breath of fresh air amidst the chaos of unethical business practices we witnessed a few years back. “ The organic segment to become the fastest-growing segment of the market going forward with a compound annual growth rate of 16.2%.” You would expect women’s fashion to lead the ethical journey towards a better future, however, looking ahead, the men’s segment is expected to be the fastest-growing with a compound annual growth rate of 10.2% as mentioned by The Business Wire.

 It’s safe to say that the future of sustainability looks pleasantly bright. 

So why do consumers decide to swap their immediate need for self-satisfaction through fast fashion purchases with eco-friendly options?  The answer lies in the benefits of circular fashion, which, despite its seemingly high cost, reigns supreme as opposed to the terrifying impact of the fast fashion industry.

The tremendous impact of fast fashion

The term “fast fashion” was firstly used in the 1990s  by The New York Times to describe Zara’s mission to “take only 15 days for a garment to go from the design stage to being sold in stores.” The sole purpose? To produce and offer as many trendy pieces as possible to consumers to wear and throw away within a year. In reality, the 5-dollar, pounds, euros t-shirt that’s available on the top fast fashion retail comes with a very short lifespan, hence the need to constantly replace the garments that show obvious signs of wear and tear within the first 6 months of wearing them.

According to The Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), by the year 2030, the fashion industry is predicted to increase its water consumption by 50 percent. As for its carbon footprint, the Copenhagen Fashion Summit predicts an increase of 2,790 million tons while the fashion waste will most likely reach 148 million tons.

How is this possible? Well, if we take into consideration that the production per garment requires 5,000 gallons for one pair of jeans and a t-shirt, we will quickly realize the tremendous impact of this unethical business module. Circular fashion, on the other hand, puts all the emphasis on the ethical lifecycle of a garment.

What is circular fashion?

Anna Brismar,PhD, owner, and senior sustainability consultant,  developed the idea of circular fashion based on the module of circular economy. According to Brismar’s 2017 definition,  circular fashion refers to clothes, shoes, or accessories that are designed, sourced, produced, and distributed with the intention to be used and circulate responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use.

In a nutshell, the purpose of circular fashion is to reuse the resources that are already available in the fashion industry in order to be kinder to the environment. From the beginning stages of a garment’s lifecycle up to the time that it reaches the consumers, should lead back to its longevity and sustainability.

Why circular fashion is a better alternative?

With the aforementioned information in mind, designers are considering the following in order to determine whether or not a piece of clothing should get produced in the first place:

  • Is this clothing durable enough to be worn years after it’s been purchased?
  • Despite the current trends, how long do we think a customer will actually wear said piece? Is it really timeless?
  • What materials should be used? Are they following the fair-trade principles? Are they sustainable and biodegradable?
  • Are the factory workers paid a living wage?
  • How sustainable are these factories?

To summarize, circular fashion is a fantastic way to minimize waste in production, reduce the environmental impact of production, and reduce landfill-pill-ups while also promoting the idea of buying less and making more conscious decisions.  

The future of circular fashion

 As Fashion for Goods’  Future of Circular Fashion report suggests, there are three circular business models that are set to lead the sustainable fashion movement into the future: Rental, Subscription Rental, and Recommerce. More and more consumers are embracing these modules withThredUp’s Second Hand Fashion Report from 2019 highlighting that resale grew 21-times faster than the retail apparel market over the previous three years.

In 2020, 67% of consumers consider sustainable materials to be a factor in purchasing a fashion item. The good news is that in the coming years, environmentally friendly clothing will be sustainable fashion’s fastest-growing segment.

When it comes to the resale market, circular fashion’s greatest ally, embracing resale in the luxury market could result in a 40% profit margin increase by 2030. That’s a surprisingly high demand for ethical shopping and sustainable clothing. In fact, as more consumers start turning to ethical fashion, its value could double from $33.03 billion in 2020 to over $64 billion after 2024.

How we can contribute to the future of circular fashion

“The future of fashion is circular. It has to be,” mentioned Stella McCartney, sustainability pioneer, to Harper Bazar. “ We need to evolve from just reducing our impact to making a positive impact, but this can only happen if we all work together,” she added.

So, what can you do to adhere to the circular fashion movement in the future?

1. Treasure what you own to extend the longevity of your clothing 

2. Borrow one-occasion clothing instead of buying them  

3. Resell clothes to offer them a second life 

4. Repair clothes if they show signs of breakage

5. Don’t throw away old garments, recycle them

6. Make second-hand and sustainable shopping decisions that focus on the longevity of the clothing 

7. Build a capsule wardrobe with timeless pieces that know no season

Author: Konstantina Antoniadou

Originally written for

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