Lately, the fashion industry has been taking some real heat regarding how destructive it is, not just from sustainability experts but those who are passionate about protecting the planet.
It comes as no surprise since the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions.
And more than 50% of all clothing (and 85% of all textiles) will end up in a landfill, so I say it’s time something is done and changes are made.
That’s where circular fashion comes in. And if you’re looking to live more sustainably, you’ll want to read this.
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So what is circular fashion?
Circular fashion is a term that means producing clothes, shoes, and personal accessories in a way that allows them to be used for a long time, and when they have reached the end of their life, they can “return safely to the biosphere.”
That quote was taken directly from Anna Brismar, one of the founders of the circular fashion concept.
This means that circular fashion avoids fast fashion (rapidly cycling through clothing and styles) and ensures that during the manufacturing process, the environmental impact is low, and sustainability is at the apex.
In a nutshell, circular fashion, also known as sustainable fashion, takes the following into consideration:
- fair labor practices for workers, including fair wages
- using earth-friendly, sustainable materials
- utilizing recycled materials
- minimizing textile waste
- implementing an ethical supply chain
- textile recycling at the forefront
What are some examples of circular fashion?
There are so many ways to implement circular fashion and keep sustainability in mind when shopping for new clothes.
Here are THIRTEEN great examples of circular fashion (and ways to avoid fast fashion) and how you can make your clothes and accessories last longer.
- Shop for used clothes and accessories in a secondhand or thrift store.
- Start a clothing swap with your friends, in your local community, or even online.
- Only purchase from sustainable fashion brands that support circular models and implement sustainable practices.
- Buy clothes, shoes, and accessories that are made with recycled materials or eco-friendly, organic materials and textiles.
- Avoid outfits and styles that come and go quickly, like dramatic fashion statements or “over-the-top” designs. This is somewhat intuitive but includes fast fashion styles that are in today and out tomorrow.
- Invest in clothes and shoes that are made to last, such as linen, hemp, recycled polyester (made from recycled plastic bottles which some say is controversial, though I won’t dive into that here), recycled nylon, jute, lyocell, and organic cotton.
- Look for thick rather than thin fabrics and those that pass the “tug test,” meaning you can tug it without risking a tear.
- When buying clothes made to last, make sure they are comfortable and support a variety of styles; for example, choose a blouse that can be tucked in, worn with a belt, or unbuttoned at the bottom so the “tails” can be tied around the waist.
- Investigate capsule wardrobes: outfits that can be worn in different ways.
- Repair – don’t throw out – your garments when they rip.
- Revamp faded clothes or shoes with natural plant-based dyes.
- Avoid overwashing your clothes as this breaks down the fibers quicker.
- Donate or recycle old, irreparable clothes by thrifting or repurposing them into a dog bed, a memory blanket, a pillow, or something unique, like a clown suit for Halloween (I thought of that one all by my big-girl self).
A great example I can share, as far as my own experience with circular fashion, is the fact that I have a pair of jeans I’ve owned for probably 30 years, and I plan to keep them forever.
They have holes in the knees from years of stooping at my old job and kneeling a lot when my daughter was young.
They’re Levi’s, one of my OG favorite brands because they always fit me so well. Like, way better than Lee jeans.
But I’ve noticed that a lot of modern jeans do not seem to be made as durably as they once were. I like the look of ripped and faded jeans, but I don’t trust that hardly any brands I buy nowadays are made to last.
I think Levi’s is the exception to that, for the most part.
I bought some new Levi’s last year, and they still look pretty good. But I also tend to be very conservative regarding how often I wash them. I’m not one of those who toss jeans in the dirty laundry basket after every wear.
Other companies out there make jeans sustainably and use materials that are designed to last. They also implement a sustainable supply chain.
Other than Levi’s, they include Everlane, Citizens of Humanity, Loup, and Outerknown.
What are the three principles of circular fashion?
Circular fashion implements a circular economy, and there are basically three principles to this.
This includes a framework that fights a variety of global issues like climate change, pollution and waste, and the loss of biodiversity in at least THREE ways:
- Eliminate – by getting rid of pollution and unnecessary waste when manufacturing clothing and accessories.
- Recycle – all products and textiles should be used in their most valuable form and kept in circulation for as long as possible. When no longer of use, they should be recycled or safely returned to the earth to decompose or biodegrade.
- Regenerate – anything taken from the earth should be replaced, and when possible, renewable energy should be used or every effort made to move in that direction.
A fourth principle that is sometimes overlooked is Respect. This means respecting workers by paying them fair, livable wages and providing them with a safe and positive work environment.
The term circular economy means making products that can be reused and/or used for a long time. Products should be repairable, and raw materials should be used at a minimum. When they are used, they should be recycled.
Therefore, a circular fashion economy includes clothes, belts, scarves, shoes, hats, gloves, purses, wallets, and anything else that falls under the fashion umbrella that stays in use for a long time.
We also need to consider what it will cost if the fashion industry doesn’t consider our planet’s future, its inhabitants’ health – both human and non-human animals and plants – and biological and cultural diversity.
What if I don’t want to buy used clothes?
That’s okay! You can still support circular fashion even if you buy new. Just avoid fast fashion brands like Schein, Victoria’s Secret, Guess, Forever 21, Zara, H&M, and Urban Outfitters, among others.
Secondly, buy from amazing brands that are more sustainable than others. If you’re new to all this, check out my article on cheap, sustainable clothing brands, and you can save some money too.