Circular Fashion

Circular Fashion

The European Parliament is a directly elected legislative body of the European Union that adopts and amends legislation proposed by the European Commission.  It’s important to talk about fashion from the European Union’s perspective because Europe is effectively setting the standards for sustainability and circularity in the industry.

According to the European Parliament, circular fashion is “sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible.”  While sustainability focuses on the impact of fashion on the environment by reducing chemicals, pesticides, water use, overproduction, and insisting on a livable wage and fair treatment of workers, circular fashion is an effort to design clothing with longevity, recyclability, and upcyclability in mind. 

Perhaps the easiest way to describe a circular approach to fashion is that it’s an attempt to create a closed-loop system “where materials are continuously cycled back into the economy, reducing the need for new resource extraction”, according to The Sustainable Fashion Forum.  Rather than manufacturing new garments from raw materials that end up in a landfill at the end of each garment’s lifecycle, the circular approach to fashion attempts to increase the longevity of a garment by incorporating renewable, recycled. recyclable, and repairable materials into the design process.

Renting garments, recycling garments, donating garments to secondhand stores like the Salvation Army and Goodwill are ways to participate in a circular fashion economy.  Establishing a secondary market for garments like the Take Back Bag program at fordays.com and the Ref Recycling program at thereformation.com are excellent examples of companies that are doing the best they can to create a circular fashion industry. 

Circular fashion incorporates the entire sustainable movement and more from the design process, to the longevity of each garment, to reengineering garments back into the design and manufacturing process at the end of the garment’s lifespan.  There is a time, a place, and a use for every garment from the day it’s conceptualized to the day it is recycled or upcycled into something new and useful.

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