The concept ‘circular fashion’ was first invented and used in 2014 by Dr. Anna Brismar, Head and Owner of Green Strategy and Felix Ockborn, Sustainability Manager of H&M. As defined by Dr. Brismar, the concept ‘circular fashion’ is based on the main principles of circular economy and sustainable development, and relates to the fashion industry in a wide sense, i.e. not only to fashion but also apparel, sportswear and outdoor wear, however, garments is one of the main focus area. C&A, the global fashion retailer, is highly committed to make fashion sustainable and to ensure sustainable fashion it is working with this new concept ‘circular fashion’.
A few months ago Jeffrey Hogue, Global Sustainability Officer of C&A said, “As an industry, we have an opportunity to move away from the current ‘take, make, waste model’ to a circular model. In practice, this means designing, developing and producing products with their next use in mind; extracting the maximum value from garments while in use, then recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of use to give them another useful life.“
In March 2017, C&A and its corporate foundation, the C&A foundation launched the Fashion for Good initiative to promote a circular fashion economy. Fashion for Good, a global initiative that aims to re-imagine fashion, is an open and inclusive approach brings together brands, retailers, multi-stakeholder initiatives.
The apparel industry is beset by major environmental challenges and too often unregulated, hazardous chemicals are used here and subsequently released into our environment. According to a report of textile today about 17-20% of global water get polluted by using near to 8000 synthetic chemicals for its processing, 25% of the world’s pesticides are used to grow non-organic cotton. To produce T-shirts or a pair of jeans equivalent to one kilogram of cotton requires more than 20,000 liters of water. Textile and Apparel is the second highest carbon emitter, which is responsible for 10% global emission. About 85% of textiles are sent to landfills covering 4% of land which produces 21b tons of garbage every year.
As a result, it harms ecosystems and people largely. However, what is being done to stop this. Rather little is being done to conserve and protect water, our most precious resource. Factories are commonly powered by fossil-fuel sources. C&A expressed its concern on an overwhelming volume of fibre, the sector’s most valuable raw material, is sent to landfill or incinerated after its use as garments. C&A has taken new business models, which will address this. Right now, the fashion industry is based on a linear model, wasting nearly as much as is created. It uses hazardous chemicals, polluting manufacturing processes and sends valuable resources to landfill. Unlocking fashion’s true potential means reimagining the way of making, using and reusing clothes. It demands innovation, showing the entire industry what’s possible and then taking solutions that work to scale.
How to move towards a circular fashion industry
C&A reveals three ways to move to a circular fashion industry. According to C&A, they are trying to
- Unleash the innovators
Re-thinking the fashion industry takes people with vision, creativity and the passion to find solutions that are good for all. Unleashing their unique power to build new systems will spark movements that can transform our industry. Their partnership with Ashoka Foundation is one way they is identifying, supporting and giving visibility to entrepreneurs with the most promising solutions.
- Take it to scale
Many change makers and innovators are taking on fashion’s challenges. However, until C&A get the industry to take up sustainable innovations, nothing will change. It can help to fill that gap. C&A found that one of their most effective roles is to take innovations, and work with brands and suppliers to bring them to the supply chain and scale them. This idea is at the core of Fashion for Good.
- Open it to all
The vision of circular fashion will only become a reality when brands own the agenda. Therefore, they (C&A) need to de-risk and open source new business models and technologies. These can then be leveraged by businesses with the networks to take them to scale. All of this will take us one step closer to making fashion a force for good.
The Five Goods
Fashion for Good will promote the five essential “Goods” of a new, transformed fashion industry, which are inspired by William McDonough’s Cradle-to-Cradle principles:
4.Good Water, and
At the end of 2016, Fashion for Good kicked off the journey by leasing a building in the heart of Amsterdam. It’s a place that brings together the right players and tactics for achieving C&A’s goals. It is the spiritual home of Fashion for Good’s biological nutrient T-shirt, which has been designed to meet C2C-Certified™ gold criteria, and produced at scale to be sold at C&A stores around the world. This is a first for the fashion industry and proves the opportunity for social, economic and environmental good that a T-shirt can create.
C&A are committed to strengthen networks and refining their concept, making it real. They are working to build their understanding of what is ‘good’. They already have many of these ‘good’ solutions in place – such as waterless dyeing and an economic model for circularity – but they’re not operating at scale. Fashion for Good will be home to an Innovation Hub, which will support, test and scale-up the technologies, methodologies and business models that will play a role in reaching this vision.
C&A believes fashion can be a force for good for both people and the environment. Moving to a circular fashion industry will unleash our industry’s true potential. It there was the only good fashion in the world then we would not need a choice between good fashion and bad fashion. Today, the linear system resigns us to the fact that fashion will forever be bad. However, by rewriting the business model, C&A is changing the rules of the game. They are working to make fashion forever good.