The circularity targets to be achieved by 2020 for the fashion sector are: invest in design strategies for recyclability, increase the volume of used clothing collected, increase the sale of used clothing and that of clothing made from recycled fibres. It was the Global Fashion Agenda that launched the Call to Action for a Circular Fashion System at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in May 2017. On that occasion 64 companies, for 143 brands, had taken up the invitation by signing a letter of commitment.
For some companies, setting those targets was only the necessary step to start the transition. Still, most of the industries in the sector have not yet formulated any strategy to move from a linear to a zero-waste circular production system.
Where to start, then?
The infrastructure that must support the transformation still needs conspicuous investments for the development of new technologies, but the fashion industry is also made up of people with different backgrounds in terms of experience and training. Re-educating fashion professionals is the first decisive step to start the transformation of the industry from inside.
Most fashion workers have been trained to produce clothing to be placed on the market; the life-cycle of the product, in the designer's mind, ranges from sketches to the store. Designers have no visibility on what happens next. To move to circular fashion, fashion professionals must consider the entire life cycle of a product, from the sourcing of raw materials to its dismissing. Keeping in mind the useful life of clothing since its conception is fundamental, 80% of the environmental impact of a product is determined on the design table.
It is necessary to focus on the actual user of the product, who wears clothes and the function that they perform for him. In this way, designers become able to identify the most suitable materials and to design appropriate life cycles for products according to their actual use.
Consider also what happens when the consumer decides to get rid of the garment, think about the second life of the products and design them to have one. This requires an in-depth knowledge of the entire production chain.
This is a radical change in the approach to fashion design that requires an evolution in the training of professionals in the sector with the involvement of the institutions. There are still few universities that have introduced sustainability and circularity issues in their training offer, and the rest are struggling to keep up to date. There is a risk of forming a class of young graduates with a linear mentality, which could be obsolete compared to the steps that the industry will have taken in the direction of circularity.
Finally, consider that the transformation of the industry must be accompanied by a change in the corresponding business model. Designing more lasting and recyclable clothing only make sense within a system that promotes the clothing repair rather than its discarding. The history of advertising shows (Patagonia case) that this strategic choice is winning over all the others possible.
Photo credits: Myriam Zilles, Free-Photos from Pixabay