Gaurav is the Co-founder at DaMENSCH – a premium men’s essential wear company that is known to have brought innovation into men’s apparel category in India. Gaurav is an engineer from the prestigious IIT Delhi specializing in electronics and communication, a resident of the Kumaon Hostel he also is into dramatics and was actively involved with NSD. In addition to product, supply chain, customer support, finance and investor relations, Gaurav takes his role as the people manager seriously. A mentor at heart, Gaurav has always recruited for the attitude and spends time in training his team.
Fashion is an everlasting industry. However, as climate change consequences ravage the globe with increasing intensity every year, there is a rising shift towards the circular economy, especially in the fashion segment. With slow fashion being the new in, the industry is also moving towards circular fashion, which is equated with sustainable operations and trends.
The global textile industry generates immense amounts of toxic effluents that contaminate our air, soil and water while huge quantities of energy, water and land are needed to keep operations running. In India, apparel and textile manufacturers junk around 1.2 billion tons of cotton fibre annually. This pre-consumer waste worsens the burden in landfills and intensifies the formation of chemical leachate – a prospective contaminator of groundwater. Accordingly, the transition towards a circular economy is most welcome
Advantages of Circularity
Circular fashion is based on the model of sustainable production and consumption whereby products and materials are always recovered, recycled and reused. This cuts waste and emissions enormously, which is crucial when one considers that around 20 million tons of waste gets generated annually by the fashion fraternity. Also, it contributes to more than 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As per McKinsey and The Business of Fashion’s joint report, The State of Fashion 2021, this makes the sector the world’s single biggest source of emissions.
The trend towards circularity is also termed the transition from fast to slow fashion. In fast fashion, the focus is on deploying fast manufacturing and shipping practices for mass producing and delivering inexpensive but stylish garments to consumers made from cheap materials that primarily comprise polyester. But this creates a long-term problem because each year, 300 million pieces of garments are discarded. Since 80% of these are made from polyester, it poses a grave environmental threat as the synthetic fabric requires up to 2000 years to decompose. Conversely, if circular economy practices were used, the polyester would be recovered, recycled and reused rather than thrown away.
Besides, with fast fashion, natural resources remain under tremendous strain as manufacturers strive to keep pace with high levels of consumerism through the linear take-make-and-dispose model. With most textiles in the clothing industry originating from countries using coal-fuelled power plants, the carbon footprint of every garment is extremely high.
Though fast fashion does big business, its massive impact is slowly strangulating the planet. Therefore, the transition towards slow fashion and the circular economy that is now transforming the industry across the globe is a welcome trend.
What’s more, circularity in fashion isn’t a losing proposition practised only due to circumstantial constraints. In fact, it’s a viable alternative to the take-make-and-discard model. The recover-recycle-and-reuse model has many benefits, including the addition of value by turning waste into reusable materials that can be reintroduced into the supply chain.
Regenerative Ecosystem and its Models
To elaborate, circularity in fashion refers to a regenerative system wherein garments are used or circulated for as long as they hold maximum value. Thereafter, when no more in use, they are returned safely to the environment. In the circular model, the design and development of all products are done keeping the next use in mind. In this way, less than 1% of garments are recycled into new clothing. For individual users, the motto is to buy less and then use and reuse more.
Backed by this regenerative model, garments could last in the fashion ecosystem for a considerable period with minimal waste. To begin with, designers will source and create clothing using low-impact materials while keeping a proper purpose in mind. Once made, the garments will be transported in ways that leave a low carbon trail. These would then be sold or given on lease for reuse, repair or redesign. If the product has a time-bound end, the manufacturers will ascertain it can be disposed of or recycled in an eco-friendly manner.
Circular fashion has multiple advantages. These include low dependence on imported raw materials, the reduced environmental damage caused by higher extraction of resources, the creation of eco-friendly employment opportunities and industries plus the benefits for apparel brands arising from a better, eco-friendly image.
To promote circular fashion, manufacturers can follow some relevant business models:
Driving durability, not disposability: Although customers prize slow fashion’s high-quality, durable garments, lack of awareness and availability prevents them from buying the same. If these issues are addressed along with customisation of clothes, it would drive greater customer satisfaction. With items such as coats, jeans, t-shirts, hosiery, socks and innerwear, many customers prefer using them for as long as they last, only discarding the products when the colour fades, there are difficult-to-remove stains or a material flaw develops.
Making resale attractive: When garments are still usable but no longer wanted, resale models offer a winning proposition for both buyers and sellers. Accordingly, clothes can be designed to last while offering customers an attractive resale option when they wish to purchase new clothes. The resale of clothing is already gaining acceptance worldwide.
As per ThredUp’s 2021 Resale Report, the retail industry is entering a radical transformation stage as consumers prioritise sustainability, retailers begin embracing resale and policymakers turn more receptive towards the circular economy. Consequently, the second-hand clothes market is expected to double within five years, reaching $77 billion.
Promoting rental clothes: Customers could be offered access to a variety of garments through rental models while minimising the demand for producing new clothes. Short-term rental models extend excellent value, especially when the evolving needs of customers are considered, which could cater to fast-changing fashion choices or practical requirements.
Supporting clothing care: All efforts should be made to support consumers who wish to maintain clothes for long durations. This support may be provided through accessible services such as restyling, repairing, washing and storing that help in maintaining the highest value of clothes. Garments for which customers have a high physical and emotional attachment can drive the demand for regular repair services. Clothing companies could then tap opportunities for garment restyling, upgrades, customisation, mending at home and other services offered either in-store or through tie-ups with repair and restyle players from the vicinity. For example, Patagonia runs North America’s largest repair facility, handling around 50,000 pieces annually.
Ultimately, circularity in fashion isn’t a fad or passing phase. Rather, it is an imperative that benefits all stakeholders from customers to clothing companies and supply chain vendors, among others.