The fashion industry today: Linear vs Circular Model
Along with the development of conscious and sustainable fashion, there is also talk about ‘circular fashion’. Where does this concept come from and what does it mean? Why is it considered the future of the fashion industry?
It seems almost impossible to imagine a world without textiles, or to be more specific, without clothing since it is such a big part of our everyday lives. Clothes not only provide protection from the environment but they are also a form of self-expression which fosters how we perceive ourselves and how we are perceived by others. The textile industry is also a key player in our global economy by creating jobs for hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
The fashion industry´s development poses a challenge in the area of sustainability for present times, and of course, for the future. The linear model, that of extracting, manufacturing, consuming and discarding, has presented negative environmental and social impacts. According to the circular model, all things can return to its beginning state after consumption. In other words, garments are used for a prolonged period of time, getting the most out of each piece and then reusing the item.
The product may be reused in a different way than that of its original design, giving it a whole new use. During the circular manufacturing process, the final product is evident from the start whereas presently, the mass-production of clothing garments is generating tremendous amounts of waste in the final phase of textile production. This is the effect of the linear concept in which nearly one third of production is waste.
What does circular fashion consist of?
The circular fashion concept proposes to rethink the system, redesign means of production, and to reconsider the durability of clothing in order to diminish extraction from natural resources. A circular economy promotes sustainability through its mindful production of goods and services resulting in a reduction of consumption, time, energy resources and waste. The basic principle of this model applies the ‘reduce, reuse, repair, and recycle’ rule in a continuous cycle.
A circular economy is, by definition, restorative and regenerative and aims to maintain the utility and value of its products, components, and resources at all costs. There is a distinction between technical and biological cycles within this concept. Just as its creators had imagined, this economy consists of a continuous cycle of conscious development which preserves and improves its natural resources, optimizes the use of resources and minimizes the risks by administering a finite quantity of product and renewable resources. In addition, it functions effectively on all levels. Approaching the end of November of 2018, the Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation launched a piece titled, “A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future” which showcases how the linear model in its entirety is being practiced in garment manufacturing today.
In order to implement a circular economic model, brands must consider all phases of the garment´s life-cycle from design to manufacturing and ending in its disposal. It is essential to ensure that the selected supplies and materials have no impact on any of the phases in the garment’s life cycle and that their integrity remains even after the garment is no longer used and recycled.
It isn’t enough that materials used in the circular model leave a smaller footprint than those used traditionally. When these materials are used, maintained and finally disposed, we must ensure that they don’t generate negative outcomes or that they don’t hinder the value of the final product’s life cycle. What is the point of using organic cotton if we mix it with other materials and make it impossible to recycle, or dye it with toxic tinctures that emit contaminants while being worn?
Circular economy success stories
The thread-making process at Hilaturas Ferré begins by gathering raw material, off cuts, second hand and unsold new clothing, as well as scraps once used to process sustainable cotton. They are arranged by color and then cut into small pieces in order to salvage the cotton. Afterwards, they are combined with fiber extracted from plastic bottles to create a new thread called “recover”, a completely sustainable material, that is applied to new garments.
This process reinforces the importance of reducing water and power usage, CO2 emissions and pesticides as well as other contaminants. What was once considered “waste” is now transformed into new and valuable thread and, eventually, new garments. Clothing is not waste and can have seven or even eight more cycles of life. Technology today can transform textile residue into high quality fiber.
When it comes to design and production, Ternua, the Colombian brand of sports clothes, bases itself on firm sustainability practices. 100% of their textile collection is PFC Free and Commitment certified which guarantees that the garment was manufactured with recycled and biodegradable materials, organic cotton, or, like our wool, Bluesign certified. In this collection, you may also find other recycled material such as carpet, fishnets, plastic bottles, pens, coffee grounds, wool or walnut shells. Their new project focuses on reusing walnut shells to make dyes which are presently made from environmentally unfriendly petroleum.
Lobao Studio’s work in fashion strives for respectful labor relationships and promotes the return of traditional craftsmanship while continuing to research new trends, textiles and designers. To know more, click here.