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Responsible Fashion: The Circular Economy and Its Impact on the Clothing Industry

Fashion fuels self-expression, but its environmental impact is undeniable. Here at Kiklos, we believe there's a better way. The circular economy offers clothing industry a solution: a fashion future where style meets sustainability. Let's dive in!

circular economy fashion clothing rental business

The Urgency of a Circular Clothing Industry

From cotton to a piece of ready-to-wear garment, an enormous amount of resources go into the process. The fashion industry is no doubt an integral part of our lives, but being one of the most polluted industries, changes need to be made. Here's a glimpse of the problem:

  • Pollution Powerhouse: Textile production is responsible for 20% of global clean water pollution from dyeing and finishing products and 10% of global carbon emissions

  • Resource Drain: The industry relies heavily on natural resources such as cotton, water, and land, which severely strains natural ecosystems.

  • Landfill Legacy: Mountains of discarded clothes end up in landfills and the rise of fast fashion has worsened the situation. Only 1% of the used clothes are recycled into new clothes. And 87% of used clothes consumed in Europe are incinerated or landfilled.

Building a Circular Future: From Cradle to Cradle

circular economy fashion clothing
Source: Suomen Tekstiili ja Muoti Ry

The circular economy offers a solution by transforming the ways we interact with clothes. Here's how we can implement this approach throughout the lifecycle of a garment:

Start-of-Life: Design for Longevity and Recyclability

  • Sustainable Materials: Opt for biological-based regenerative materials such as cotton, wood-based fibers from sustainably-managed forests, and other regenerative sources that minimize environmental impact.

  • Durable Construction: Invest in well-made clothes with strong construction and high resistance to ensure they last through multiple washes and hand-me-downs.

  • Timeless Designs: Classic styles and gender-neutral pieces can be worn by more users, extending their lifespan. 

  • Easy Recycling: Explore clothing constructed from a single type of fibre, which simplifies the recycling process significantly. Develop new technologies allowing more efficient breakdown and re-use of materials.

Use Period: Maximize Wear

  • Quality Care: Proper washing and care can increase the lifespan of garments.

  • Repair and Refashion: Simple mending, repairs, and creative upcycling projects can give worn clothes a new lease on life.

  • New Business Models: Platforms facilitate the exchange of pre-loved clothes, such as clothing rental businesses, extending their use and reducing demand for new items.

End-of-Life: Reimagine and Remake

  • Safe and Efficient Recycling: Develop innovative technologies to break down used garments and recover valuable materials for new products.

  • Downcycling: Utilize worn-out fabrics for other purposes like insulation or cleaning cloths, minimizing waste.

  • Take-Back Services: Incentivize customers to return unwanted clothes for responsible recycling or upcycling initiatives.

By shifting to a circular system, the fashion industry will bring not only environmental benefits but also economic and social benefits.    

  • Economic Benefits: Given the size of the fashion industry, a USD 560 billion economic opportunity will be unlocked, with systemic changes in place across the value chain.

  • Social Benefits: Job creation in the innovation, repair, recycling, and other new service sectors. Additionally, as the capacity of transparency and traceability of the materials and the value chain journey improves, consumers are more equipped to promote fair labour practices and ethical production.

This is just a glance at the textile industry and its potential to become circular. There's, of course, much more to explore! If you'd like to learn more and join the movement for a sustainable fashion future, here are some good reads for more comprehensive information.

Curious to know more? Stay tuned for more case studies in the circular textile industry!


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