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Circular Fashion: A Solution to Retail’s Sustainability Issue.

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You look at a full wardrobe with clothes piled up in every corner, but as you get ready for your day, you feel like you don’t have any clothes. After rummaging through everything, you can’t seem to find a good combination. Maybe your pants are too baggy, your favourite skirt looks a little too short or your shirt has a weird stain on it.

Then, you imagine a new, trendy outfit that you’ve been wanting to buy. Next thing you know, you’re in a clothing store handing your card to the cashier. Now, you have a new addition sitting in your wardrobe.

Does this sound oddly familiar?

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

Clothes. They’re both a necessity and a form of self-expression. You style your clothes based on what you feel looks good. Some people prefer bold colours, others want a more monochromatic look while the rest want a bit of both but everyone likes to be up-to-date and follow the most recent trends. But is your dedication to following the latest fashion trend worth it if it continues to ruin our environment?

Did you know that the clothes thrown away by 2025 would weigh as much as the world’s population? [1]

Due to fast fashion, more than 60% of the global textiles are used and for the past 15 years, clothes production has doubled [2]. Interestingly, clothing use has declined by nearly 40%, most probably due to quicker turnaround of new styles, which encourages our spending.

By turning clothes into disposable items, it’s really not surprising to find out that the fashion industry ranks one of the biggest pollutants globally. In 2015, for example, it was solely responsible for 1,715 MILLION tons of CO2 emissions—equivalent to 5.4% of the 32.1 billion tons of carbon emissions worldwide—second after the oil and gas industry [3]. Other than that, the majority of unused clothes are either sent to landfills or incinerated [4].

A diagram which shows the damaging effects of the linear clothing system's impact on society and the environment
Linear Clothing System's Damaging Impact

Source: Motif [5]


Circular fashion can help guarantee that the clothes we wear everyday are made of safe, renewable materials [5]. By following the principles of circular economy, the fashion industry opens itself to billion dollar economic opportunities (USD 560 billion to be exact) [2]. I know, that’s a lot! Not so fast, though. To reach that big of an opportunity, important changes must be done starting from the design table, production until post-purchase. Now, without further ado, here are 4 ways how the circular economy can revolutionise the fashion industry!

1. Redefine the goal and vision

Within a circular economy, the fashion industry should be restorative and regenerative. This means that the clothes produced should be constantly reused to capture its maximum value! 80% of a clothing product’s environmental impact is determined during the design process [6]. Right now, less than 1% of clothing materials are recycled into new clothes. What an insane number of waste, right? To eliminate waste, we can recycle clothes that we no longer use into new clothes. Also, most importantly, all clothes should be designed efficiently and ensure that it is non-toxic, biodegradable and recyclable [5].

A diagram showing the continuous cycle of the fashion industry in a circular economy
Circular Fashion Cycle

Source: Antonia Bohlke [7]


2. Focus more on Quality over Quantity

Current fast fashion brands produce new clothes every week at the lowest cost possible with the goal of single-use [6]. Yet, the fashion industry within a circular economy should embrace business models where all fashion products are designed for durability. This means that the production is refocused on creating high-quality clothes so that they can be reused repeatedly for long periods of time. Once the clothes are worn out, they can be recycled which eliminates waste as materials are constantly re-enter the system [2,6].

3. Embracing after-sales services

To maximise the clothes' use, retailers can provide after-sales services themselves (in-store) or through a partnership with repair and restyle providers in local communities. By offering to repair, restyle, wash and store fashion items, we as consumers have a bigger incentive to keep reusing what we already have! Especially because we want our staple items to last as long as possible [2].

A picture showing a tailor's workbench filled with ongoing projects and bundles of cloth arranged under the table
A Tailor's Workbench

Source: Ksenia Chernaya [8]

4. Take advantage of rental and resale business models

The circular economy encourages the fashion industry to embrace subscription, rental and resale models, which provides consumers with a wide range of clothes without creating a demand for new clothes. This comes handy when it comes to short-term use such as a black-tie event or a costume party [2]. Let’s be realistic here, what are you going to do with a witch costume in your wardrobe?

The value of resale business models are based around the increase of quality and durability of clothes. There are now numerous ways to resell your clothes if you have lost interest in them or grown out of it but they still have good quality [2]. Rather than tossing them out, you can resell them to thrift stores, second-hand stores or even open up an account in various pre-loved websites or applications such as ThredUp or Carousell.


Clothes are a necessity and a form of expression of our personalities. As much as we believe in the importance of our choices and style, we should keep in mind how the products are made and what they are made of.

With these sustainable options, you can still dress to impress without feelin’ stressed over the environmental impacts of your fashion choices.


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