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Circular fashion is here to stay: but what does it look like?
Meet Lidia: International Politics student and the face behind the blog Pretty Green Lily, where she advocates for a sustainable fashion industry. She shares her thoughts on circular fashion and why she believes it will be a game changer. Learn more about how to change your consumption habits and get going with your sustainability journey.
I wasn’t one to pay too much attention in Econ 101, but when I came across the concept of circular economy, I was instantly hooked on the idea of a world that mimics nature, where everything can be eternal and nothing needs to go to waste. This is Lidia Martin Velasco from @prettygreenlily and I am here to introduce to you the concept of circular fashion, and give you some tips on how to support it.
Circular fashion is more than recycling
At first, I thought circularity was just about recycling, so I was shocked to learn that it’s more about making the most of what already exists and rethinking the aspects of our lives that create the most waste.
And of course, the fashion industry is up there on the list, with about 92 million tons of textile waste every year globally. The current fashion industry has many issues, and you’d be surprised to learn how many of them would *poof* disappear if we worked to make it circular.
The thing is that we still live in a linear economy, but circular fashion is already a reality in some lucky corners of the world of sustainability, which means that we as consumers all over the world already have the opportunity to support it.
So here you have a few things to look out for if you want to join this movement.
Second hand and vintage
Did you know that extending the life of a piece of clothing by 9 months can reduce its ecological footprint by around 20-30%?
Sounds simple. But if you’re not big on rotating the same wardrobe season after season to make the most of your clothes, the second best option is to turn to the second hand market.
Just imagine the CO2 emissions, water and waste we’d be saving if instead of buying new stuff, using it and throwing away after a couple of wears, we bought more pre-loved quality clothes and sold the ones that don’t bring us joy anymore.
You’d be making another human very happy with that pair of distressed jeans you haven’t used since college while giving them another chance at being useful and appreciated.
Initiatives like this one from MudJeans are here to help you give your old pair of jeans for example: for every pair of jeans they receive to recycle, a donation to @Justdiggit is made. Justdiggit regreens tree stomps in collaboration with African farmers to better retain water in the ground and make the soil more farmable.
Once upon a time I thought that clothing rental was just a thing among Hollywood stars in need of an endless supply of designer gowns and expensive jewelry for the Oscars.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that people like you and I can rent anything from tuxedos and gowns to everyday clothes for the office – or to feel your best in your new WFH life.
By being a part of this sort of collective wardrobe, you’re essentially giving clothes that have already been made a second (and third, and forth,…) opportunity. You can rent them, use them for as long as you want and pass them on. It truly doesn’t get more circular than this.
It also means that you can renew your wardrobe, explore styles you would have never tried otherwise and try on clothes you don’t want to commit to without giving up sustainability.
And a bonus point: as you can see with the items Renoon has for you to rent, you’ll also be able to save a pretty penny, especially with the clothes you’d only wear once.
(Note: rental means also dry cleaning after every use – keep on watching this space for more info. Just so you know, paper up to today demonstrate scientifically that renting for special occasions is a more sustainable option).
More than 60% of the clothes in our wardrobes are made of synthetic materials, synthetic materials are oil, and oil isn’t renewable. Among the many problems with oil-based fabrics, we find that after we’re done with our polyester leggings, we can’t possibly return them to nature – and they’re rarely recycled –, so they’ll end up in a landfill.
In a broad sense, regenerative materials are those that we can use over and over again or are easy to restore thanks to things like upcycling, recycling, composting or regenerative agriculture.
Right now, some of the most common and sustainable regenerative materials are bamboo, hemp and linen because of how fast they grow and how little water they need. There are also many amazing sci-fi-like innovations with very low carbon and water footprints, such as sequins made of algae and silk made out of the byproducts of citrus juice.
This means that you can own a silky blouse made out of orange fiber that creates virtually no waste from the moment it’s produced and until it has fulfilled its duty – because, of course, you’ll be able to compost it and return it to the Earth.
Curbing waste with smart design
At this point we know that we need to redesign the whole fashion industry. And a great place to start is design itself.
Have you heard of zero waste design? Fascinating stuff.
Apparently, the process of designing and cutting patterns creates wild amounts of textile waste, with over 20% of the material being discarded. But thanks to super talented eco-conscious designers like Zerobarracento we now can find brands using zero-waste cutting techniques in their collections.
Another way – and by far my favorite – in which brands are challenging conventional design is by using reworked vintage materials and deadstock fabrics. Ironically, these are often the result of wasteful design practices. So we should thank game-changers such as Ksenia Schneider for using their creativity to turn what the industry considers waste into real treasures you can wear.
See? Circular fashion sounds like a thing of the future, but it already lives among us. And, even if it’ll take some time for us to turn this whole linear system upside down, there are already alternatives we can support.
This little introduction to closed-loop clothing is a great place to start, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg and we’ll be seeing more and more circular brands popping up in the near future – trust me on this, circular fashion is here to stay.
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