Fashion is full of buzzwords — statement, floral, millennial, see-now-buy-now, sustainable, and most recently, circular (specifically, a circular economy). This usage of 'circular' is akin to “The Circle of Life” in the Lion King or the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle arrows on bins. So, how does this circular economy affect you, fashion, and the world?
The term “Circular Economy” originally comes from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, a circular economy refers to products that have a cradle-to-cradle lifespan (rather than cradle-to-grave). A circular economy aims to manage resources by building long-term resilience, generating business opportunities, and providing environmental and societal benefits. Basically, a circular economy stresses a consumer's ability to reduce, reuse, recycle, and repair prior to throwing away a garment or purchasing a new one.
You can reduce by purchasing less or participating in rental options. You can reuse by participating in a clothing swap with your friends. You can recycle by donating your clothes to charity shops, or often, by bringing them back to retail stores. Industry-wide, companies are able to recycle their textiles with greater frequency due to technological innovation. These advances make recycling a more economical option. You can also repair what you can with patches, zippers, and some tender love and care. This approach helps your clothes (and your personal connection!) retain their value.
The benefits of a circular economy extend beyond the personal level, as they also contribute to positive environmental change. A circular economy promotes responsibility and efficiency in terms of how a society uses products (from shampoo to shoes to scarves). Closing the loop in fashion will slow down the waste created by fabric and textile production. By creating a supply circle, rather than a supply chain, the fashion industry can work to reduce carbon emissions and wastewater creation.
By understanding the basic components of a circular economy, you are an active participant in understanding your role in this $2.5trillion industry. The choices you make as both a consumer of products, and of knowledge, make long-term improvements to your closet, to the fashion industry, and to the future of the planet.