The future of fashion

And why it needs to be more circular

Fashion has always been about the new. Fashion brands work hard to stay current, adapting to trends and customers’ needs in order to sell their clothes, shoes, bags, belts and accessories. It’s what the customer wants, right?

But fashion isn’t that simple. In fact, it’s full of contradictions. While millennials and Gen Zers say they want more ethical, less environmentally-damaging fashion, they can’t get enough of fast fashion brands.

This trend for ‘disposable’ fashion has seen consumers buying 60% more clothes than they did in 2002 but keeping them for half the amount of time.

It seems that for many, price and speed trumps ethics and conscience.

The hidden, toxic face of fashion

The fashion industry knows that major changes are needed – as do customers. But change isn’t always easy. Bold targets are being set by retailers, but customers are relying on those retailers to come up with the solutions.

When David Attenborough took to the stage at Glastonbury festival this year (as a warm up act for Kylie, no less) he thanked festival-goers and organisers for banning single-use water bottles. But that’s only one part of the plastic problem. The elastic, polyester and nylon in our clothes and shoes might not be as visible as bottles or straws, but it’s just as toxic.

Doing nothing is not an option

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is dedicated to accelerating the adoption of a circular economy, and has made a number of alarming predictions about the fashion industry.

The way things are going, explains the organisation, the textiles economy is projected to have released more than 20 million tonnes of plastic micro-fibres into the ocean and will use 25% of the world’s carbon budget by 2050.

Oh, and let’s not forget that just 1% of clothing today is recycled, with 73% ending up in landfill.

It’s no wonder that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world after the oil industry.

An urgent need for radical change

There are plenty of people who would argue that the idea of sustainable fashion is something of an oxymoron. After all, how can any company that bases its business model on product freshness and turnover, selling  in shops around the world ever call itself sustainable?

Whichever way you look at it, it’s time the fashion industry took a more radical approach to sustainability and going circular.

A circular economy focuses on the benefits for society as a whole and redefining growth. Driven by a move to renewable energy sources, reducing waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems.

Circular economy innovation

The good news is that there’s evidence the fashion industry is taking tentative steps towards a more circular economy.

There’s the Make Fashion Circular initiative, which brings together industry leaders including Burberry, Gap, H&M, Nike and Stella McCartney.

There are also the companies taking the fashion-as-a-service approach. These companies are responding to the demand for a more transparent sustainable supply chain (from ‘sheep to shop’) and the concept of ‘nownership’ – the rise of repair and rental business models such as Bag Romance, Haute Vault and Rent the Runway.

This kind of innovation allows the industry to adapt to new trends while keeping the customer (not the product) at the centre.

But the majority of businesses exploring these new models tend to be start-ups rather than the big names in fashion – fears around financial viability being the main deterrent.

As an industry, there’s recognition of the urgency of adopting a circular economy in fashion. Here at Linney we’re committed to helping retailers make the bold moves needed to create a more sustainable future.

To find out how we can make your fashion brand lead the charge in circular economy, get in touch with the team today.