The fashion industry has some of the biggest carbon footprints, with huge amounts of fabric and other materials ending up in landfills and contributing around 10% of total global emissions. Some fashion brands have made strides toward becoming more environmentally friendly and sustainable. However, many brands still rely heavily on traditional models and methods that don’t account for the lifecycle costs of materials and the true potential of recycling. Let’s explore top circular fashion brands shifting the paradigm using innovative business models to create more sustainable products and processes.
Circular Fashion Brands- Overview
In recent years, there has been an increasing number of brands committing to trying to combat these environmental issues, and one key way they do this is through their circular business models. By embracing the idea that products can be used over and over again instead of ending up as trash in landfills, these brands are making strides towards saving the environment and making money by selling their used clothing and accessories to secondhand stores and online consignment sites.
What Are Circular Fashion Brands
Circular fashion brands are responsible for creating sustainable, ethical, and environmentally friendly products. These companies understand the industry’s current state and what needs to happen to change it. As more and more people are becoming aware of the negative impacts that traditional fashion can have on the environment, there has been a rise in circular fashion brands that are shifting the paradigm. These companies consider factors like supply chain transparency and environmental impact when creating their products. As a result, these brands are trying to cut down on waste by using biodegradable fabrics and striving for zero-waste production without putting too much pressure on the final product price.
Circular Fashion Brands Shifting the Paradigm
Thanks largely to shifting consumer habits, the fashion industry is making strides toward a more sustainable future by eliminating potentially harmful ingredients, cutting back on raw material consumption, and completely revamping recycling practices. If the ideas of the circular economy were applied, it could boost the fashion sector toward greater sustainability. Here are the top circular fashion brands changing the paradigm.
An iconic sneaker brand is leading the way in sustainable footwear. In March 2020, Puma debuted their First Mile Collection of spherical running shoes. Forty tons of plastic trash were used in the collection, all amassed by the First Mile neighborhood members. Locals who harvest plastic from ecosystems and resell it to businesses have banded together in this organization. Puma introduced a novel production pilot in March 2022 to create new football jerseys from preexisting pieces to minimize waste and investigate more circular production models in the future. The technology, called RE: JERSEY, makes it possible to recycle outdated clothing with logos, embroidery, and club insignia, which previously hampered recycling efforts. The garments undergo a chemical process termed depolymerization in the recycling procedure utilized for the project. Next, the material is chemically reassembled through repolymerisation, removing the colors in the process, and the result is a yarn with the same technical specifications as virgin polyester. Currently available Puma football kits are constructed from 100% recycled polyester. However, RE: JERSEY outfits will be made from 75% reused football jerseys. The remaining 25% is derived from Seaqual marine plastic, a polyester yarn made entirely from post-consumer recycled materials.
H&M was founded on the principle of rapid fashion, but props for attempting to alter that! Compared to other well-known high-street labels, this one is a sustainable, slow fashion pioneer compared to other well-known high street labels. Its goal is to create a value chain that has a net positive impact on the environment; thus, the company is rethinking its whole business strategy. That includes having some shops give credit for purchasing previously owned clothing. They are then repurposed into brand-new merchandise that customers can purchase, try, and return for a refund or shop credit. It’s a fantastic waste-prevention strategy for fast-fashion items, allowing you to complete the fashion cycle. H&M promoted its in-store Loop recycling machine with events targeting Swedish customers. Each label provides an in-store collection for customers interested in purchasing recycled clothing. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) is a leading charity in the worldwide movement to transition to a circular economy, and H&M collaborates closely with them. H&M is dedicated to the Fashion Pact’s climate, biodiversity, and ocean goals, together with other major global fashion and textile firms. They have joined the Circular Fashion Partnership, and the company signed the Global Fashion Agenda’s 2020 Commitment, both of which state their intention to include circularity into the design of all of their products. H&M is in favor of laws that encourage a more sustainable fashion business. They even met with Swedish government officials in 2020 to urge them to enact stricter regulations on the use of chemicals. The firm lobbied the German government for better clothing recycling laws and was part of the EU’s consultations on textile strategy, energy-efficient building requirements, and the circular economy.
Tentree clothing is the most eco-friendly option available. Aside from having Cradle to Cradle certification at the Platinum or Gold level, they also plant ten trees for every item sold (hence the name). In addition, on the product page for any of their unisex casual clothing, you can see the amount of water and CO2 you’re saving by purchasing. All of the data is displayed prominently next to each item for sale. Tentree says the best eco-friendly thing you can do with your gently-used wardrobe is to come up with creative new ways to wear the items. Maintaining its circulation is the second most sustainable choice. Tentree’s groundbreaking new concept, “Circularity,” repurposes previously discarded clothing items. The team has been quietly working on this initiative for some time now, and they’re thrilled to give previously loved but worn-out tentree pieces a second chance at life. Tentree has partnered with SuperCircle and Treet, two organizations that are experts in diverting textiles from landfills. As such, they’ve joined forces with Tentree to create this innovative scheme, each playing a crucial part in reusing clothing. SuperCircle will responsibly recycle any items the company cannot resell owing to flaws such as tears or stains from beverages. Up and downcycling may be seen here, including creating new yarn and textiles, such as recycled jeans and tees. Reusing items is prioritized above recycling them, but the company promises that the garments will never end up in a landfill.
Sustainable fashion label ECOALF hails from Spain. ECOALF creates its swimwear using PET and recycled polyester that is 100% recycled. In 2009, Javier Goyeneche established ECOALF to create a sustainable fashion business utilizing innovative textile production techniques to make clothes out of 100% recycled materials. ECOALF’s goal is to make the first generation of recycled items as high-quality and well-designed as the best non-recycled products, ending the wasteful use of natural resources.
ECOALF has created methods to create yarn from waste products, such as:
- Used coffee that has been thrown away
- T-shirts made from recycled cotton
- Textiles made from discarded woolens
- Utilized tires as the soles of sandals
Although recycling has always been at the heart of Ecoalf’s operations, the streetwear brand pushed recycling to a new level in 2015 with the introduction of its Ocean initiative. The emphasis here is on working with fishermen to recycle trash they pull up from the ocean floor. Eventually, this garbage is transformed into luxurious yarns for windbreakers and running tights. What started with only three fishermen collecting trash from the coast has grown into an annual 4,000-ton effort. Ecoalf’s clothing and accessories are made from recycled materials like plastic bottles, fishing nets, old tires, and even coffee grounds.
In 2015, Adidas introduced the first Adidas x Parley running shoe at the United Nations offices in New York. The sneaker was constructed from recycled plastic garbage from beaches and coastal communities. After that, Adidas took a hard stance against plastic and began using recycled polyester in all its products. As of 2020, 11 million pairs of Adidas shoes were made from recycled ocean plastic. Adidas introduced repurposed shoes in 2021. The sneaker is designed to be part of a closed-loop system. With the Made to be Remade program, used shoes can be sent back to Adidas at the end of their useful life and recycled into something new. By 2024, all of Adidas’s products will be made from 100% recycled polyester. The FUTURECRAFT.LOOP project has helped in this direction by working toward a “closed loop” or fully circular manufacturing paradigm in which raw materials are recycled and reused indefinitely. Primeblue and Primegreen are part of a sustainability-minded capsule collection from Adidas Skateboarding.
One of the world’s largest online apparel and accessories retailers, ASOS, has announced that its first circular collection will be released in September 2020. The collection will feature trend-led and fashion-forward designs spanning clothing and accessories, all of which will be developed and created to satisfy industry-leading circularity principles without sacrificing quality or affordability. The initiative is finally getting off the ground after ASOS promised at the 2018 Copenhagen Fashion Summit to educate all ASOS designers on circular design by 2020. All ASOS designers are now enrolled in a curriculum developed by ASOS and the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion. Make Fashion Circular is an initiative of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that encourages cooperation between business leaders and other important stakeholders to develop a 21st-century textile economy. The massive British online clothing retailer is setting an excellent example. It collaborated with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion to release its first-ever circular fashion collection last fall. Over 20 retro-inspired looks from the ’90s were featured in that first closed-loop collection. Soon, the business plans to increase the number of circular fashion options they provide. To whatever 2021 may bring, we look forward with anticipation!
It’s no secret that the fashion industry, one of the world’s top polluters, has failed to keep up with sustainability efforts. While some brands are rising to the challenge, most are still clinging to linear business models and producing mass quantities of waste while being slow to adopt circular processes and thinking in favor of short-term profits. But, there’s hope yet, as more and more brands have started adopting circular business models and becoming more eco-friendly with their products and supply chains.