Shifting to a Circular System
On Thursday 11 May 2017, the fashion industry came together for the largest sustainability-focused event of the industry, the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2017. Held at the Danish capital’s Koncerthuset, the event brought together leading voices in fashion businesses, non-profit organisations and policy makers to discuss social and environmental issues in the fashion industry.
Eva Kruse, the president and chief executive of the Global Fashion Agenda and the organiser of the annual Copenhagen Fashion Summit discussed plans to turn sustainability commitments into action. A “Commitment to Change” and “Shifting to a circular system” were frequently repeated phrases at the event. The organisation called on and encouraged fashion brands and retailers to commit to making progress towards taking on a circular model. A circular model is an approach to business following the idea of reusing and eradicating waste by breaking down products when they have reached the end of their lifecycle and transforming them into new products.
So what are the benefits of taking on a circular system?
The fashion industry is one of the largest industries in the world due to its vast global growth and consistent development. The industry employs around 60 million people along its value chain and uses a lot of resources that continue to have a negative impact on the environment, as the industry continues to grow. Today’s approach to the economic model follows the structure of ‘take, make and dispose of’. This relies on huge quantities of material that are cheap, easily accessible and require a lot of energy. But currently, this model is reaching its limits as the world population is set to exceed 8.5 billion people and global garment production expected to increase by 63%, by 2030.
The transition to a circular model, however, is one that is beneficial for the fashion industry as it allows for products and materials to be reused and re-circulated alongside offering more opportunities for innovative design and increased customer engagement. Circular systems also provide a range of opportunities for reducing demands on material resources and environmental pressures without compromising or challenging profitability. With this approach the product is well looked after, can be repaired when broken or when no longer fit for use and the materials used to make the product can then be recovered again for use in new products.
Adopting a circular system has a great economic advantage in relation to environmental issues surrounding the production of garments. A system such as this brings substantial environmental savings, generating greater value throughout the product’s lifecycle beyond the point of sale. Alongside reducing the environmental footprint of clothing as well as creating a range of new business opportunities, the circular system will also increase security in the supply of fibres to prevent future resource shortage and the system can also effectively work in shifting consumer perceptions of garments being disposed to being garments of value.
In further encouraging the fashion industry to commit to a sustainable fashion future and to adopt the proposed circular system, Eva Kruse is said to have expanded her management team and has declared to transform the Summit in attempts to deliver more tangible outcomes and hands-on solutions in regards to sustainability. The potential to make sustainability mainstream is one that appears to be promising, in creating a positive difference throughout all aspects of the fashion industry but the question still remains how long until the rest of the industry steps up and begins to take on a circular system?
By Sabrina Shafi
Image courtesy of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit