Circular fashion is quite a new concept in the context of sustainable fashion. The concept ‘circular fashion’ was first used publicly in June 2014 by Felix Ockborn, at the time environmental sustainability coordinator for H&M in Stockholm.

So, what does ‘circular fashion‘ actually mean?

It can be defined as any fashion item that is:

  1. Designed so that its sub-components can be disassembled or separated to facilitate repair, remake, reuse and eventually material recycling at its end of use;
  2. Designed with high quality materials and in timeless style to maximize its durability, longevity and attractiveness to many users (if passed on to new users);
  3. Produced with non-toxic, high quality and preferably biodegradable materials, so that its material(s) may be safely biodegraded and composted at the end of use; or produced with non-toxic synthetic materials that may be effectively recycled (such as recyclable polyester);
  4. Produced in such a way that all waste generation is minimized during production, and all potential spill material and rest products can be reclaimed and reused as raw material for other processes, thus minimizing the extraction of new virgin material;
  5. Produced, transported and marketed using renewable energy, such as wind or solar power, wherever possible, and using water and other raw materials effectively and safely throughout production and distribution;
  6. Can be safely and effectively reclaimed and recycled, whereby its components are utilized as raw material for manufacturing of new products, or are biodegraded and turned into biological nutrients for microorganisms in the soil.

However key players in fashion industry don’t seem to realize circular fashion is what all the cool kids are wearing these days.

Enschede Textielstad, a company that uses recycled yarns to make new textiles. Not stuffing for car seats. Not shop rags. But designer fabrics that would look right at home in any designer boutique. The cool thing about this is that the colors also come from the previous fabric. The global apparel industry wastes about 80 billion meters per year just in cutting room scraps, according to this study.

Most designers aren’t considering Zero-Waste Fashion, instead of throwing scraps away to spend eternity in a landfill, some savvy spinners are taking them and making them into yarns for textile producers such as Enschede Textielstad. For perspective, denim woven in Thailand runs about $3 per meter. Similar fabric made in the EU using recycled content can cost as much as $20 per meter.

Still one can see a new trend emerging in fashion industry like a bubble filled with eco-fashionistas determined to steer the industry toward a less resource-intensive, less wasteful future.

This trend can take the shape of a revolution –

  • If consumers are choosing to pay more for better clothing, like choosing H&M’s Conscious collection over its other offerings.
  • It takes designers buying circular fabrics, like the ones made by Enschede and others.
  • It takes factories sending cutting room scraps to be recycled by organizations such as Reverse Resources.
  • And finally, it takes recyclers realizing they can make treasure from trash instead of just dumping it somewhere else.