Everyone’s talking about circularity in fashion — and all that it entails. Phrases like sustainable sourcing, transparency and traceability, and regenerative and restorative design are making headlines in fashion industry articles, podcasts and webinars. At face value, circularity sounds like a smart, ethical, purposeful concept. But what does circularity actually mean? How does it come to life within business structures already in place? At what cost? And how do fashion businesses continue to drive performance while embracing purpose?
WHAT IS CIRCULARITY?
A circular economy, aka circularity, is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. Circularity employs reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling to create a closed-loop system. It’s designed to minimize the use of finite resources and reduce the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions.
In the fashion industry, discussions around circularity and environmental impact go hand-in-hand with corporate social responsibility. We are tasked with thinking about the people behind the product at each stage of the supply chain. We are asked to consider the future of fashion, including trend and seasonality, and even the meaning of fashion itself. We are invited to consider what will happen to a garment at the very end of its lifecycle. And we are called to action, to be part of the fashion industry solution to change the way we operate. Not just for the protection of our planet, but for the survival of all species that call it home.
As a fashion marketing professional for over 25 years, my focus has been on the consumer who buys our clothes. Who is she? What does she want? How do we help her look and feel her best? And how do we represent her with respect, authenticity, inclusivity and diversity? Fast forward to now. The conversation has deepened and the stakes are much higher. It’s not just about caring for the customer, serving her fashion needs and desires, and providing a differentiated, branded experience. It’s a next-level concept of care, one that examines the impact on people we’ve never met and resources we can’t see. Although these ideas are not entirely new, it's gaining the traction needed for a mainstream movement.
I make no claim to be an expert on this subject, but I’m working hard to educate myself. I’m reading articles, watching webinars, subscribing to newsletters and thinking about fashion purchases in a whole new way. Here are some surprising facts about global fashion overproduction — and overconsumption. As fashion industry professionals and consumers, we own these outcomes. And we can own the change, too.
NOTHING TO WEAR? THINK AGAIN.
150 billion garments per year are produced by the global fashion industry.
30% of that clothing is never sold.
More than 50% is disposed of within one year.
The average American buys 70 apparel items per year. That’s equal to a new piece of clothing every four to five days.
The average lifetime of an apparel item is less than three years.
12.8 million tons of clothing are sent to landfills annually.
92 million tons of textile waste are produced each year by the fashion industry — using 98 million tons of natural resources.
1.2 billion tons of total greenhouse gas emissions are produced annually from textile production. This is more than what’s produced by all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
7,000 liters of water is needed to produce one pair of jeans — in an industry that produces 2 billion pairs of jeans every year.
The numbers are jarring, but at some level we all know that we’ve been headed in the wrong direction. We don’t need more companies making more fast fashion. We do need to think differently, slow down, and make less and better clothing that we can value and wear longer. Ultimately, we need to transform our business model holistically to bring together the tenets of circularity and profitability. This we know: the future belongs to those who believe in ROP (return on purpose) as much as ROI.
MOVING TOWARD CIRCULARITY
The regenerative approach of circularity is in stark contrast to the traditional linear economy we experience today, where products are created and disposed of. It’s often described as a “take, make, dispose” model of production. This way of doing business is not sustainable in a world of finite resources. But moving toward circularity is not an “all or nothing” proposition. We can start small and build on each achievement. We can look at the best practices of retailers who are leading the charge. We can seek out organizations and consultants who are leaders in the movement toward circularity. But taking the first step requires a commitment to transformation and an alliance of like-minded partners.
ASKING FOR HELP
Jordan Alliance Group is a black-owned and women-led boutique management consulting practice at the forefront of circularity. Leading with our core values of honesty and integrity, we build meaningful, personalized partnerships to achieve sustainable success for our clients. Partnerships that revolve around circularity in product, profit, people and the planet.
When change is the only constant, transformation is the only solution for continued growth and profitability. We’ll work with you to create customized, strategic solutions that cater to your unique fashion retail business. We’ll help you shape your future with innovation, technology and the change management required to achieve results.
DELIVERING ON PURPOSE
We’re working to demystify fashion circularity. We’re transforming our collective mindset to see waste and disposability as a design flaw. We’re embracing new materials and technologies that restore and regenerate. We’re showing clients how to eliminate costly waste, reduce pollution and inspire a culture of corporate responsibility. In short, we’re striving to make purpose profitable.
Contact our team for a free consultation and let’s get started.
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