There are many opportunities for the fashion industry to move towards circularity, but many brands and retailers still don't know how or where to start. Many stakeholders lack the necessary knowledge and skills to implement circular practices. To solve this, Hecho x Nosotros proposes training in a circular design, exploring new business models, and producing new educational programs synchronizing universities with industry.
To bring about a fundamental shift in the industry, we must retrain fashion practitioners so that they can transition from a linear to a circular system that does not generate waste. Through new business models, we can think beyond the point of the sale of a garment and design with the ‘use’ and the ‘end-of-use’ phases in mind. It is estimated that 80% of the environmental impact of a garment is determined during its design phases.
When discussing circular economy, it is essential to understand the life cycle phases of a garment. In the use phase, the attention must be refocused on the function the garment will serve for the consumer. Designers need to select appropriate materials and design constructions in a logical and sustainable manner.
In the end-of-use phase, designers need to embrace the complexities of supply chain processes in the final stage: collection, sorting, cleaning, repair, reuse, recycling. The recycling process should be considered a last resort due to downcycling, and strategies that extend the life of the garment, such as renting and reselling, should be prioritized.
The business model must be designed alongside the product. The durability of a garment is determined during the production phase, however, if it is not accompanied by a business strategy that promotes care, it may not live up to its potential in terms of longevity.
During the production phase, a garment has the potential to gain value that goes beyond materials and manufacturing. Adriana Marina, the founder of Hecho x Nosotros and animaná, has called for a systemic change of the fashion industry that starts at the base of the value chain.
To radically transform the fashion industry, Marina believes brands must promote transparency by showcasing processes. Through capacity-building efforts, including technology implementation and training for MSMEs, animaná has helped formalize best practices and create jobs in remote areas of the Andean region. In this way, a garment can become a powerful changemaker, instead of something mass-produced with no consideration for life cycle or impact.
Until now, the adoption of circularity in the fashion industry has been a competitive advantage of multinational corporations. What is imperative for its global acceleration is collaborative development and dissemination across industry and academia.
Achieving meaningful and sustained change requires a common set of principles and processes, as well as a unified language between education and industry. By training these groups in parallel, the industry can address challenges collaboratively and implement new knowledge and insights.
Author: Hannah Bobker
Editors: Hailey Matarese and Alondra Magana
“The re-education of fashion professionals for a circular economy”. Available at: https://fashionunited.com/news/business/the-re-education-of-fashion-professionals-for-a-circular-economy/2020032732811
Stanford Social Innovation Review. Article: “Capital for creativity”. Fall 2017.
HxN Blog Post, “MSMEs and Technology,” https://en.hechoxnosotros.org/post/msmes-and-technology