The re-education of fashion professionals for a circular economy

There are many opportunities for the industry to move towards circularity, but many

participants still don't know where to start. This could be due to a lack of knowledge and skills related to circular fashion. To solve this, it is proposed to train in circular design,

implement new business models and produce new educational programs synchronising

universities with industry.


Many brands still don't know how to start the transition to the circular economy. There are technologies, solution providers and innovations available, but they are not, however,

being exploited by everyone. This could be due to a lack of skills and knowledge about

circular fashion.


A promising solution is re-education, aimed at professionals in the fashion industry, which

gives them the necessary tools to move from a linear to a circular system that does not

generate waste.


Re-education would take place through a new school of circular design, new business

models focused on access and that think beyond the point of sale of the garment and the

retraining of current and future fashion professionals.


Professionals today are not trained to design and produce thinking in the function of the

garment to the end-user or end-of-life of the garment. Acting on the stage is important

because it is where 80% of the environmental impact occurs.


It is essential to understand the phase of use and the phase of the end of use of the

garment. In the use phase, it is necessary to refocus attention on the user and the

function that the garment will have for the consumer.


Designers need to consider appropriate life cycles, selecting materials and constructions that serve the use and function of a product, in a logical and sustainable design.



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.

Regarding business models, it must be designed in parallel with the product. The durability

of the garment must be accompanied by a business model that promotes care and

facilitates repair.


Furthermore, garments designed to be recycled will only be effectively

recycled if there is a process to collect them from the consumer and reintroduce them into

the system. However, the recycling process should be considered as a last resort due to down-cycling and, therefore, strategies that extend the life of the garment, such as renting and reselling, should be prioritised.


On the other hand, business models based on access to the garment, such as renting or

buying second-hand clothes, would imply that the cost structure of the clothes will change

significantly, so that multiple owners will assume the cost of the garment where previously

only an owner would, and second, that clothing should be re-designed to accommodate

multiple owners and be more durable.


With regard to retraining, many universities still train for the industry of the past. While the

industry is embracing new circular skills and mindsets, graduates are equipped with skills

and a linear model mindset. The adoption of circularity in the fashion industry remains the competitive advantage of the top performing giants, and the acceptance of circularity in fashion education is a privilege for some specialised and front running institutions. 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, and a unified language between education and industry. This will be achieved

through parallel training between both. The industry by bringing the knowledge, skills and

attitudes it is looking for, and education by providing new insights and research on industry

challenges. Finally, re-education within universities and brands must be done in sync in

order to accelerate the change that our system needs.


This can be an opportunity for impact investments in the creative economy, directing

resources to designers through joint action between social entrepreneurs and investment

funds so that they can have the capital, the necessary tools and be able to connect them

with the skills business they need.


Sources:

- Article, “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.

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