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 a 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
A promising solution is a 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
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 the 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, they must be designed in parallel with the product. The durability of the garment must be accompanied by a business model that promotes care and
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 prioritized.
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 specialized 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.
References and where to learn more
- Article, “The re-education of fashion professionals for a circular economy”.
Available at: https://fashionunited.com/news/business/the-re-education-of-fashion-
- Stanford Social Innovation Review. Article: “Capital for creativity”. Fall 2017.