Circular Economy in Fashion Industry

Circular Economy in Fashion Industry

Shubham Anil Jain
Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited
Bangalore, India


What is Circular Economy in Fashion?
In today’s era, textiles and clothing are a fundamental need of everyday life and an important sector in the global economy. This learning path enhance how the principles of the circular economy can be applied to the fashion industry, beginning by covering why the fashion industry of today is not fit for purpose. Circular economy ditches the traditional “take-make-waste” model and instead demands the industry to close the loop on production, including responsible manufacturing, use, and end-of-life for every garment. This system considers materials and production thoughtfully, highlighting the value of utilizing a product right to the end, then going one step further and repurposing it into something else.

Circular economy in fashion industry
Fig: Circular economy in fashion industry

Need for Circular Economy:
The fact is that, the textile industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, since it uses a resource-intensive supply chain that causes massive waste and releases a large amount of toxic substances that pollute air, water, and soil. This has an adverse effects on industry workers who, in turn, have excessively long working hours in unhealthy conditions. Each stage of textile product life cycle generates large amounts of waste, which are currently discarded.

Textile waste can be classified into three categories:

1. Preconsumer textile wastes:
They are particularly the remains of every production process. When the textile and fashion sector is being considered, these consist of pieces of fabric, leather, and other raw materials discarded during the textile processes.

2. Postconsumer textile wastes:
This are particularly the clothes that are no longer desirable for the user due to some aesthetic, functional purpose, or fashion reasons, or may be due to they are torn. Generally, in the best case scenario, these garments are mended and sold a second hand clothes in developing countries.

3. Postindustrial textile wastes:
They are generated particularly during the manufacturing processes. These may be either gases, liquids, or solids. Among them, one can mention dyes and chemicals dumped into water streams, the carbon footprint of every process and transport, etc.

As explained by the circular economy concept, mass garment consumption entails a purchase decision process rather shorter than the conscious purchase of clothes. Therefore, time is one of the essential factors. There is actually a big difference when it comes to wearing clothes and getting dressed. When we get dressed, we show something about us, but when it comes to studying about the origin of the garment, we are also embodying its history. Therefore, one can respect the context, origin, and production process of the garment, which turns it into a unique piece, and the decision process becomes more conscious. On the contrary, in the case of mass garment purchase, the process of garment purchase, wear, and discard takes place over a very brief period of time, just like its production process. Owing to all this, there is necessity for every company to dive into circular fashion/economy.

Benefits of Circular Economy:

  1. One of the important benefits of implementing an economic system that emulates the operation of nature, like the circular economy, where waste is used as feed for a new stage, would be waste reduction and its subsequent anti-pollution effect on the environment, which will also prevent various diseases caused by poor waste management.
  2. Different measures such as waste prevention, eco-design and re-use could save companies wealth as well as also reduce total annual greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, it is estimated that production of materials account for 45% of the CO2 emissions.
  3. Circular economy is basically a closed-loop system. One can summarize it with the phrase “everything comes back” as is the case with fashion trends. This results in a continuous flow of services, goods, and resources. In turn, as it is based on the principles and cycles of nature, it also allows the necessary time and space for natural resource regeneration, since by reusing product materials several times, there is no need to constantly use original raw materials.
  4. Moving towards in depth of circular economy, it could deliver benefits such as reducing pressure on the environment, improving the security of the supply of raw materials, increasing competitiveness, stimulating innovation, boosting economic growth, creating jobs.
  5. Consumers will also be provided with more durable and innovative products that will increase the quality of life and save them money in the long term.

You may also like: Need and Benefits of Circular Economy

Brands Involved in Circular Business:

1. MUD Jeans:
Basically, MUD Jeans is a denim manufacturer who practices the circular fashion principle in their manufacturing process. In 2013 the company introduced a concept called “Lease a Jeans,” which was an innovative approach to offer guilt-free consumption. Apart from rent, they also permit their customers to choose required numbers of jeans from their online store and return it back after their wear trial, which is a good strategy. Furthermore, they collect the used jeans at their end of life and recycle that fabric into shredded fibers and again spin them into new varieties jeans. The company has received the Sustainability Leadership Award and the Peta Vegan Awards (Something about Mud Jeans, 2018).

MUD Jeans

2. Houdini:
It is one of the famous European brands known for their closed loop sustainable production. The company had received the H&M & ELLE Conscious Award 2017 as benchmark of their sustainable production process. The manufacturers were mentioned that, they do not see sustainability as a separate area within the operations; it is an integral part of everything that the company does. There is no inherent contradiction between sustainability and good business; on the contrary, sustainability is a prerequisite for good business. The company initiated the entire sustainability model in their business. They have started the repair facility in all their retail showrooms to extend the life time of the product. They had introduced the rental model from 2013. In all Houdini outlets, renting clothes are possible. The manufacturer claims that the rental process motivates the customer to purchase products that they like and want to use for a long time only.


3. Nudie jeans:
It is also another denim manufacturer who produces sustainable denim pants in a efficient manner. They are being using only 100% organic cotton for their production, because of which it has a 46% reduced global warming potential, 70% less acidification potential, 26% reduced eutrophication potential (soil erosion), 91% reduced blue water consumption, and 62% reduced primary energy demand. The company also gives free repair service to their customer and also they collect secondhand material for sale purpose and recycling in the same store where they had brought the new item. They claim that in 2016 alone 44,021 jeans were repaired in there repair shop (Nudie Jeans, 2018).

Nudie jeans

4. H&M:
In 2016, H&M launched a “Global in Store clothing collection” scheme to engage the customer to bring in the end of use clothes to the store and ultimately increase the life of the product. The collected clothes were sorted by a third-party organization manually and resaled around 40% to 60% of the good clothes as secondhand clothing around the world. They also directly sell 5%-10% of the clothes for reuse. The fabrics which cannot be used further are used into different varieties products. Out of the products 30%-40% of the textiles are upcycled into fiber for developing new garments. Currently, the company works hard to increase the proportion of the upcycling materials in their production. The long-term objective of the H&M is to find a solution for reusing and recycling all textile fiber for new uses and to use yarns made out of collected textiles in their products.

h&m circular economy

Currently, the implementation of circular economy is important as it is a system that can slacken the accelerated pace of goods and services consumption. Reducing the pace includes permission to think things over and becoming aware of every action. Reducing the pace of production and resources requires changes in every part of the process. This, as well as its results, may take years to realized which does not mean that it is either impossible or that the process is not worthwhile. Learning again to value resources and have a healthy interaction with our environment when used to doing just otherwise is a great lesson that needs to learn. This means to live in harmony with those surrounding us, respecting and even encouraging both our fellow humans and the future generations to express themselves freely, without forcing anyone or being forced.


  1. Concepts of Circular Economy in Textile and Apparel Industry,
  2. Mikerina, D., 2016. Re-thinking the place of semiotics in Fashion Studies. In: Urgelles Molina, A., et al. (Eds.), Fashion on the Move: Rethinking Design. Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, pp. 31e39.
  3. Nudie Jeans, 2018. 3 15.
  4. Adivarekar, R.V., Suchitra, P., 2009. Reuse and recycling of textile solid wastes. Journal of the Textile Association 70 (3), 118e126.
  5. Circular Economy in Textiles and Apparel: Processing, Manufacturing and Design, Edited by Subramanian Senthilkannan Muthu, Head of Sustainability, SgT Group & API, Hong Kong

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