the fashion industry moving towards a circular economy

Do you turn old t-shirts into rags to shake off? Do you try to donate or give away clothes that you no longer fit or that you used only once? You also don’t have prejudices to rent an evening dress or a suit, or even, have you already become a fan of the new second-use stores? Congratulations, you are ready to participate in the circular economy of fashion.

In recent years, the amount of natural and human resources used by the fast fashion industry, those relatively cheap fashion clothes that are designed to last only one season and then be thrown away.

The large chains in this segment expanded worldwide in the last 20 years and contributed to an increase in the production of garments, but also led to a greater generation of waste.

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According to the study Circular Business Models, of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, between 2000 and 2015 the production of clothing doubled, while the period of use of a garment before throwing it away fell 36%.

This caused the fashion industry to generate 2.1 billion tons of greenhouse gases in 2018, that is, 4% of total emissions worldwide.

It is estimated that 70% of gas emissions from greenhouse effect of the fashion industry come from onshore activities, such as sourcing textiles and clothing preparation and processing, for which new ways are urgently needed to de-link fashion industry revenue from the mass production process and the use of natural resources.

In addition, due to low garment prices and economic losses caused by excess inventory, shortages and returns, the profit margins of clothing manufacturers decreased an average of 40% from 2016 to 2019.

This situation was exacerbated in 2020 by the pandemic, since it highlighted the fragility of fast fashion supply chains, since most assembly plants in Asian countries at low cost and their profits collapsed 90% compared to 2019.

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“Circular businesses have the potential to massively become trending, while also providing positive growth and transformation for the fashion industry,” he said. Marilyn Martinez, project manager for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Fashion Initiative.

Thus, manufacturers and designers are looking for alternatives to create a more sustainable clothing production model, with garments of higher quality and price, but more durable.

The circular economy of fashion includes new business models such as the sale of second-use clothes, rent, repair of clothes and even the design of digital clothes.

The study also estimates that these new ways of buying and wearing clothes represent a market of 73 billion dollars annually.

Of this total, the sale of second-use clothing takes 63% of the income from the fashion circular economy, while rent corresponds to 20%. The remaining 17% goes to garment repair and conversion businesses.

The study highlights that these business models have the potential to reach 23% of the global fashion market value by 2030, which would represent revenues of $ 700 billion, as they are expected to continue growing as customers become convinced of their convenience, eco-awareness and affordability.

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New business

During 2020, despite the pandemic, seven second-use clothing and apparel rental companies – Depop, Rent the Runway, The Real Real, Vinted, Poshmark, Vestiaire Collective and ThredUP – reached valuations of one billion Dollars.

In addition, large clothing chains such as H&M, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, as well as Liverpool, in Mexico, are already testing circular economy strategies.

H&M promotes garment personalization through tips and guides to make clothing wear longer.

The Swedish chain of clothing stores launched the M.IN.T Care initiative, which promotes the repair and care of clothes through tutorials for consumers to do at home, with the intention of wearing the clothes for longer.

Through the Tommy for Life initiative, used garments from the Tommy Hilfiger and Tommy Jeans brands are received, as well as damaged parts from department stores, which are either repaired to be re-sold or converted into a new product with a different style. .

In Mexico there are platforms such as Troquer dedicated to the sale of second-hand clothing and luxury items. Last year, due to Covid-19, it had to expand its warehouses, as the number of sellers increased 80% compared to 2019.

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Meanwhile, the department store chain Liverpool It has already ventured into the rental of evening and wedding dresses.

The process can be done online, on the site or at the Insurgentes, Polanco and Parque Delta branches in Mexico City, as well as Andares, in Guadalajara, and Antea, in Querétaro.

The dress can be set aside at least one day before and up to three months in advance. The store takes care of cleaning the garment with ozone and adjusting the length and straps. To return it, it is not necessary to take it to the laundry, since the cleaning and sanitizing process is the responsibility of the company.

The Ralph Lauren brand also launched its subscription-based clothing rental service. Membership starts at $ 125 per month and includes garment delivery, cleaning, and tips from fashion experts to find out what can be rented.

There are also applications like Hack Your Closet that, for a monthly rent, allows you to wear fashionable clothes that were not sold from past seasons, which helps the clothes to be used for longer.

Digital fashion

The proposal to reduce the use of materials to build a garment already went further, by dispensing with the garment itself. Thus, the DressX platform is a online digital clothing store.

Customers send a photo from various angles, their size, weight and measurements, and the platform configures a garment from various digital fashion designers to suit them.

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The purchase of the garment is done digitally and they receive a photograph of themselves wearing the clothing. The images can be used as many times as you want and are ideal for sharing on social networks such as Instagram or Facebook.

Models such as digital clothing are expected to grow significantly in the coming years, benefiting from reduced time and resources to buy clothing, as well as the creation of more gender-inclusive identities and the body positive movement.

Despite the environmental benefits of the circular economy of fashion, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation cautions that by encouraging the return of clothing for resale, renovation or recycling in exchange for vouchers or discounts on new products, your can encourage increased production. of garments.

Therefore, if the traditional clothing manufacturing scheme is maintained, world production is projected to increase 63%, from 62 million tons per year to 101 million tons in 2030, with greenhouse gas emissions of 2,700 millions of tons.


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