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Circular economy in the fashion industry

We talk about: Sustainable fashion
19 December 2023

One of the most effective ways to achieve the goal of sustainable fashion is to apply the principles of the circular economy to the textile industry. Indeed, there are plenty of open-loop systems in the fashion industry.

Let’s consider the cotton fibre route for example. A cotton boll is harvested, carded, spun and woven to produce clothing that is worn and then discarded. The cycle starts in a field and ends in a landfill. Closing the loop means collecting the product, reusing it before it ends up in a landfill and extending the life of the cotton fibre.

Collecting, recycling and reusing is not the only solution. There are numerous options and, as already mentioned, sustainability is a shared goal. It is important that each party involved makes its contribution and that the various approaches work together synergistically.

Circular economy: the role of consumers

Consumers can make responsible choices and change their buying habits, supported by new trends and services.

Second hand and vintage are going through their golden age. Awareness regarding the topic of sustainable fashion is now so solid and widespread that it has definitively broken down the taboo on the possibility of wearing second-hand clothes. Indeed, nowadays it is trendy and considered cool to buy second-hand or vintage clothing – not to mention the decidedly advantageous price/quality ratio.

Another important development in consumer habits is clothing rental. Recently, apps, platforms, and rental services have multiplied, some even offered by the brands themselves that are most sensitive and responsive to the topic of sustainability. The possibility of renting for a limited time reduces the need to purchase new items and is particularly attractive to consumers when they need a garment for a special occasion, which they are unlikely to be able to reuse on a daily basis.

Take-back and recycle programmes promoted by brands are going in the same direction, whereby consumers are encouraged to return used clothing instead of throwing it away, in exchange for discounts and other benefits. In this case, the importance of working together to attain a reduction in textile waste is even more apparent.

What can fashion brands do?

Fashion brands can pursue numerous sustainability paths.

  • They can use better quality raw materials and make more durable products that stand the test of time.
  • They can implement garment take-back, recycle and reuse processes to reduce waste production.
  • They can re-allocate stock on alternative markets to the original ones to extend the life cycle of products.

The latter option specifically falls within the scope of so-called off-price fashion. It is also an excellent solution for managing excess stock due to overproduction, defective or mismatched garments, or fast-changing consumer demand. Regardless of the reason, excess stock is a financial problem as it ties cash up. In addition, there is the need to align with increasingly stringent European standards in terms of textile waste production. Off-price fashion is one of the anti-waste initiatives of circular economy.

It is important to use reliable and structured partners, just like us, for each of these sustainability paths.

Our contribution to circular economy

When a fashion company enters markets that are complementary to the original ones, it must have brand protection guarantees. At M&A Export we operate within the policies set by the manufacturing companies. At the end of processing, we can also send export documentation, so the company can check where we have sent the products and monitor the quantities placed in each market.

For the number of products that cannot be put back on sale – we rely on Corertex. This way we are sure that they will be reused as secondary raw materials or recycled to make other items.

If you want to make your company more sustainable and need to dispose of your stock, contact us.