As sustainability becomes more important to consumers—about 61% of American shoppers consider eco-friendliness a criterion—many brands are beginning to embrace circular fashion.
“Circular fashion is about keeping resources and materials in use and in circulation longer,” explains Stephanie Benedetto, CEO and co-founder of Queen of Raw, a marketplace for buying and selling sustainable and dead textiles.
On Queen of Raw, Benedetto’s main mission is to solve the world’s water crisis by focusing on textiles, the second largest polluter of clean water worldwide.
“Each year, $288 billion worth of unused textiles just sits in warehouses, gathering dust, or is incinerated and sent to landfills,” explains Benedetto. “We’ve built a global marketplace of AI-powered and blockchain-enabled supply chain software to enable companies to reuse, resell and recycle this waste globally while measuring its impact and intelligently minimizing their waste going forward.”
Queen of Raw has already saved over 1 billion gallons of water through the company’s efforts to reduce textile waste. It’s the perfect example of circular fashion and what it can achieve.
Perhaps the complete opposite of fast fashion, circular fashion places an emphasis on keeping clothes and textiles in use. Whether reselling, repairing or even upcycling, the regenerative method of circular fashion brings out the best in textiles. And ultimately keeps them out of the landfill longer.
Thrift marketplaces have been doing this for a while, according to Benedetto.
“There are many resale marketplaces that we know and love: Poshmark, Depop, The RealReal, StockX, thredUP,” says Benedetto. “They are all about reuse, repair and recycling. This is circularity. And it’s good for people, for the planet and for profit.”
And the good news is that circular fashion is now starting to make its way into the mainstream fashion world. Brands that were previously seen as leaders in fast fashion are catching on to this trend — and jumping in too.
“According to the latest McKinsey report, brands and retailers that have recently dominated value creation and commercial profit in the fashion industry include Nike, LVMH, Kering and H&M,” says Benedetto. “And when I look at who our customers and partners are [at Queen of Raw] and whoever really embraces the circular economy is the same.”
With big brands like Nike and H&M jumping on the trend, it marks a massive shift in how fashion companies approach sustainability.
For example, H&M has partnered with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), a charity dedicated to the global transition to a circular economy. Among those efforts is a pledge to build all products using the Circulator by 2025 — an approach that helps teams understand the impact to make more sustainable decisions. In addition, we have already seen H&M’s resale platform and recycled denim collection on the market.
Similarly, Nike has implemented more sustainable approaches with the launch of its Nike Circular Design Guide. The guide serves as a benchmark for how to avoid waste, use more sustainable materials and ultimately make better products that last longer.
Benedetto adds: “Changing even a small percentage of the way they do business can have a massive and measurable impact on our world. At the same time, we can build for the supply chain of the future: one that is more needs-based, more local, more digital and more sustainable.”
With more and more brands embracing circular fashion lately, it certainly seems like we’re on our way to creating that supply chain of the future. But Benedetto adds that while supply chains can be improved, waste is unlikely to ever go away entirely.
“There will always be waste,” she says. “If we don’t want to be naked, we will consume fashion. The opportunity we have now is to look at what it’s made of, where it’s coming from, who it’s going to, how and why we consume it, what we do with it at the end of its lifespan – that’s what matters.”
Luckily for us, more and more fashion brands are embracing a circular economy, which makes our work as conscious consumers a lot easier.
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