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What is a circular fashion product?

Product design is at the heart of the new circular fashion paradigm

As Ellen MacArthur Foundation says, waste and pollution do not exist by accident; they are the result of design decisions. And since design determines what we wear, we have the responsibility to choose wisely our clothes and accessories. Circular fashion products are one of the possible choices. But what exactly is a circular fashion product? To give a definition, we first need to understand what circular fashion is.

What is circular fashion?

Circular fashion is a business model in which products are designed, produced, and sold with the intention of being used and reused for as long as possible.

This new model is totally different from the traditional one, which is linear and based on 3 steps: Take-Make-Waste. In other words, companies take raw materials, transform them into finished products, and shoppers, sooner or later, throw them away. This model not only consumes a lot of resources but also produces pollution and waste along the way. Is it sustainable? Of course, not. On the other hand, in the circular fashion model, materials and resources are retained and returned back into the process. The goal is to close the loop of clothing production by eliminating waste and pollution.

The characteristics of circular products

In general, a circular product has at least these three main characteristics. It is:

  • Designed to last: it is made with high-quality materials and it is made to be used and reused multiple times.
  • Repairable and upgradable: it can be repaired or upgraded instead of being thrown away when it breaks or goes out of style.
  • Made from recycled or renewable materials: it is made with resources that can be reused over and over again or can be easily recycled or composted.

Some examples of circular fashion products are:

  • T-shirts made from recycled plastic bottles,
  • Jeans made from organic cotton,
  • Shoes made from recycled old shoes,
  • Bags made from recycled leather,
  • Jewels made from recycled glass.

However, even such products can be used and then thrown away. And this is where brand commitment comes into play. In fact, brands can do much more than produce clothes, bags, shoes, or jewellery more sustainably. They can give life to circular fashion initiatives, such as repair services, rental services, collection of items that consumers no longer want, and resale through the second-hand market. The goal is to extend the life of their products for as long as possible, and make sure the products are then returned and regenerated back into new products.

What is a circular fashion product?

Circular brands

Numerous ethical and sustainable fashion brands are committed to creating products with these characteristics. Here are some of the most popular examples:

  1. Nobis Next
    Nobis, the Canadian luxury outerwear brand, recently launched NEXT by Nobis, a peer-to-peer resale program that gives consumers the opportunity to resell their Nobis items and purchase pre-owned ones at a discounted rate. The system includes an authentication process that certifies the authenticity of the items.  In this way, product life is extended, environmental impact is reduced, and consumers can have peace of mind about what they buy. 

  2. Save the Duck
    With the Refresh The World campaign, the brand celebrates the success of its journey toward carbon neutrality. The campaign focuses on the Arctic collection which includes technical parkas made from certified recycled materials and animal-free padding, through a supply chain that follows high environmental and social standards.

  3. EA Sustainable Collection
    Emporio Armani also has its own collection dedicated to sustainability. In addition to "new concept" practices, garments in the sustainable F/W collection are made from recycled materials, including nylon, wool, polyester, and organic cotton. In addition, jackets, pants, and sweatshirts and other garments are made using production scraps.

    So, what really is a circular fashion product?

    A circular fashion product is more than an item created in an eco-sustainable way. Actually, some products can be made of non-recyclable materials or with production processes that are not strictly ecological, yet they still fall within the circular economy thanks to the recovery, reuse, and resale initiatives that, as we have seen, brands can implement. It is thanks to the mix of product features and initiatives that luxury brand garments can pass to new owners, old jeans can be transformed into sweaters, and the rubber soles of old shoes can give life to non-slip floors.

    In other words, what truly characterises a circular fashion product is its ability to remain in the production-use loop for a long time, even changing shape or intended use over time.

    07 Dec 2022

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