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Editor's Comment: Working together is the only way to achieve circularity

Kirsty McGregor

I recently chaired a lively debate about circularity in fashion, during which we explored some of the barriers to implementing closed-loop models, and possible solutions. 

Organised by the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB), and involving panellists from companies including Adidas and Farfetch, it showed that fashion brands and retailers are taking circularity seriously – not only for ethical reasons, but because they recognise that many of the resources currently used in the production of clothing and footwear are finite.

There are undoubtedly barriers to closing the loop in fashion: the industry is fragmented, the cost of building circular systems can be prohibitive and there are no perfect solutions.

But the message from the panel was clear. Brands, retailers and manufacturers must be proactive and experimental, rather than waiting for a silver bullet that will never materialise. We need new systems that make it easier for customers to re-use and recycle fashion. Only by working together will companies obtain a level of efficiency that will make circular models viable.

There are plenty of examples of effective partnership working to draw from. For example, as part of LWARB and circular business consultancy firm QSA Partner’s Circular Fashion Fast Forward programme, Adidas worked with social enterprise Stuffstr to launch its Infinite Play service, which allows customers to trade worn or unused Adidas clothing for an e-gift card or loyalty club points. The items are then resold or recycled.

This week, we look at some of the other take-back and resale initiatives emerging in fashion, in an excerpt from our new report, Collaborating for Change: Sustainability 2020. Produced in partnership with Thrift+ and ZigZag Global, the full report can be downloaded at drapersonline.com/sustainable-report.

Continuing in the same vein, in a fascinating interview with Patagonia’s European chief, Ryan Gellert,  we find out why the business sees itself as part clothing brand, part political lobbying group – and how it hopes to change the industry’s attitude to sustainability and circularity. 

We will be exploring all of these issues and more at the 2020 Drapers Sustainable Fashion conference in London next Wednesday (11 March). There are only a few tickets left, so book now at sustainablefashion.drapersonline.com

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