The Consumers Role in Circular Fashion

With clothing, many consumers (me included) pay more attention to the price than the environmental impact that the piece might have. It’s mind-boggling to think that each purchase we make could be harming our planet.


However, recently the fashion community have become a lot more aware of the knock-on effects our actions have on the environment’s health. Should companies be making us more aware of this? Is there something consumers can do to help?


The idea behind Circular Fashion


In opposition to circular economy, fast fashion is an all too well-known phrase. Unfortunately, it is also playing a massive role in the amount of textile waste that is produced. The negative environmental impacts that trends like this contribute to are: energy consumption, water use, chemicals, dyes and finishes, and greenhouse gas emissions.


Although some companies and consumers are trying to support eco-fashion, it’s still not a high profit sector within the industry. For businesses and consumers alike, the idea of eco-fashion and circular economy are uncommon concepts that aren’t generally discussed. So, what exactly are they?


According to Dr. Anna Brismar, circular fashion is anything “designed to be used and circulated responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in the most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use.”


Its main principles involves areas such as: ‘design for longevity’, ‘design for biodegradability’, ‘source and produce more locally’ and ‘reuse, recycle or compost all remains’. To help achieve these goals from a consumers’ perspective it will require us all to change our mindsets. Which is something that can be very daunting and challenging.


So how do we start?


What can consumers do to help?


Fast fashion relies on us wanting a constant stream of cheap, throwaway clothes with little attention paid to ethical issues. This suggests to businesses that our personal fashion seemingly matter more and therefore makes sustainability a low priority for them.


However, even if this isn’t always reflected in purchasing habits, studies show that consumers’ interest towards the environmental well-being has increased. To help battle the environmental issues and push the fashion industry into circular fashion, consumers hold a responsibility that we may be unaware of.


Consumers need to be more consciously aware when making a purchase and focus on the ‘quality over quantity’ mindset. This is achievable by paying less attention to the price and more on the actual item we are purchasing. This will help force circular fashion into the limelight making businesses re-evaluate their priorities, creating a pathway to change.


Circular fashion trends


Buying into trends such as slow fashion is one way consumers are able to help with this much-needed movement. Being the polar opposite to its sibling, slow fashion concentrates on the consumption, extending clothing’s lifespan and slower production schedules. Therefore putting more value on the product itself and the people who buy it.


Other trends that are centred around sustainable and circular fashion include: ‘second-hand and vintage’, ‘repair, redesign and upcycle (DIY fashion)’, ‘green and clean’, ‘rent, lease and swap’, ‘on demand and custom made’, ‘high quality and timeless designs’, and ‘trashion (fashion made out of trash)’.


Depending on ages, needs and preferences, some of the suggestions may be more suited to some people over others. But even just trying to do one of the above can be beneficial to the circular fashion movement and the environment.


It will help lower the usage of the water, energy and chemicals utilised throughout the process, reducing waste textiles and increasing the importance of reusing and recycling.


Making a difference


Circular economy within fashion will be a slow process which requires the dedication of consumers throughout its many steps. The government and businesses have noticed its increasingly important impact on the planet, but it all starts with consumers. Keeping sustainability at the front of our minds and making it a personal priority, circular fashion will gain more attraction.


The many steps will be dependent on consumers commitment and spreading knowledgeable on the subject. Doing things such as being open-minded about returning materials so they can be reused will be a big step in the right direction.


Changing our buying trends and demanding a change will also help speed up the process of the circular fashion movement and the benefits that it will have. Consumers actively taking these steps will gain businesses attention and make them change their ways.


In the famous words of Tom Ziglar, “change starts with you but it doesn’t start until you do.”


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