About

Vlaanderen Circulair and Flanders DC have developed a tool to guide fashion entrepreneurs through the basics of a more sustainable way of working. 

With this online platform we want to encourage the industry to steer clear of a linear system (take-make-waste) and to embrace a more circular approach instead (with a focus on durability and avoiding waste).

 

HOW DOES CLOSE THE LOOP WORK?

To accelerate the shift to a circular economy, companies and other actors are encouraged to adopt various strategies and to take action. As a fashion entrepreneur you have the chance to make a difference and to affect the lifecycle of a garment. Such a product lifecycle consists of the following phases:

  • Resources
  • Design
  • Production
  • Retail
  • Consumption
  • End of life

For each phase, we have formulated five strategies that you can implement to contribute to a circular fashion industry. Seeing that it is impossible to apply all strategies to every part of the chain, this guide wants to encourage you to select a few strategies that are workable for you. After all, the success of a strategy depends on several factors (such as the size, focus and location of your business).

In addition, this tool offers quite a lot of practical tips and tricks that refer you to existing platforms, research that has already been done, as well as organizations that make an important contribution to the circular economy.

We will continue to expand the cases database (at the bottom of the homepage) by adding more and more inspirational examples for both entrepreneurs and consumers.

To conclude, it’s also important to consider those basic principles that cannot be seen in isolation from more sustainable working practices in general. These principles are valid for the entire chain and have been included in ‘Systems thinking’.

 

WHAT DOES ‘CIRCULAR ECONOMY’ MEAN?

Ideas like ‘circular economy’, ‘cradle-to-cradle’ and ‘closed loop systems’ have been gaining in popularity these past few years as possible economic systems that could keep up with our growth. The question then becomes: how can we make the most of our resources and keep them in the loop for as long as possible, without causing waste?

TURNING CRISES INTO OPPORTUNITIES

Whereas the debate used to be dominated by fears of scarcity and the idea that putting the brakes on consumerism would impede our economic growth, the circular economy generates ideas and opportunities to create value with other business strategies.

FROM ‘PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE’ TO ‘LONGEVITY BY INTENTION’

‘Planned obsolescence’ has become an important business strategy to ensure sufficient consumption by deliberately shortening product lifecycles. This strategy was introduced during the industrial revolution to crank up the economy and to keep the factories running at full capacity.

Planned obsolescence works in two ways:

  • Technological obsolescence: products are especially designed to wear out or to break relatively quickly.
  • Stylistic obsolescence (the exact opposite of timeless design): an object that still functions perfectly well seems to be in need of replacement simply because it has ‘gone out of fashion’. 

The circular economy is everything planned obsolescence is not, for instance embracing the principle of ‘longevity by intention’. The idea is for biological streams to return to nature, and for technical (synthetic, man-made) components to be kept in the loop, without causing damage or waste.

 

NEED MORE PROOF?

  • Producing one cotton T-shirt requires 3000 liters of water. For one pair of jeans you may even need as much as 8000 liters.
  • 95% of the clothes that are discarded each year could be reused or recycled.
  • Water is the first fashion victim: every two years it takes a whole Mediterranean Sea to dye the clothes we wear.
  • Around 30% of the garments in our wardrobes aren’t worn for a year.
  • The fashion industry is the second largest water consumer in the world (agriculture has the questionable honor of being first).
  • Cotton production accounts for about 25% of the global insecticides market.
  • 20% of global production waste comes from the textile and apparel sectors.
  • Around 40% of all clothes worldwide are made of cotton.
  • The textile industry is responsible for approximately 10% of the total carbon impact.
  • One sixth of the world’s population works in the clothing industry, especially in developing countries.
  • Almost half of the world’s water problems can be traced back to the production of textile.
  • The average garment has travelled about 1900 kilometers before it finally lands in the customer’s hands.
  • Each year the textile industry uses no less than 3,2 % of the water that is available worldwide.
  • Conventional textile dyeing requires an estimated 100 to 150 liters of water to process 1 kg of textiles.
  • On average, a Macedonian textile workers earns 147 euros a month. The minimum wage in Bangladesh is only 28 euros a month. To be able to live off it, it would have to be three or four times as high.
  • The global demand for fibers increases by 3 to 4 % every year. Today, the textile industry produces 80 million tons of fiber per year. In a couple of years, we will reach the grim mark of 100 million. At a certain point there simply won’t be enough farmland anymore to grow all these fibers.
  • At a speed of 30 to 50 collections a year, fast fashion reduces the lifespan of a piece of clothing to just a couple of weeks. Some fast fashion chains put fresh items on their shelves every four weeks.

(Sources: H&M, MUD Jeans, Lynsey Dubbeld - Mode voor Morgen, Adidas)