Hack the take-make-waste model


Did you know?

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.

A traditional business model can be summarized as follows: you take your resources, turn them into a product, sell it and after use (sometimes even before), the item is thrown away. Meet the TAKE-MAKE-WASTE model. This is slowly turning around: circular business models add a sustainable spin to the traditional linear model.



A lot of big shots are already doing it: installing a take-back model. The possibility to return garments to the retailer, who gives clothes a second life as resources for new items, is gaining popularity. Retailer and manufacturer are often one and the same company in this story. 

A second big movement is taking place within the peer economy or the sharing economy, where consumers tend to pay for using clothes rather than owning them. The rise in clothing libraries, where you can rent clothes, is just one example. Initiatives like swishing or swapping clothes are becoming more and more common as well.

Furthermore, today’s clients want to be involved in the design process and attach more importance to the experience. Focusing on this as a retailer will enhance the bond with your customer and create ambassadors for your brand. Small services do the trick, like repairing services, styling advice, made-to-measure clothing, letting the customer pick his own print or pattern, …

In the meantime there are also plenty of online possibilities to give clothes a second life. A lot of platforms allow you to sell or swap your clothes peer-to-peer.

What’s often forgotten in the sales process, is the impact of your brand’s marketing efforts. Think of clothes hangers, tote bags, price tags, … Small changes in this area can make a huge difference.

strategies for Retail

Keep your textiles in the loop

While younger generations daringly invest in completely new business models, well-established brands tend to focus more on closing the loop and collecting clothes.


Several manufacturers and clothing chains have already started to collect clothes. To encourage consumers to return unwanted items, they often offer a discount on the next purchase. Some brands team up with ngo’s (such as Marks & Spencer, who collaborate with Oxfam: the collected clothes are donated to the fair trade organization and the customer gets a discount at M&S), while others place collecting boxes in their own stores.

The American outdoor brand Patagonia has slightly higher ambitions. The label mainly wants to collect its own clothes and reuse them for its own collections. The idea is to create a closed-loop system.

The best known initiative is probably H&M’s Garment Collection Program, which directs its efforts toward recycling old clothing. In 2014, H&M released the first capsule collection made from 20% recycled fibers from used clothing collected through its special program. In addition, H&M invests in the development of better recycling methods, for instance organizing a competition to stimulate innovative technology and reaching out to researchers working in the field of recycling and reusing.

Another brand that’s looking into take-back programs is The North Face, which has collected over 30.000 pounds of clothing and footwear since the start of their Clothes the Loop program.  

If you want give recycled textiles and take-back systems a shot as a designer, don’t forget to check out this strategy!


  • Make sure your clients can return their old clothes
    Try to discourage your clients from tossing their clothes in the trash when they’re done with them. Think for instance of: In-store contai…
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  • Returning clothes to the store
    The ‘End of life’ section offers useful information on what to do with clothing that is damaged or worn out and where to go with items that you si…
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Rethink the definition of ownership

The new sharing and borrowing is sometimes also referred to as the sharing economy or peer economy. The idea behind it is that you have access to a certain product or service, rather than owning it. For instance a car, for so long considered a status symbol, is no longer as highly regarded by younger generations, which is why initiatives like car sharing are catching on. Could this be extended to fashion too?


Swishing vzw is a non-profit organization that specializes in, well, swishing. They often organize pop-up events where you can leave your clothes behind in exchange for coupons. These coupons, in turn, can be used to buy someone else’s clothes. Swishing’s twin sister Swapping blew over from the States and also specializes in events where you can exchange clothes.


‘Wear beautiful clothing, but not at the expense of people and the environment’, LENA’s website states. This Amsterdam fashion library opened its doors in 2014 to present an alternative to bulging wardrobes and fast fashion. After all, it’s common fashion knowledge that we wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time.

Various subscription options are available: you can lend clothes that you simply swap for others again after a while.

Similar initiatives are starting to appear in Paris, Malmö and Berlin. Belgium’s first fashion library opened in 2016 with a temporary pop-up store. Keep an eye on the website of Les ReBelles d'Anvers to see how this will evolve!


Fashion company MUD jeans was created in 2012. In 2013, MUD jeans introduced the lease option, which attracted a lot of international attention. Customers simply had to pay €20 up front, and then €6 for each month that they wanted to lease a pair of jeans. When they grew tired of their rental pants, they could just send them back and stop paying.

The idea was brilliant, but the company became a victim of its own success. Moreover, the concept turned out to be an administrative nightmare. Everything was done by hand, which became an impossible task with about 3.000 leasers. The lease system has been on hold for a couple of months to catch up on the backlog, but is up and running again. 


Click through to ‘a second life at the online marketplace' for more information on online sharing and the collaborative consumption of clothes.


  • Clothing libraries and online rental platforms
    Next to thinking long and hard before buying new clothes or swapping clothes, you can also rent your clothes: Clothing libraries Clo…
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  • Business models that redefine the concept of ownership
    Thanks to the growing popularity of the sharing economy, the fashion industry is also considering alternative business models that question the ow…
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Go for a more service-oriented business

While it used to be important to buy a lot (without really considering the consequences), nowadays customers attach more and more importance to having a say about the things they buy and really think about this. This trend gives rise to a lot of speculation: could consumer involvement have a positive effect on sustainability? The theory is something like this: the higher the involvement, the longer a consumer will cherish a product (and its maker).

It might be interesting, then, to incorporate this into your sales process and to turn the purchase into an experience for your client. By including such a service, you create real ambassadors for your brand.

Martijn Van Strien has understood this very well, by making it possible to buy a design online and to have it delivered along with the necessary fabric. This allows you to put your own dress together. Anyone who has tried this is bound to talk about it, right?

Café Costume, which specializes in tailor-made suits, treats its clients to a two-hour experience that will last long after they left the store: the visit lives on in the stories they are bound tell about it.

Think about the possible services you could offer as a designer. Could you do made-to-measure clothing? Perhaps a styling event might work? Or would you like to offer a repair service, like Nudie Jeans?


  • Hasmik Matevosyan - a shift to a ‘contributing’ fashion industry
    After years of research, the Dutch designer and thinker Hasmik Matevosyan has developed a new business model that encourages the dialogue between …
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  • Improve your sales process by adding a service
    By involving your clients, you can create a bond between them and your brand/your product. You can boost customer involvement in various ways. Thi…
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  • As a designer, give tips on how to maintain your product
    Make sure that your customers know how to maintain and treat your product after the purchase. This is a way to extend the lifespan of your item to…
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  • Bond with your customers
    It might seem strange to incorporate consumer engagement into the whole sustainability story, yet this may be another strategy to keep clothing fr…
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  • Use a ‘made-to-measure’ system
    Both when retailing online and offline, you can invite the client to give you her/his exact size, so you can make sure that the right patterns are…
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  • Give advice on how to mend the clothing that you sell
    We all know the feeling of discovering these little plastic bags with spare buttons inside our new jackets. As a designer, why not take the extra …
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A second life at the online marketplace

Borrowing and sharing is not all that new; people have been doing it for ages. The novelty is that these days we also borrow from and share with complete strangers.

Food for thought:

Up to 30% of people’s wardrobes is never worn.

The internet is a huge facilitator, providing previously unseen possibilities for giving away, swapping and selling/buying second-hand. Various sites and apps bring suppliers and demanders together (sometimes for a fee).

When products are shared or sold on, we don’t have to make as much new stuff, meaning fewer resources are used. In addition, borrowing and sharing saves money. It costs the recipient a lot less than buying something new. And the person who has something to share might, in turn, make a small profit -- though he can obviously also decide to share or lend something for free.


  • Think about how to discard your old clothing (and textiles) as a consumer
    Put the textile/clothing you want to get rid of in two categories and choose the best way to discard them accordingly: Clothes that cannot…
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  • Online second-hand platforms
    Several platforms focus on giving second-hand (designer) clothing, shoes and accessories a new life. The entrepreneurs managing these platforms ea…
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  • Buy/sell second-hand
    A small sample of the options available for selling/buying second-hand: Online: LabelCrush (Belgium): online platform reselling design…
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Think about the impact of your marketing

As a fashion designer, you can reduce your environmental footprint by paying attention to all the little extras. This often-ignored possibility does have a large impact. Yet keep in mind that decisions about labels and tags are often already made in the production phase.

Food for thought:

68% of women wants to buy sustainably, but only 11% knows where to go.


This useful item is frequently forgotten, though it passes through millions of customers’ hands: the clothes hanger. Worldwide, 8 million hangers are sold each year. Picture the Empire State Building stacked from floor to ceiling with clothes hangers, and multiply that by 4.6 to get an idea of this enormous quantity. These hangers obviously make a massive contribution to the waste stream.

What happens to all those hangers which are carelessly tossed in a box under the counter? What are they made of? Are they durable? Are you going to reuse them?

Get some inspiration here, or go hunting for information yourself: there’s lots to find out there.


Another item to consider is your pricetag. It’s easiest to look for paper or cardboard ones that you can recycle. Yet make sure to avoid plastic when attaching the tag to the garment: otherwise people will be tempted to consider the entire tag residual waste.

The same goes for bags of course. Big plastic bags are out of the question these days. Paper bags are becoming more common, but perhaps you can also go for reusable bags?


The labels that are stitched into the clothes themselves are a whole different ballgame. But here as well, common sense is king.

The smallest step is to work with tags made from bio cotton. In case of single-material clothing, make sure your label is made from the same material.

Are you keeping your recycling options open? Make sure your label is also recyclable. Dare to go a little further? Check out the possibility of using washable ink for your printed labels.

Yet, as we mentioned before: the best time to think about your labels is during the design and production phases!


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