Why Fashion Repair & The Circular Economy Go Hand In Hand

27th February 2022

When it comes to curating a sustainable wardrobe, we are often told what brands to shop from, what fabrics to look for, what certifications to buy into and more. However, we in the sustainable fashion space, we always say that the most sustainable garment is the one you already own, so why does the conversation not extend to taking care of your clothes you already own?  

We talk about changing mindsets and promoting conscious shopping habits, we challenge the idea that newer=better. Still, it is equally (if not more) important to care for our clothing and reduce environmental impact by making our clothes last longer.

Waste is still a huge issue in the fashion industry. At the intersection of fashion and sustainability, the overproduction of clothing, combined with the “throwaway” nature cultivated over the past 20 years has resulted in an exorbitant amount of waste. Spurred on by growing concern amongst consumers about the environmental impact of their consumption, circular fashion is becoming a front runner in the steps towards reducing textile waste caused by the fashion industry.

Phot credit: Vogue Business

What is a Circular Economy?

A circular economy means materials are constantly used in a loop, being endlessly reused and recycled; all in the hope of eliminating waste and further more, reducing the need to deplete raw materials and resources. In a system like this, the fashion industry could overcome its contribution to climate change as well as pollution and waste all the while, aiding regeneration of natural systems. Further more, the circular economy would mean that clothing would be worn repeatedly before being repurposed into new items and the life of the garments is integral in achieving circularity.

As consumer perception shifts and sustainable practices becomes a focus, platforms and services offering more circular solutions have become incredibly popular with mainstream consumers. According to ThredUp’s 2021 Report, the resale market is expected to double over the next 5 years, reaching a whopping $77Bn in revenue. Peer to peer rental and other subscription based services are also on the rise and are even trying to get in on the resale action by allowing their users to sell their clothing via the platform. It’s important to note that even though much of the clothing being sold or rented on these platforms may not in fact be ethically or sustainably made – by allowing consumers to buy what is already in existence, it reduces the need to extract raw materials and limits the need for production.

The above services are all fantastic, but still heavily rely on consumption as a means of generating revenue. Where rental and resale need you to buy, one vital part of circularity conversation that relies on what the consumer already has at their disposal are repairs. Repairs and alterations have long been a secret of stylists and eco-conscious fashion consumers but as part of this conversation, alteration apps and services are gaining popularity with everyday consumers. Repairing items not only extends the lifecycle of a garment, but reduces the environmental impact of it also.

As previously mentioned, being conscious of shopping habits is a key factor in the conversation on creating a sustainable wardrobe. But did you know that in a fast fashion business model, it can often be cheaper and easier to buy new rather than repairing items? This form of production in itself is not sustainable (in the traditional sense of the word).

If circularity is to be implemented across the board, aftercare needs to be as much a part of the experience of consuming fashion as the initial purchase. There has been an increase in brands offering “post-purchase’ services as they push to promote their sustainability credentials, including services like end of life clothing recycling, restoration, repair and tailoring to encourage their customers to make use of a full circle approach to shopping and encouraging brand loyalty. Although brands are pushing these services, they are not a priority over marketing new collections, so as much as brands need to be offering these services – their customers need to know that they are offered and make use of them!

Separate to the brands offering in house alteration services, there are a number of apps that support the repair & rewear model of the circular fashion model. Services like Sojo and The Seam offer alterations offer quick and easy solutions to mend and alter your clothes, making it so much easier on those who do not have the necessary skills or training to amend clothing themselves.

By offering the above services and even taking it one step further, brands are showing that they want to encourage sustainable practices and further educate their customers that clothing should be an investment beyond throwaway culture, often promoted by fast fashion retailers.

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