March 18, 2019
This week, Melbourne will host the second Australian Circular Fashion Conference, an event bringing together an array of esteemed global speakers, leading sustainable fashion consultants and over 500 business leaders from multinational fashion companies.
Those attending will join with these professionals to brainstorm the concept of “circular fashion”, a new and innovative model that could fundamentally transform the fashion industry towards greater sustainability. So why the need for change now and how does circularity in fashion help?
In recent years it has become increasingly clear that trend-driven ‘fast fashion’ has some significant environmental costs. Farming of raw materials, fibre creation and garment-making processes all use significant amounts of water, chemicals and energy, all of which impact the environment and our global society.
It’s estimated the fashion industry produces 100 billion new items of clothing every year, with the majority made from virgin resources and three out of five of those items winding up in landfill within 12 months of being bought. A recent report from Stand.Earth found the industry is responsible for 8% of global climate pollution. If the industry were a country, its total emissions would make it the fourth largest climate polluter on Earth as global population moves closer to nine billion humans.
As these resources become scarcer, production costs for fashion brands are likely to skyrocket and produce some seriously damaging effects on companies’ profit margins and business models. Now is the time for the fashion industry to look at new measures to both reduce its impact on our shared natural environment while also safeguarding against these price inflections.
The concept of circular fashion involves applying the circular economy model to the fashion industry in order to ‘close the loop’ on fashion and textiles and move towards greater sustainability. Traditionally the industry has operated in a highly linear model where raw materials are extracted, manufactured into clothing and other textiles and distributed to consumers before becoming ‘waste’.
Within a circular model, everything from design, manufacturing, transport, distribution and resource recovery are taken into consideration to minimise the residual waste produced and encourage more environmentally sustainable practices. This could include designing quality materials that maximise durability, manufacturing with biodegradable fibres to ensure goods can be biodegraded or composted, producing using renewable energy to minimise impact, transporting using electric vehicles, ensuring that individual components of a product can be recycled and much, much more. Most importantly, it’s operating in a manner that reduces the amount of textile products we send to landfill where the resources used to produce them are lost.
In order to truly achieve circularity in fashion everyone involved in the production of textiles must be bold and involved, including each part of the supply chain, manufacturers, retailers and other stakeholders. This is where the Australian Circular Fashion Conference differs from other fashion festivals and events. Rather than highlighting models and frilly fashion, ACFC 2019 will be bringing together members of the entire fashion industry under one roof to collaborate and address sustainability in the industry.
The Platinum Partner for the Australian Circular Fashion Conference is Byron Bay-based modern-bohemian label Spell & The Gypsy, a brand that has truly taken the circular fashion mantra to heart. Spell is striving not only for sustainability within their brand but to make sustainability the ‘new normal’ within the textile industry. This means setting an example in striving for the utmost in good environmental practice in everything from the supply chain, to manufacturing methods, to their environmental footprint in everyday operations.
In order to achieve this, Spell is focusing on six central elements of sustainable and ethical fashion production including: supply chain transparency, social advocacy programs, use of sustainable fibres, use of environmentally responsible dyes and prints, minimising environmental footprint of garments and operations and a commitment to circularity by ensuring all garments can be reused, recycled or regenerated. To find out more, visit their dedicated sustainability page.
Liam is Planet Ark's Communications Coordinator. Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia.