2018 might go down as the year the circular economy hit the big leagues.
Once an entirely novel concept, the idea of keeping clothing, textiles and fibers in use for as long as possible—through strategies like reuse, repair, remanufacture, and, as a last resort, recycling—is finally percolating through the mainstream fashion industry despite its flagrant resistance to change.
Today, 94 brands and retailers representing 12.5 percent of the global fashion market back the 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment, a pledge organized by the Global Fashion Agenda, a nonprofit that stemmed from the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, to spur “action on circularity” in tangible and measurable ways.
The number is modest, to be sure, and the challenges ahead innumerable and complex, but there are plenty of developments to feel heartened by. More companies than ever are exploring alternatives to the traditional “take-make-dispose” industrial route. Over half of all executives profess to use sustainability as a polestar for nearly every strategic decision they make, according to this year’s Pulse of the Fashion Industry report. For boldface names like Gap, Nike, H&M, Zara owner Inditex, Kering, and Marks & Spencer, circularity is now part of their everyday lexicon.