After attending Australia’s first circular fashion conference in Sydney last week, I have been left with a strong sense that innovation is desperately needed to turn fashion circular and ANYONE can try it.The race is on to develop a product or idea that can be easily used, to solve one of the many environmental issues in the fashion industry. Circular fashion is already speeding ahead in places like Europe, with specialised research institutes such as MISTRA (they currently have 21 projects). Clearly, Australia has some incredible minds and creative talent, so let’s get moving!
Here’s some inspiration from the conference to set those minds racing…
The sharing economy is currently growing like wildfire and smart companies like Airbnb, are utilising it. Forbes magazine recently called the idea ‘collaborative consumption’ and is the sharing of products or services. This in principle reduces waste and ultimately changes people’s purchasing behaviour. One prime example is the platform GlamCorner, a website which allows individuals to rent high-quality clothing for a specific period. GlamCorner’s Co-Founder Dean James spoke at the Circular Fashion Conference, emphasising that impact and profit can go hand in hand.
“A third of items in female’s wardrobes aren’t being worn, GlamCorner solves a big waste problem…and is a profitable business.”
The business, he co-founded with his wife, has grown tenfold in the last 18 months and they are currently hiring for multiple roles so clearly, the idea is popular. This concept is not isolated. Rent the Runway in New York has had expansive success and media coverage. The company has now grown from online only to a store in New York. It favours the idea of access over ownership, allowing users to rent high-end items for a fraction of the cost.
This idea of the sharing economy is effective long-term as it shifts consumer behaviour patterns and empowers them to reduce waste. Consumer knowledge has been transformed by the app Good on You. This Australian founded app gives consumers the power to decide which brands to choose based on ratings in three areas; people, animals and the environment. Co-founder Gordon Renouf spoke at the conference highlighting that consumers need access to knowledge and understanding as it’s ‘not easy being green’. Consumers have the right to consume responsibly and technology can create behaviour change. This year Good on You has hit the big time, with sustainable and ethical interest on the rise, the company recently partnered with Vogue on a project with actress Emma Watson.
I also met a lovely man called Jimmy Zhong in the roundtable discussions, he runs the ethical marketplace, Ethi. His company showcase ‘better’ clothing that’s more ethically or sustainably inclined based on an algorithm, so the consumer doesn’t have to. The consumer can then purchase items in one online marketplace. These platforms are innovative and problem-solving for the consumer, empowering them to make decisions based on their values.
What we wear and get told to wear, can change the way we think and act.” – Patrick Duffy, co-founder Global Fashion Exchange The Australian Circular Fashion Conference 2018
Australia Post is a surprisingly good example of circular initiatives and systems thinking. Tech Target defines the concept of systems thinking as:
“a holistic approach to analysis that focuses on the way that a system’s constituent parts interrelate and how systems work over time and within the context of larger systems.”
We were lucky enough to watch Australia Post’s Head of Environment and Sustainability, Andrew Sellick present at the conference. Australia Post is apparently supporting business models that are designed to accelerate the circular economy. They are also looking at all aspects of the system to see where change can be implemented, including an emphasis on logistics and materials.
“Rather than simply ‘greening’ existing linear business models through traditional environmental sustainability practices, a circular mindset requires businesses to transition to innovative new business models that leverage disruptive technology and adopt shared value practices.” Transitioning to a Circular Economy
Science is golden
Last but not least, science. Science and fashion should be hand in hand, just look at inventions such as the ‘circular denim‘ research at Deakin University. The team at Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFS), invented a unique process that can pulp old denim into particles that can then be turned into new denim. This has the potential to reduce a vast amount of waste, water and energy globally. It also will save brands money by reusing existing material.
Sustainable Textile Consultant and Researcher, Dr Clara Vuletich, also discussed the opportunities for collaboration to help a circular model. She wrote an article just last year on ‘Fashion brands as research & innovation labs’. Watch this space.
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