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The Next Economy
Small Fashion Brands Throw Collective Weight Behind Circular Fashion Pledge

Over 110 small and medium-sized apparel brands from around the world have signed on to the 2020 Circular Fashion Pledge, with actionable steps to make circular fashion an industry-wide reality.

Amid the turmoil of the last few months — from global pandemic to racial reckoning — more and more fashion brands are eager to let the world know that the long and slower-burning crisis of creating a livable, resilient, sustainable planet is still top of mind. To keep strong the momentum of the circular fashion movement, we recently created the 2020 Circular Fashion Pledge as a program to engage small and medium-sized brands with a commitment to launch at least one new circularity program in 2020.

Now, the Circular Fashion Pledge community is over 110 brands strong, with a goal of engaging even more. These dynamic, energetic, innovative and committed fashion brands are working together to share resources and learnings, and to collectively grow the circular fashion movement. Inspired by other industry-wide movements, the 2020 Circular Fashion Pledge aims to operationalize brands’ circularity commitments.

Fashion brands enjoy significant benefits from turning their efforts toward circularity.

Gauri Agarwal, cofounder of the India-based MAGA brand (named for the initials of Gauri and her sister, Mridu), wishes to appeal to a younger demographic that demands sustainability solutions. But it’s far more than marketing appeal for MAGA: Agarwal, herself a vegan, wishes to use her brand to spread awareness and understanding of sustainable lifestyles.

For Rachel Faller, founder of zero-waste apparel brand tonlé, her personal dedication to sustainability and equity is also a founding brand principle. One of her driving questions, Faller told me, is: “What does a business look like where everybody actually benefits?” This drives her quest to create, in her words, “business models that benefit everybody and uplift everyone.”

Committing to the Circular Fashion Pledge requires brands to pledge one of three concrete actions by the end of this calendar year:

  1. Enabling take-back/resale: “By the end of 2020, launch at least one method or partnership to enable your customers to send-back or resell their used items.”

  2. Increasing recycled content: “By the end of 2020, increase the total percentage of certified recycled content or scrap fabric by 10-percent in your top 5 selling items.”

  3. Design for durability: “By the end of 2020, increase the use of non-blended materials, and/or modularity and repairability in your top 5 selling items.”

Of 117 brands, 62 percent have pledged to enabling take-back/resale, 60 percent to increasing recycled content, and 50 percent to design for durability; roughly half have pledged to at least two commitments. Faller’s brand tonlé is one of the 26 percent that have pledged to undertake all three commitments. These are the statistics of the brand commitments to the Pledge, and some examples of the brands making the commitments:

Brands are also encouraged to contribute to the community by sharing their experiences, challenges and know-how with others.

Early in her career, when Agarwal first learned of the volume of waste produced during garment manufacture, her first instinct was to leave the industry. But then, as she tells me, she decided: “I’m already in the mud. Why not clean the mud?” She started the MAGA brand by collecting leftover cotton & nylon from others’ brands for her designs, leading to significant water and waste savings; she is now working on making her garments entirely compostable.

Faller also sources only from post-industrial scrap. “Post-industrial” often refers to deadstock or remnant fabric — that fabric left “on the roll” — which can be the result of deliberate over-ordering by large brands in order to sell the excess to smaller ones. However, truly post-industrial waste comes from cut waste (the scraps resulting from cutting patterns out of fabric stock) and quality control failures (finished garments that can’t be sold for some reason), so Faller focuses on sourcing these types of waste fabric.

Faller is contributing her knowledge and experience with recycled materials to the Circular Fashion Pledge community; in turn, she hopes to learn from others further along in the resale commitment, as her resale pilot with Boomerang ReCommerce is slated to launch later this summer.

These two brands join other makers of garments, shoes and fashion accessories who have taken the Circular Fashion Pledge, committing to take concrete action in 2020 toward circularity. Our website serves as a platform to support the brands’ circularity efforts with free resources such as a Circular Brand Resource Guide, Brand Sustainability Maturity Model and blog; and to showcase brands’ successes on their circularity commitments through 2021 and beyond.

If you’re working with a fashion brand interested in sustainability and circular economy, you can join us to pledge your commitment.

Both Agarwal and Faller hope that the 2020 Circular Fashion Pledge generates new awareness of sustainability and circularity among consumers and brands. As Faller says, the Circular Fashion Pledge “gives people a vision of what's possible, while putting pressure on larger brands to do better.”

As Agarwal pointed out: “2020 is a year when the earth is giving our karma back to us.” It behooves us all to work toward bettering our collective karma — because we know everything comes full circle.

To learn more about the Circular Fashion Pledge, visit the website at https://www.2020circularfashion.com.

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