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The Next Economy
C&A, Looptworks, John Lewis Spin Out More Circular Apparel Solutions

Increasing circularity in the apparel sector will require a variety of initiatives and some of the most valuable ways to bridge the implementation gap will be to provide funding, design new products with closed-loop design and launch take-back programs for would-be-waste items. Announcements on Monday revealed that these are exactly the contributions being made by the C&A Foundation, Looptworks and John Lewis.

The C&A Foundation will provide €1.29 million in funding to five pilot initiatives that submitted proposals last year for their solutions to advance the implementation of circular business models and make circular fashion a reality. The selected initiatives will form a “Bridging the Gap” learning network facilitated by the C&A Foundation, where project teams can connect and share lessons and evolving methodologies. Their work will complement existing industry initiatives such as Fashion for Good, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF)’s Make Fashion Circular and the Global Fashion Agenda’s 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment.

“We believe the circular fashion revolution will only happen when we implement circular business models,” said Douwe Jan Joustra, Head of Circular Transformation, C&A Foundation. “We are pleased to be supporting these five new partners. The critical practise-based insights they develop and share will bring the industry a significant step towards these new models, moving the discourse on circular fashion from words to action.”

The five selected initiatives include:

  • Creative Circular Economy Business Models: London Waste and Recycling Board and QSA Partners
    This London-based initiative will provide one-to-one support to four retailers and lead each company through a tried and tested process for developing circular business models. Three retailers will then pilot a circular business model by the end of 2020 and commit to permanently bringing these offers to market by May 2021.
  • The Circular Activation Project: Circle Economy
    This Europe-based initiative will uncover the operational barriers to circularity and build a circular innovation process to be piloted by six brands or retailers by October 2020. A multidisciplinary team will guide brands through the process, increasing their capacity to overcome barriers towards implementation of re-commerce and renting/leasing circular business models. The lessons learned throughout the process will be used to develop a suite of commercially viable offline activation tools for widespread use by brands and retailers.
  • Circular Leap Asia Programme: Forum for the Future
    This initiative will support the uptake of circular business models in Asia by developing six new types of partnerships between upstream and downstream companies in apparel. A large proportion of apparel manufacturing typically operate on thin margins and face significant barriers to the uptake of circular approaches in their businesses. The proposed new partnerships will enable joint innovation and the collective sharing of lessons learned through a summit for practitioners of circular fashion. It will also result in a series of recommendations for industry-led advocacy focused on the policy shifts that promote circular fashion in Asia.
  • Market Makers: World Resources Institute and WRAP
    This initiative will challenge the status quo by demonstrating the market demand for clothing reuse models in over 20 major apparel brands in the USA, UK and India. It will assess consumer demand, pilot innovative business models, provide a common approach to impact assessment, and identify policies, regulations and incentives that increase clothing reutilization in each geographic location.
  • Love Every Fibre of Your Being: MADE-BY and Global Action Plan
    In this initiative, brand executives from British based retailers and young women will come together through workshops and panels to co-create prototype business offerings and brand messaging for circular business models that aim to improve the mental well-being of young women. The best ideas will be packaged into installations and shared with the public around a popular fashion event such as London Fashion Week.

Meanwhile, Looptworks released a new line of upcycled products in response to a design challenge from Patagonia: What do you do with thousands of unused fishing waders? Their solution was to utilize the neoprene and merino wool and turn them into food and drink carriers. The Catch & Release collection products are designed to be easy to clean and keep hot items hot and cold things cold.

Both B Corps, Looptworks has frequently partnered with Patagonia to make excess inventory, deadstock and other unwanted product useful. For this project, Looptworks deconstructed the wader boots to use their high quality materials: neoprene is water resistant and protects against bumps and drops, while merino wool liner insulates the contents to regulate temperature.

Four bags were included in the collection at launch: an insulated lunch bag, insulated growler carrier and two insulated wine carriers for one or two bottles of wine.

John Lewis is also partnering with a smaller company that specializes in circular economy solutions. The department store chain will be buying back worn and unwanted clothing from its customers in the UK through a pilot scheme developed with social enterprise Stuffstr.

Using an app, customers can arrange to have unwanted collected from their home and be paid for each item regardless of its condition. They choose what clothing bought from John Lewis they want to sell and are shown the amount they can receive for them. Once they have at least £50 worth of clothing to sell, a courier will collect them and the customer will be emailed a John Lewis e-gift card for the value of the items sold.

“We already take back used sofas, beds and large electrical items such as washing machines and either donate them to charity or reuse and recycle parts and want to offer a service for fashion products,” said Martyn White, Sustainability Manager at John Lewis. Last year, the retailer took back more than 27,000 electrical products and about 2,000 used sofas, and recycled materials from 55,000 mattresses.

“Every item has value, even old socks, and we want to make it as simple as possible for customers to benefit from their unwanted clothes,” said Stuffstr chief executive John Atcheson.

Items bought back are either resold – though not in John Lewis stores – mended for resale or recycled into new products.