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The Next Economy
New EMF Collaborative, G-Star RAW, Parsons Students Latest to ‘Make Fashion Circular’

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) has launched a new industry collaborative to build on the vision outlined in its New Textiles Economy report.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) has launched a new industry collaborative to build on the vision outlined in its New Textiles Economy report. Announced at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit this week, Make Fashion Circular is bringing together top brands, designers, producers and city authorities to “radically redesign the fashion industry.”

The EMF says that by working towards circularity, the industry can capture USD 460 billion currently lost due to the underutilization of clothes and an additional USD 100 billion from clothing that could be used, but is currently lost to landfill and incineration.

Pursuing this opportunity as core partners, Burberry Group plc, Gap Inc., H&M, Nike Inc. and Stella McCartney have joined the Make Fashion Circular initiative. They are joined by a further 16 participants, including companies such as DuPont, Kering, Lensing, Primark and VF Corporation, and three affiliate partner organizations, Fashion for Good, Textile Exchange and ZDHC. The project was made possible with the support of the C&A Foundation and Walmart Foundation.

These participants will ‘Make Fashion Circular’ by uniting behind three key principles to create a system that delivers triple-bottom-line benefits: business models that keep clothes in use; materials that are renewable and safe; and solutions that turn used clothes into new clothes.

“For the fashion industry to thrive in the future we must replace the take-make-dispose model, which is worn out. We need a circular economy for fashion in which clothes are kept at their highest value and designed from the outset to never end up as waste,” said Ellen MacArthur, the founder of the EMF. “By joining forces to Make Fashion Circular we can harness the creativity and innovation that is at the heart of this USD 1.3 trillion industry to create a system that delivers benefits for everyone.”

Meanwhile, the G-Star RAW brand has been pursuing circularity for its denim. It first introduced the pilot for Renewed Denim made from recycled G-Star RAW jeans in 2012. This week, the company announced it had overcome some technical limitations and improved the aesthetics of the product and presented its 2.0 version.

Renewed Denim 2.0 is made with new yarns upcycled from G-Star jeans that were collected, sorted and shredded to create new fibre. Blended with new organic cotton to “ensure maximum fabric quality, versatility and further cyclability,” the product contains no added polyester. The jeans are 98 percent recyclable thanks to the elimination of rivets and eco-finish metal buttons instead of zippers.

The G-Star RAW Renewed Denim collection includes one men’s and one women’s style, now available online and in-store.

HUGO BOSS turned to students from the Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York for innovative ideas for a circular economy. Twenty students participated in the 16-week “HUGO BOSS – Circular Systems and Strategy” course and design competition.

It is the second time for the two partners to collaborate after the initiation of a first workshop last year. As a signatory of the Global Fashion Agenda’s call on fashion brands and retailers to sign a commitment to accelerate the transition to a circular fashion system, HUGO BOSS dedicated this second workshop to taking a circular approach. To promote the exchange between different disciplines, the project was open to students of various subject areas within the school, from fashion design to business.

The task for the students was to create a premium circularity approach for the BOSS Menswear, including the creation of an outfit and a prototype per group together with a marketing and distribution concept. The competition rewarded student teams with stipends. The $12,000 first prize, Boss One, was awarded to Annabella Waszkiewicz, Gwyneth Ong and Jose Luis Cabrera. The $6,000, second-place Boss Skeleton went to Elijah Devries, Camilla Hopkinson, Irene Lu, Alex O´Brien and Lara Tang. The $3,000 Boss Unravel was given to Chenyu Wang, Haoyu Chen and Monika Mikhail. Their concepts will be displayed in one of the Boss stores in New York this year, and all participants will have the opportunity to extend their work experience with the global fashion group.

Over in Michigan, Parsons alumni Rose VanOverbeke and Jack Burns founded their own sustainable eyewear company and have just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to launch their first products.

She and Burns, a friend and former classmate, set out to create a design solution that resulted in the Roeper, eyewear that upcycles 15 plastic bottles for every pair that’s produced. Genusee eyewear reduces local plastic waste, creates living wage jobs in the community, encourages a circular economy, and gives back to Flint.

“Eyeglasses can be manufactured with a basic understanding of tools and on-the-job skills training,” said Burns, who is also a part-time faculty member at Parsons. “We will put people back to work by retraining and employing them in new skills and crafts. We want to bring a new manufacturing legacy to Flint.”

The Kickstarter campaign closed on May 18th with over 800 backers and more than $73,000 pledged of its $50,000 goal. For the launch, the eyewear was only available to ship within the United States, but backers did have the choice of frame color and prescription lenses. In the future, Burns and VanOverbeke hope to see their business model replicated elsewhere, as the U.S. alone currently uses 1,500 plastic bottles every second.

“We want to make real, lasting impact and the only way to do that is to increase scale and volume,” Burns said. “We believe that sustainability should be accessible, not elitist and unattainable, so that people can shop with their values and not just with their budgets and aesthetics in mind.”