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With the COVID-19 and climate crises threatening industry’s dominant business model — which is based on continued growth in production — circular models will need to be at the heart of fashion’s growth plans going forward.
In a report released today, Forum for the Future and leading fashion
manufacturers Cobalt Fashion, Ramatex Group and Yee Chain
International are calling on brands, retailers and other stakeholders to step
up efforts to include supply chain voices in the industry’s drive to transform
how apparel is designed, made, sold and used.
Making the leap to circular fashion highlights that mass apparel and footwear manufacturers representing the core of today’s high-production, low-cost fast-fashion system are uniquely placed to develop and implement innovative circular solutions at scale. Through their
position in the industry — guiding sourcing and supply decisions, and creating
products sold in retail — manufacturers have enormous potential to shape the
fashion sector up and down the supply chain.
However, the report argues that, while significant progress has been made on the
fashion industry’s environmental and social sustainability performance,
initiatives continue to be driven by individual actors and a growing number of
collective efforts — such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's Make Fashion
which has attracted dozens of major brands and industry players; startup
accelerators such as H&M’s Global Change
and the Fashion for Good-Plug and Play
and the 110 small and medium-sized apparel brands that signed on to the 2020
earlier this year — and a compliance-focused approach to manufacturing
innovation; rather than broad adoption of game-changing textile-recycling
exploring and scaling the circular potential of supply chains for materials such
as man-made cellulosic
— the second-biggest cellulosic fiber group in use, after cotton; and
re-examining design processes to eliminate waste. So, what’s the hold
The report identified a number of barriers currently holding the industry back
from maximising manufacturers’ full potential to innovate for circularity —
including industry practices that prioritise volume, speed and cost, delivered
by complex and fragmented supply chains, and distribute value unevenly across
supply chain actors; manufacturers carrying significant risk for investments
into circular solutions without guaranteed return; and a compliance-driven
approach to ensuring supply chain sustainability.
The report lays out a three-step approach for brands and retailers to create the
networks vital to ensuring long-term success:
The report’s insights are drawn from Circular Leap
Asia (CLA) — a Forum
for the Future initiative funded by the Laudes
Foundation focused on empowering fashion
manufacturers in Asia to lead the adoption and scaling of circular
solutions. Forum for the Future worked with Ramatex, Cobalt Fashion and Yee
Chain — three leading manufacturers focused on challenges such as reducing
building the reverse supply chain for clothing recycling, and reducing fabric
waste in the footwear supply chain.
“The COVID-19 crisis serves as a wake-up call for the fashion industry. Moving
forward, circular and sustainable solutions will no longer be a “nice-to-have”;
they will become core to business survival,” said Cobalt Fashion COO Roger
Chan. “Being part of the Circular Leap Asia programme helped to accelerate our
thinking around circular textiles, and move from a concept to prototype with
identified partners. While the pandemic has hampered plans to get the reverse
supply chain pilot up and running in 2020, the crisis has deepened our long-term
commitment at Cobalt Fashion to develop circular knitwear solutions for our
customers and the wider industry.”
To help support manufacturers, Forum for the Future said it will develop
a Manufacturers’ Guide to Circular Fashion this Autumn, which will help
industry stakeholders assess where manufacturers are on their circular journey,
and the actions they can take to proactively drive the transition.
Published Sep 8, 2020 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST