What is Circular Fashion and What Can I Do About It?

5 simple ways to practice circular fashion

Circular fashion sounds like a great idea, but what are some practical things you can do to put it in action? 

To figure this out, we need to understand what circularity really is and how it pertains to the fashion industry. Hopefully you’ll have come up with some ideas of your own by then, but if not we’ve come up with five to get you started :)

What is Circular fashion?

The thinking behind circular fashion is that the current method of mass producing cheaply made garments is no longer sustainable. 

We extract huge amounts of resources, only to over-produce items we use for a short period of time.

Those items are then disposed of in a way that ensure they will practically never. go. away.

The idea of circularity in fashion suggests that there must be a better way to do things, such as:

  • Taking waste out of the equation at the initial design stage of the product
  • Creating products that are meant to be taken apart at the end of their life so components can be used to make new products
  • Changing our design and habits so we don't need to make as many new products

In this way of thinking, the life of a product doesn't just end. It goes on.

It's circular.

And this not only ensures the future health of our planet and people (because those two are 100% connected), but many more years of fashion to come.

What are some key areas to target within the current linear fashion economy?

Unsustainable Linear Fashion Economy
  • reduce the amount of resources we pull from the earth
  • choose resources that are of low-impact
  • choose resources that regenerate quickly and readily
  • produce less at a time
  • produce clothes that can be used for a long time
  • increase the use the clothing we already own instead of buying more every season
  • extending the use of clothes we don’t love anymore by giving them to someone else
  • practicing regular maintenance and repair for clothes
  • create systems that reincorporate aspects of the old product into new ones
  • develop recycling/upcycling solutions that allow the materials to be reused elsewhere
  • produce items that readily break down in the environment

Makes a lot more sense when you break it down like that right?

You may notice that some of these ideas might seem too large for us as individuals to execute.

But that’s okay! Here are five things everyone and anyone can do to start.

Five Things We Can Do Right Now...

1. Buy clothes that are made to last.

Okay, so this one’s not exactly revolutionary, but it makes sense to have it on the list as it all kind of starts here.

The absolute easiest way to begin is to simply be selective of the items you buy. If they fit well and they’re made well, you’ll be more inclined to keep them in the long run. Put the super flimsy, almost see-through t-shirt back and opt for items that feel sturdier and heavier in weight.

Take a closer look at garment construction. Check for neat and even stitches, particularly around the neck collar and shoulder areas (the areas people look at the most). Do a little tug test. Are the seams clean and secure?

All of these things constitute a quality garment. There are a whole bucket load of things you can look for when it comes to identifying low-quality clothing items. Check out this video by (kinda snarky but hilarious) fashion professor Zoe Hong for more.

2. Take care of our clothes.

Like Mr. Lamb, your first and most beloved stuffed animal, your clothes deserve to be washed with love and care.

Somewhere along the way, it became cheaper to buy a new set of clothes than to mend the ones we had at home. It’s unfortunate because sewing is a super practical skill that many of us have forgotten, and also, you totally could have rocked those jeans for another 2+ years. So mend, mend, & mend.

Secondly, incase you didn’t know, laundering is an art. One I haven’t quite mastered yet, but luckily Simpleonpurpose has it down pat. Take a look at her post for some really great tips on laundering strategy. Small steps go a long way, and if are mindful about them, your clothes will not only look better, but they’ll last longer too.

3. Embrace second-hand (Call it "Vintage" if you want to feel more clever!)

Double, triple, or quadruple wash them if it makes you feel better. You can even send them on a trip to the professional cleaners if that eases your racing heart, but second-hand is where it’s at, people. The life of your clothes don’t need to stop just because you’ve outgrown them (emotionally or physically). The key here is to find a place that curates their collection so you don’t have to.

A few consignment/thrift stores around the GTA:
The Vintage Depot, Plato’s Closet, Consign Toronto, Garb, Fashionably Yours

4. Keep it local and host a clothing swap.

We’re all about taking baby steps, so if secondhand shopping is not for you, what about trading pieces with a few friends? It’s fun, it keeps clothes in circulation and it’s a really great way to spruce up your wardrobe without dropping a dime.

5. Take a sewing class!

Assuming that you don’t already know how to sew, take a lesson from a local studio or watch a youtube video if you’re a FIOY (figure-it-out-yourself) type. Learning to sew opens up a world of opportunities, allowing you to alter, customize, or even flip your clothes into different styles. It’s a triple win when you learn a new skill, fall in love with your clothes all over again, AND you can tell people you made it yourself. (For some amazing DIY videos you can start WithWendy or bestdressed).

And here's where the fun begins!

As consumers, we might not be able to immediately impact how resources are used or how clothes are recycled, but we can still disrupt the linear chain by targeting the centre link: how we utilize our clothes.

That’s why you may have noticed, but all five of these ideas have one key focus: prolonging the use of resources that are already in circulation!

We all have the power to decide how much value our clothes and accessories can live up to and provide :)

If you have more ideas on actionable steps to circularizing our lives, be sure to let us know in the comment section below!