Importance of the report

This report uniquely reflects the diverse ecosystem of stakeholders required to achieve a circular fashion ecosystem in the UK. Led by the British Fashion Council’s Institute of Positive Fashion, it comprises an extensive and multi-disciplinary team of contributors; 3Keel LLP, QSA Partners LLP, Flourish CSR, Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow, and Icaro Consulting. Combined with findings from an extensive review of existing literature, included in this report are rich insights gained from consultations and research into the perspectives of academia, brands, collectors, consumers, designers, institutions, industry bodies and third sector, logistics providers, manufacturers, reprocessors, and retailers.

The report presents a blueprint for the future of fashion, which includes recommendations for these actors as well as for government, digital innovators, and investors as additional stakeholders.

It contributes to wider knowledge on the interconnected nature of circular fashion by proposing meaningful and applied steps to transformation as part of a call for collective action. The Circular Fashion Ecosystem Project is a story about the role the UK fashion industry can play to help build a world-leading approach to circular economy transition.

Key concepts

The definitions of key concepts as they are defined in this report are detailed below. These are listed in order of relevance to one another (i.e. linked concepts are grouped together) as opposed to alphabetically. An alphabetical list of these key concepts and other relevant report terminology is included in the Glossary.

Circularity

The concept of goods, services and systems adhering to circular economy principles and therefore being suitable for consistent circulation within the economy.

Product circularity

The concept of a product adhering to circular economy principles and therefore being suitable for consistent circulation and reuse by consumers and/or businesses.

Raw material circularity

The concept of raw materials adhering to circular economy principles and therefore being suitable for consistent circulation and reuse by industry.

Circular design

The concept of designing products and services in line with the principles of a circular economy. Using sustainable materials and designing out waste and pollution represent fundamental first steps. The overarching focus is to preserve the value of a safe-to-use product or service for as long as possible by designing for upgradeability/modularity, repair/refurbishment, and reuse. Recognising that end-of-life can be inevitable for some products, the focus shifts to maximising the sustainability of the end-of-life process by designing for redesign, disassembly, and recycling. Within this, circular clothing design refers to designs that use recycled and renewable materials (and/or post-production offcuts), and designs for emotional and physical durability, reuse, repair, redesign, modularity, disassembly, and recyclability.

Linear economy

An economic system in which raw materials are extracted, transformed into goods and services, consumed, and ultimately disposed of as waste. This is currently the dominant system in the global economy.

Circular economy

This report uses the related terms linearity and linear to describe activities, processes and flows that are characteristic of a linear economy. An economic system that eschews traditional linearity and is built on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

Circular and sharing business models (CSBMs)

Business models, such as clothing rental or subscription schemes, that minimise the material used and waste produced while maximising the value of materials and products by keeping them in use for as long as possible, if not permanently. These models promote a focus on the triple bottom line – people, planet and profit.

Ecosystem

A dynamic network of interconnected actors operating within a bounded geographical space.

Just and fair transition

A transition that ensures that the unprecedented opportunities and benefits on offer are shared equitably across society so that all have access to a viable, prosperous, and secure future.

Stakeholders

An individual, group, or party who has an interest in, or who is affected by, the operation and outcomes of the UK’s fashion ecosystem. In this report, we make reference to 13 stakeholder groups that span the fashion ecosystem: Academia; Brands; Collectors; Consumers; Designers; Digital Innovators; Government; Institutions, industry bodies and third sector; Investors; Logistics Providers; Manufacturers; Reprocessors; and Retailers. Definitions for each stakeholder are included in the Glossary.

Sustainable development

As defined by the Brundtland Report (1987): “[...] development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Sustainability

The state in which we are able to meet all of our needs within the ecological boundaries of the planet. These needs range from minimum standards for education, housing, social equality, income, and health to the basic provision of food, water, and energy. Meeting them within the ecological boundaries of the planet means that we must stop damaging and demanding too much of our planetary environment.

Recycled inputs

Synthetic or natural raw material that is derived from the recycling of used textiles and other fashion related materials and either suited to replacing virgin inputs for new clothing manufacturing or suited to use in alternative applications and industries.

Regenerative

Enabling the preservation or enhancement of the planet’s resources and environment.

Regenerative recycling

A recycling process which restores fibres to their original raw material state, with no degradation in quality. This allows for the fibres to be continually reused in the same application, creating a closed loop of constant circulation.

Renewable inputs

Raw materials that are naturally replenished at a faster rate than they are consumed.

Utilisation

The number of times that a product is used by a consumer.

Introducing the Circular Fashion Ecosystem Project

Climate change, resource depletion and the destruction of the natural environment are existential crises for humankind. The fashion and textiles industry has a significant adverse environmental and social impact and is cited as the joint third highest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs) globally. Urgency to mitigate climate change has never been more important, with the industry facing unprecedented challenges to serve citizens’ needs whilst reducing environmental impact. The future of fashion will have to radically transform as the entire value chain shifts towards sustainable and responsible practices in a resource-constrained world.

In response to this need for transformation, in this decade for climate action, the British Fashion Council established the Institute of Positive Fashion (IPF). The IPF aims to create a new blueprint for the industry, calling for collective action, investment in innovation, and incentives to achieve the goal of increased resilience and circularity. This report outlines the findings of Phase 1 of the Circular Fashion Ecosystem Project (CFE), the inaugural project of the IPF. Conducted between February and August 2021, desk-based research was combined with extensive cross-industry stakeholder consultations, and new consumer research. A mixed-methods approach was used to map the current state of the UK fashion ecosystem, develop a vision for a more circular target state, and integrate cross-industry input to develop recommended actions for realising this vision.

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SHAILJA DUBÉ

INSTITUTE OF POSITIVE FASHION LEAD AND THE CIRCULAR FASHION ECOSYSTEM PROJECT LEAD,
BRITISH FASHION COUNCIL

"We need to evolve our global economy from its linear growth orthodoxy, decouple business continuity from resource and energy extraction and push for innovating a new societal paradigm. The world is at a tipping point; collectively we must act and find solutions for unnecessary production, waste of resources and loss of social value. Fashion sits across innovation, creativity, culture, and self expression, and is unique in the way it influences society. If transformed to be regenerative and equitable through circularity, it can serve to be the industry blueprint for others. That is why the Circular Fashion Ecosystem Project is so important. Its bold and ambitious vision sets out to drive the systems-level change needed, through cross-sector and multi-disciplined collaboration for our collective future.”