Circular Economy is instrumental especially in todays’ times due to the ongoing environmental crisis caused by the harmful practices undertaken by varied industries. The core of circular economy is the creation of balance between nature and society. The recently concluded 3Cs segment – Conversations welcomed Ms. Laura Vicaria, CSR Manager – MUD Jeans who provided insights on Sustainable Fashion through the adoption of Circular Economy. The session veered in the direction of Denim as it is the brands core product. It was also ideal as an example as it is one of the most used items of clothing possessed by everyone and resonated with the viewers due to the personal nature of use of the clothing. However, when we use an item of clothing which is a staple in everyone’s wardrobe, we do not tend to worry about finer details. Taking the viewers through insightful observations and carefully conducted research by MUD Jeans, Ms. Vicaria at the beginning of the session asked viewers to ponder about the origin of the jeans, who made them, where they were made, were they paid fair wages, was it cotton or organic cotton?
She pointed out that denim itself is a slightly debatable industry and cotton is one of the dirtiest industries, due to the large consumption of water and toxic chemicals it requires. Every year 27 million tons of cotton is generated, though it only occupies 2.5 acres of agricultural land, it uses 25% insecticides and pesticides which exposes the people working on the land and the environment to horrible conditions.
The idea of sustainably manufacturing denims at MUD Jeans through the incorporation of circular fashion was Mr. Bert van Son, Founder of world’s first circular brand. This is not just about jeans but a way of revolutionizing the fashion industry by taking the most popular item from our wardrobe. His model involved not using new materials to create denims but rather reuse materials and products that were discarded, thus ensuring that they stay away from landfills. Recycling them adds value at different levels.
Circular Economy has 6 elements:
To create a circular product, it needs to have a circular design. The intent of having circular design is to craft something that does not have a lifecycle, but “can be made to be made again”.
Ensuring production units are nearby so as to cut down on logistics involved in transportations and control over product, allows for transparency and a closer relationship with the supply chain partner. Also, while choosing supply chain partners it is important to ensure that their values align with that of the sustainable brand that they are working with.
Lease or Buy
In this model the customer can lease a pair of jeans. For the first 12 months the customer has to pay a certain amount per month and then decide if they want to keep the jeans or buy it or if they want to return the pair of jeans and start a new lease with a new pair of jeans. This allows the customer to have the feeling of possessing a new product and assures the material to come back to the brand and not end up in the landfill. The lease system makes the purchase more accessible, especially to people who are unable to make a full payment to buy them.
Use and Return
The use and return policy are incentivized wherein the customer either receives a month free of the lease or a certain amount off their purchase. This policy ensures the return of the jeans back to the brand. The returned jeans are then checked for any defects or if they are in a good condition.
If the jeans are in good condition they are upcycled. They are washed and mended if need be, this is done to extend the life of the jeans. The returned and upcycled jeans can then be sold during fairs or exhibitions. Upcycling has a positive environmental impact.
Jeans that are not in good condition can be collected and sent back to the supplier for recycling. The jeans are shredded into fibre which is then blended in GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified cotton to make new yarn and that turns into fabric and then final pair of jeans.
Circularity is a perfect tool to create a more sustainable product and tackle climate change.
Who made your clothes?
Working conditions are as important as environmental conditions. Everyone involved in the supply chain should benefit from safe and honest working conditions as well as fair wages.
Ms. Vicaria, shared that the model of circular fashion is ideally targeted towards cultural creatives, people who are searching for something meaningful and are not afraid to ask the hard questions. These are customers who are keen to try and have a new experience.
Business Challenges for brands adopting circular economy
Though the concept is forthright, there are challenges that are faced by businesses while implementation. Quality standards have to be developed to match and safeguard the recycled product. The traditional manufacturing process has to revamped to cater to the new product’s design and development and has to align with the aforementioned six elements. Convincing customers is also a challenge especially in terms of leasing and the idea of being trendy as opposed to being sustainable.
Ms. Vicaria also shared 3 videos – one that showcased the recycling process, the other that showed how fabric was turned into a pair of jeans and the last but not the least were the targeted customers for MUD Jeans.
Circular Economy is an attractive proposition in fashion. Ms. Vicaria rounded up the session by saying that the onus lies with the fashion industry to create better products not just from a social perspective but also to have a positive impact on the environment as a whole and these products need to be easily available to everyone. Sustainable and circular fashion is also spoken from a technical perspective in terms of – if it is environmentally friendly and if human rights are being met. But, fashion is about culture and driving and adjusting to culture is significant. To create an impact, fashion truly has a huge role to play.