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What is Circular Fashion? The Sustainable Shopping Revolution

T-shirt on washing line

What is circular fashion?

Put very simply, circular fashion a concept. It is a model for sustainable change within the fashion industry. For more information on sustainable fashion, check out our post on that here. A circular fashion approach would see your clothing have a circular fashion life cycle, rather than a linear one. So instead of being made, doing its thing and then being disposed of, it would be recycled and loop back to the beginning again.

What’s that got to do with being a revolution?

Circular fashion is a shopping revolution that could help save the earth, there are no ifs or buts about it, and here’s how.

There are some 80 billion new garments produced every year, both in the UK and outside of it. That’s a lot, I mean, 80 billion tic-tacs end-to-end would be enough to go around the Earth about 23 and a half times (and yes, that’s the new slightly bigger tic-tacs). A lot of these clothes are fast-fashion items, which are produced for the economy market. People are wearing those clothes about 50% less times than they used to, and once they become unwanted, 86% of them will go to landfill.

Once clothes are in landfill, they can sit there for more than 200 years (depending on the materials that they are made from) decomposing. This is due to the fact that landfills are not designed to assist in decomposition, but instead, are designed solely for the purpose of storage, so everything happens at a much slower rate.

The thing is, the process of something decomposing releases methane into the air. Methane is a greenhouse gas, and if there is anything, anything at all, that I remember from primary school it’s that greenhouse gases are bad. Upon further research as an adult, it’s much worse than I originally thought. A greenhouse gas is one which causes the greenhouse effect. This is done by it absorbing and emitting radiant energy. This energy is within the infrared range. The greenhouse effect is a direct result of that radiation warming the planet. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so it’s definitely not a good thing.

clothes in landfill

The Circular Fashion Cycle


This is a two-part process that not only includes farming and harvesting the materials, but also the spinning and weaving, bleaching, tanning, or the creation of synthetic materials.


Creating the actual design of a garment isn’t a simple process either. It’s entirely uncommon for someone to have an idea, make it and think “Yes, that’s perfect exactly the way it is”. This means that there often multiple revisions throughout the process.


Then we get on to actually making the product. This can be done in a number of ways depending on the item you’re making, and what you’re making it from too. Often this is done with heavy machinery or in a sweatshop somewhere.


Again, a multi-point process as the shipping happens all over. There is the shipping of the materials to the manufacturer, the shipping of the garment to the store, and sometimes there is the shipping from the store to you. If you opt to shop instore, there is then the additional shipping for the signage and promotions etc that the store has. Often these shipping routes come to the UK from other countries.


This is the part where you have the item. It includes your shopping to purchase said garment, as well as its lovely life of being worn, washed, dried, worn, washed, dried and so on. Which, as we said earlier on, you’re likely to do 50% less than you would have done 20 years ago.

Disposal OR Recycle

Disposal is where people throw their clothes away, which is a bad thing. Historically it was the only option and it caused the life cycle of a fashion item to be an exclusively linear one. Unfortunately, it is still, even now, the most popular option.

Choosing to recycle is the step that transforms the linear life ‘line’ of fashion into the circular fashion life ‘cycle. Recycle instead of dispose. This then takes us straight back to the sourcing part of the cycle, making everything continuous and flowing instead of a start-stop process.

the circular fashion cycle infographic

What happens next?

We can re-use the fashion items, and that’s not just recycling the fabric, but we can re-use the components too. From zips and buttons to buckles and chains, there are so many parts of your old clothes that can be recycled and reused. Currently, only 1% of unwanted fashion items are recycled, which is but a scratch compared to the 86% that are shipped to landfill.

So How Will This Shopping Revolution Save the Earth?

If more clothing and fashion items get recycled, then fewer end up in landfill, and much less of those harmful greenhouse gases will be released into the atmosphere. This, in turn, will slow down the effects of global warming. It might not sound like much, but as the well-known Chinese proverb states, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

At this point, the main thing that you need to ask is are you part of the 1% doing their bit to save the planet? Or the 86% doing theirs to destroy it?

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