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The Anti-Fast Fashion: Circular Fashion

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

Last week, we gave an overview of textile waste and fast fashion, and I even wrote some tips on what you could do to sustainably shop for clothes. The textile industry is huge, and there are many topics of interest surrounding it. Recently, I was introduced to the concept of circular fashion, and after hearing it described and doing some research, I would argue that it’s the opposite of fast fashion.

Ironically, the term circular fashion was coined by Dr. Anna Brismar of Green Strategy and popular fast fashion brand H&M in July 2014. It combines the concepts of circular economy and sustainable development. This is strange coming from the second largest global fast fashion brand H&M (that operates 5,000 stores in 70-plus countries), who believes “it has both the responsibility and a tremendous opportunity to change consumer behavior” with this circular fashion model. We have to remember that with their cheap prices and new products every two weeks, H&M played a huge part in the fast fashion problem. The fact that they are now encouraging sustainable and circular fashion is not only ironic but hypocritical. This is where the term “greenwashing” comes into play (that is a blog post on its own, so we will get into that in the future!).

So back to circular fashion (sorry, got carried away there). By definition (we’re starting to have a lot of these, I think I might make a post containing all our definitions in the future!), and as stated by Brismar, circular fashion is “clothes, shoes or accessories that are designed, sourced, produced and provided with the intention to be used and circulate responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use.” To put it simply, circular fashion dictates that fashion products be made ethically with longevity, eco-friendliness, and recyclability in mind. The products are meant to be used for as long as possible, and then, redesigned or refurbished. When the item is completely worn out, it is then recycled, doing a metaphorical 360 in its lifecycle, hence the name “circular fashion.” If the clothing is unfit to be recycled, it should then be produced with biologic components so that it may break down and provide nutrients for the ecosystem.

Dr. Brismar has also identified 16 principles to mark fashion as circular. We can go into more detail about each principle later, and they can be summed up by the four categories mentioned above, but they include the following (you can see a full list here)


- Design with a purpose

- Design with longevity

- Source and produce with good ethics


- Reuse, recycle or compost all remains

- Consider rent, loan, swap, secondhand or redesign before buying new

- Buy quality as opposed to quantity

Current Score:

Circular fashion: 1

Fast fashion: 0

Alright, that’s enough about what circular fashion is. What kind of fashion brands sell this kind of clothing? After doing some perusing on the interwebz, I found an article by Good On You detailing the 12 brands leading the circular movement (Check out the article here: Some of the brands featured are: Stella McCartney, MUD Jeans, and Ecoalf (a company that upcycles plastic ocean waste into clothing)! I’m definitely going to be checking that one out.

What do you think of circular fashion? Have you participated in or practiced it at all? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! See you next time on The Upcycled Thread!



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