What is Circular Fashion?

Last week I was at the OSCE Days - the Open Source Circular Economy Days - in Berlin, Neukölln.

The OSCE days are two days which are used as a melting pot for creative ideas. Various experts and interested people in Textile Industries come together and work two days on questions about improving and visualising the future in textile industries – Focused on circularity.

Circularity in textile industry doesn’t mean anything else than building a life-circle with any product or good within the textile business.

For example: A T-shirt should be produced in a way that after it is brought and worn by a customer, it can be resold, after that up-cycled and then it either should be recyclable or contain fibres which are able to rotten. The main idea of it is to reduce waste. The lifetime of a T-shirt shouldn’t end in swimming in the wide ocean like another plastic bag. It is more about finding ideas how to see products, goods, materials, fibres,... in a circle in and on this planet forever.


Two questions are important to find solutions:


1. What is happening with the already existing textiles?

2. What could be better alternatives to the existing ones?


And there is a third one, which is a more general one:

     3. How will that be made available to the consumers?


Let’s focus the first question. Most important it is that the life-circle of  textiles should be extended as much as possible. I assume, all of you who read this blog have already an idea how this could work. Examples are Second Hand Shops, Flee-markets, Vintage-Lovers, Swap-parties, Clothes donations (in some points questionable, but later more to that), Up-cycling, Recycling and fibres reuse.

And the trends for this are big! Since the Hipster-trend we like individualism again. And this is great, because uniqueness is nothing you will find at Zara or H&M. But you definitely find it in vintage shops, where in general one specific piece exists only one time and it looks great on you – so it should be yours and no one else’s ;)

Clearly a lot of Second Hand shops in Germany and many other countries have to have a make-over. Smelly, messy shops are not nice. They never are! So Second Hand 2.0 was a big thing which was talked about at the OSCE days. Fashion is a superficial business. Coming into a shop you want to buy a lifestyle. There are some, but less people who just go and buy and jersey because they are cold. If the value for a piece of clothes should be sold, it needs to be presented in that way.

Great ideas for improved second hand shops you find in Dublin, probably Europe greatest city creative small shops with a mixture of new design, up-cycling and vintage and second hand (since GB doesn’t belong to the EU anymore, definitely for the EU :P ).

And also Berlin in such areas like Charlottenburg and Prenzlauerberg you will find a lot of small very need and nice shops with a very unique and everyday changing assortments.

Swap parties became in the last years big events, which are a lot of fun. VinoKilo is just one who are touring through entire Germany and the borders of it. So check out your city and your Facebook for the next swap-party, it definitely worth it and allows you to exchange you entire wardrobe for zero money.


Second question: What are alternatives. We hear about things like “vegan-leather”, where most of us just shake the head and ask wtf?

How “good” are products like this for nature and what is the quality like? Well, first of all: There are very great alternatives for a better use of  resources already existing. Vegan leather are natural products like pineapple or cork leather, simply no-animal products in the leather-look. Cotton could be used in much, much, much better ways. The biggest cotton farm Texas is an organic cotton. The real big thing which is needed to be stopped is the Monsanto-cotton which contains a lot of water and a lot of chemicals, which by the way can still be dangerous for the people who ear it on their skin (and Monsanto is never labelled).

3D-Printer are another, more technological solution for cutting clothes, bringing a producing industry in textiles back to Europe.

Or entire business concepts like Mud-jeans or Filippa K where it is implemented in buying process of the product to give it back or to up-cycle or recycle it one day.

Many more ideas I will going to present you after the upcoming Ethical Fashion Show – where many Labels will present their way of coming up with a better solution.


So this leads us to question three: If there are solutions already, why is the textile industry still the second most polluting industry after the Oil business?

Awareness. That’s the word and the problem.

Most of us don’t know better and don’t see a value in clothes anymore, something what generation Primarkt/Pennys proves us every day.


I will give you an example of my sister. She is a working mum with two little kids and she asked me: “Nora, how do I know what’s “good to buy” and what’s “bad to buy”? The kids grow so fast and I don’t have the money to buy them always expensive fair-produced clothes, they will rip, make dirty and grown out of it within a month. Besides I don’t have the time to always find that one specific shop, who probably won’t have available for what I need.”


For this at the OSCE-days one working group came up with a brilliant idea of a clothes recycling machine in Kindergartens. Parents need easy and quick solutions for textiles of their kids. Moreover they need something to trust. (Brands do that with their marketing... because actually no worried parent should “just buy that Primakt or that Zara one” for their kid.) Anyhow a machine which would collect not-needed clothes anymore and giving back voucher to the parents for their donation like a coffee-shop voucher. The machine selects the textiles for second-hand, up-cycling or recycling.


But it is true. A better Fashion just needs to be more available and also more designed in high-class sectors. Because a circular textile industry has nothing to do with being alternative, Hipster, Hippie, Öko, ... what ever you call it. A circular textile industry simply means stop being an ass whole to the world we live in and to think wiser and more intelligent of everything we take and give.  


To work on more awareness campaigns like Fashion Revolution, The Good in You, Clean Clothes/Saubere Kleidung, Get Changed and so on exist.

For Fashion Revolution we work on creating an exhibition which explains the value-chain of textiles in an entertaining way. Make it a game, make it nice and let the people have fun in learning about it: Do you know how much energy you need to make for one T-shirt? Do you know what it feels like to sit in a sewing factory? Do you know what pineapple-leather feels like? Do you know how much water you need for a cosy winter-jersey? Do you know how less you get out of recycling fibres? – Well, I don’t know.

But I will use my creativity to make the answers to these questions touchable and fun for kids and grown-ups. If you have any ideas, share them with me ;)


Let`s keep just one thing in mind:

It is okay to take from nature as long as we give back. We live with the nature, we don’t own it.