November 27, 2021

Help creating a circular fashion economy in the UK

3 min read

The British Fashion Council’s (BFC) Institute of Positive Fashion (IPF) launches the Circular Fashion Ecosystem (CFE) Report which aims to present a blueprint for a circular fashion economy in the UK. It seeks to address the industry’s impact on the planet through linear production models and defines the roles that all stakeholders, from academia to consumers, must play.

According to the IPF the UK fashion market represents one of the largest globally, with revenues of £118 billion, 890,000 workers and contributes £35 billion to the UK’s pre-pandemic GDP; the volume of clothes bought annually in the UK was 4 billion pieces of apparel (in 2019).

The IPF claims that to make the industry circular it will require cross-sector collaboration and for all stakeholders to play their part in an industry transformation program that will future-proof an economy through the creation of jobs across the UK and play its part in reducing the UK’s carbon footprint and draw on natural resources.

Therefore, the report provides the fashion industry with three target outcomes which combined will allow for a viable, resilient and prosperous ecosystem. 

  • Target Outcome 1: Reduced volume of new physical clothing
  • Target Outcome 2: Maximised utilisation and revaluation through product circularity
  • Target Outcome 3: Optimised sorting methods and materials recovery

These outcomes are underpinned by 10 priority actions and 30 recommendations for an ecosystem of stakeholders who need to act collectively to succeed.

Fashion show at London Fashion Week

Photo: Institute of Positive Fashion/BFC

Fashion show at London Fashion Week

The priority actions involve efforts across many different parts of the fashion value chain. Each action area is equally important and has the potential to amplify the effects of the others:

  1. Circular design
  2. Consumer empowerment
  3. Circular and sharing business models
  4. Demand for circular and sustainable fibres
  5. Post-use ecosystem
  6. Sortation and recycling
  7. Enhanced identification and tracking
  8. Ecosystem modelling
  9. Policy and regulation
  10. Infrastructure investment

The BFC, who lead the IPF will now take this report to engage stakeholders, to consult on the practical steps required to kick-start their transformation programs. The IPF Steering Committee has identified areas requiring further research and industry demonstrator projects, to translate into practical steps for delivery.

“The UK has all the ingredients needed to create a blueprint for a circular fashion economy that will deliver significant environmental, commercial and societal benefits.  The mammoth job at hand to put this into action can be supercharged through a Sustainable Fashion Programme that sees, industry, Government and stakeholders all come to the table to play their part beyond their focus of each individual business.  We are already seeing this with our emerging designers, however with large commercial businesses, e-commerce businesses, academia, innovators, funders, logistics providers, waste management and recycling providers and the broader ecosystem coming together with Government, we have an opportunity to create this target state quicker and in doing so creating jobs and skills benefiting the UK as a whole,” said Caroline Rush, CEO, British Fashion Council.

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