COVID-19 causes fashion retailers to re-evaluate business model to make products recyclable, says GlobalData

COVID-19 has slowed down the majority of fashion retailers, but, as lockdown continues, fashion firms are begining to regain their positions in the market through re-evaluation of their current business models. Fashion retailers must strip back the layers within the supply chain to make more responsible choices when it comes to raw materials and designing products with the next iteration already in mind, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Beth Wright, Apparel Correspondent for GlobalData, comments: “The COVID-19 crisis has led to the evaluation of business models across the industry amid fresh calls from consumers for fashion firms to do better.

“Simply signing industry pledges and making ambitious commitments is not enough. Those looking to truly make a change and further the shift from the traditional ‘take-make-waste’ linear model to a more circular system must delve deeper. For a product to be truly circular, it must be able to be broken down at the end of its life cycle, with all fabrics and components suitable for recycling or repurposing into new materials for the next product.”

German sporting goods giant, Adidas, has been running with this idea for a while. Its new UltraBoost DNA Loop performance shoe builds on previous iterations and is part of the ‘Made to be Remade’ project. Produced from one material type and no glue, the UltraBoost DNA Loop can be ‘ground to pellets and melted into material’ to form the basis of a new shoe once returned to Adidas by consumers.

H&M is another trailblazer. The fashion retailer debuted the first retail model of a garment-to-garment recycling system at a store in its native Sweden this month. Pioneered by the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), the Loop recycling system allows consumers to watch their old clothes being broken down into fibres and yarns to become the raw material for new knitted apparel.

Elsewhere, both online fashion retailer Asos, and Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger owner PVH Corp, have moved to educate their employees on the importance of circularity, with the latter highlighting the roll out of global ‘Circularity 101’ training in its most recent corporate responsibility (CR) report.

Asos, meanwhile, has made good on a commitment to train all of its designers on circular design by 2020, developing an educational programme with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion, and rolling it out across its design team. The retailer’s first circular fashion collection includes a mono-material pledge, meaning the product’s main fabrications can be easily recycled at end-of-life, and a commitment to design products that can be easily taken apart, making it easier to reuse or recycle.

Wright adds: “These are all positive steps towards meaningful change and the industry must take note of how these players are going beyond launching ‘bring back’ schemes and new sustainability targets. It’s going to take more than that to overthrow the fast fashion monster we have created.

“We must go back to the very start; the moment the product comes to life at the hand of the designer. Education is key to underline the importance of responsible raw material and construction choices if we are to truly move forward.”

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