These days, you can update your wardrobe as often as the seasons change, but that comes at a high cost to the environment. Pressure is mounting on the industry to clean up its act.
One hope lies in the move to a circular economy, in which product lifespans are extended for as long as possible, and goods are repaired, reused or recycled back into production.
It's a far cry from the way the fashion industry operates today, but the €3.6 million EU-funded European Clothing Action Plan (ECAP) is exploring ways to embed a circular approach across the continent.
C&A Foundation is supporting the programme's Design for Longevity (DFL) platform, coordinated by the Danish Fashion Institute, which aims to help designers extend the lifespan of the products they create.
Megan McGill, Programme Manager at C&A Foundation, explains: “Most of a product's environmental impact is locked in at the design phase, so engaging this community is vital if we're going to reduce the environmental harm of the industry as a whole."
DFL has some bold goals: firstly, to recruit 1,000 active users of the platform when it launches in September, and ultimately, to demonstrate a 20 per cent increase in garment lifespan among that community.
“We want DFL to be a platform that offers the relevant knowledge, solutions and inspiration to take action as a designer and brand.”Project Manager at the Danish Fashion Institute Tobias Harboe
“The Danish Fashion Institute has run a number of workshops to develop the platform, asking designers working in the industry as well as industry experts to explore the different ways you could design a product so it lasts longer – and then working that insight into the platform.
“Designing for longevity is not the entire answer to a circular system, but it is an important aspect because it forces us to look at how we extend the life – and the value – of products."
The move towards a circular model will not be without huge challenges. That's true for every sector, but companies that operate a fast fashion model will find it most difficult.
Tobias Harboe, Project Manager at the Danish Fashion Institute, says: “These retailers could use the platform to gain insight into how to redesign product lines that offer potential for longer lifespans. Alongside that, they will need to start thinking about how to design products so they can be returned, repaired, recycled or even resold. It's not easy, but it's an opportunity for innovative companies willing to embrace change."
For C&A Foundation, the DFL partnership offers a chance to learn more about the challenges to designing more sustainably.
“Designers are critical to enabling a circular and regenerative economy, but we also need to understand the restraints they are working within. What are the other factors at play? The more designers ECAP can get using the DFL platform when it launches in September, the more we will be able to learn," says Megan.
Tobias adds: “The intricacies of designing fashion more sustainably can be overwhelming, and it's difficult to know where to begin. But we want DFL to be a platform that offers the relevant knowledge, solutions and inspiration to take action as a designer and brand, so that ECAP can achieve their targets, and start reducing the burden on squeezed virgin resources."