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Designing for Circularity: The Future of Now

You may be scratching your head and wondering, "What in the world does that mean!?". In everything, that's the best place to start. So let's dive into the definitions of circularity, circular economy, and circular fashion.


In the simplest terms possible, circularity relates to having a continued loop of a product's lifecycle by keeping in use for as long as possible; and, once it may have seen it's final use, it can then be put back into the system through other means such as recycling or biodegrading back into the ecosystem. Which then in turn takes us to what a circular economy is and what it looks like.


Forewarning, not all things related to sustainability and a circular model are (or have to be) "granola-y". There are so many benefits for people and planet without sacrificing the things we, as consumers, love, i.e. style, comfort, etc. So what is a circular economy? A great definition from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation explains it as, "...a system where materials never become waste and where nature is regenerated." As mentioned above, this includes a number of processes that keep products and their components in circulation through: upkeep, reuse, repair, remanufacture, recycling, and composting. This can be seen and implemented through a number of industries, however our focus is going to be on fashion.


So the fun part! Now that we know the definitions of circularity and circular economy, we can hop into circular fashion. Taking all the aspects of the first two, we can implement the processes and practices into our clothing. And the best part is that it starts with the design process.


Scissors, a stray button, and a seam ripper lay on top of a pile of fabric scraps from a garment.

As a designer, innovation in materials, techniques, sustainability, and style have always resonated within me. As I dive further into sustainability and eco-consciousness, I am continually learning and discovering better ways to operate. That's why I've had a plan for the brand to become more circular and transition away from adding to our ever-growing waste problem. But before I get deeper into that, let me share some more details about why circular fashion excites me and how we even get there!


Ok, back to it. When designing for circularity, there are a few things to consider. The first and most important step to consider is the lifecycle of the design. After speaking to another amazing designer that's had a successful circular brand for nearly a decade, I came away with that being the main element to design. What does the end of the product's life look like. Are we designing for longevity or durability? Why not both. I want to design products that can be used for life and handed down to the next generation until it can't be worn anymore, then put it back into the system one way or another without adding to textile waste to landfills. Or for that matter, deserts in other countries (check out this article from what happened in Chile). In thinking about that, it leads to selecting materials that complement the lifecycle. When I mention materials, I mean more than just the fabric. We are now looking at the trims (zippers, buttons, etc.), thread fiber content, labels and more. It also has to include chemical components, such as dyes, finishes etc. to be considered because certain chemicals can destroy the circularity of a material. Therefore, each element has to agree in its essence to the lifecycle goal in mind.


That brings me back to where we are today...designing for the future that is now. We have to start at ground zero, which starts for us today. Am.A-line is developing new pieces with the circular ethos now and going forward. Don't worry, our previous styles will still be available until we run out of stock. However, the first step we've taken is by redesigning (remanufacture if you will) some of our previous styles that have been sitting, referred to as deadstock. Instead of just offering it as a sale item, I'm bringing new life into these designs because in essence they are timeless. With a circular mindset, clothing doesn't lose its value if it hasn't sold, but it can transformed. And I'm so excited to be on this journey and soon offer these new styles. We're also producing less and no longer following the standard fashion retail calendar, adopting a more slow fashion model. Also, we're scaling back our production further to a more specialized small batch program. So if you don't see a new style, that's because we didn't have a big enough demand for it, which helps us keep our waste contribution that much lower.


So wrapping it up. I know I gave you a lot to think about and digest, but here are a few key takeaways:

  1. Sustainability and circularity can be just as stylish as fast fashion, but with less of an environmental impact. (We'll get into that more later.)

  2. Circular fashion is part of the circular economy that aims to eliminate waste and promote regeneration in nature by keeping products in use for as long as possible or that can be returned to the earth.

  3. Am.A-line is embracing slow fashion and the circular model through remanufacturing previous styles and changing the perceived value.


Until next time...


If you'd like to check out any resources that I have used or am looking into myself, you can find them below:


Circular Fashion: A Supply Chain for Sustainability in the Textile and Apparel Industry by Peggy Blum

Courtney Holm from A.BCH World


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