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A UK Government-Funded Textiles Circularity Center is Now Open

The journey to circular fashion requires collaboration throughout the supply chain and beyond. Experts have long called on local governments to get involved, describing the infrastructure required to bring the concept to fruition as too much for individual companies to take on. After months of preparation, a U.K. government-funded circularity center and research program is responding to the industry’s cry for help.

On Monday, a Royal College of Art (RCA)-led consortium opened the Textiles Circularity Center (TCC), an initiative funded by the U.K. Research & Innovation (UKRI) Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centers Program, a government organization. In November 2020, the government provided the consortium with a 5.4 million pound ($7.6 million) grant distributed through 2024 to establish a more circular economy that supports Made in the U.K. products.

The TCC focuses on fashion and textiles manufacturing and creative technologies industries by supporting innovations in manufacturing, supply chain design and consumer experience design. It aims to turn post-consumer textiles, crop residues and household waste into renewable materials for use in these industries.

The center is led by RCA’s Professor Sharon Baurley and University of Leeds’ Professor Phil Purnell in collaboration with scientists and researchers from Cranfield University, University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Manchester and University of York.

“The time is ripe to explore an alternative model for fashion apparel,” Baurley said in response to the November announcement. “Our circular economy system design proposes to do just that by introducing a new relationship between materials and human wellbeing and by innovating circular fibers and textiles for the U.K.—and global—SME fashion industry.”

The TCC is one of five recently launched circular economy centers established by the U.K. government, which invested 22.5 million pounds ($31.8 million) in total. It’s comprised of three interconnecting research strands, including Materials Circularity, Circular Supply Chain and Consumer Experience.

The investment mirrors an industry-wide shift to circularity, fueled by global initiatives such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign program established in 2019 to promote a circular economy in the global denim supply chain. Denim brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Frame and Gap have already produced their first collections featuring denim according to the new blueprint.