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Industry Leaders Join Forces in Sweeping “Make Fashion Circular” Initiative

Many of the fashion industry’s most well-know companies and brands have committed to a new initiative in advancing the movement toward a circular economy and the sector’s environmental footprint.

Burberry Group, Gap Inc. H&M, HSBC, Nike Inc. and Stella McCartney have become “core partners” of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative meant to radically redesign the fashion industry. In addition, companies along the supply chain that include DuPont Biomaterials, Fung Group, Hallotex, I:Collect, Inditex, Kering, Lenzing Group, London Waste and Recycling Board, Nanushka, Primark, RadiciGroup, Solvay, Texaid, Tintex Textiles, VF Corp., and W.L. Gore & Associates have signed on as participants.

The companies will work together to address issues and deliver solutions to issues that have seen the fashion industry become one of the most polluting and wasteful sectors, while meeting the changing demands and expectations of society toward sustainability. The group said their aim is to make a circular economy for fashion that phases out harmful materials and keeps clothes in use to unlock $560 billion in economic opportunity.

The initiative was made possible with the support of C&A Foundation and Walmart Foundation. The group will help drive momentum toward a vision for a circular economy for fashion, first set out in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s 2017 report, “A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future.”

“For the fashion industry to thrive in the future, we must replace the take-make-dispose model, which is worn out,” Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said. “We need a circular economy for fashion in which clothes are kept at their highest value and designed from the outset to never end up as waste. By joining forces to Make Fashion Circular, we can harness the creativity and innovation that is at the heart of this $1.3 trillion industry to create a system that delivers benefits for everyone.”

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In announcing the initiative last week, Make Fashion Circular said participants will unite behind three key principles to create a system that delivers benefits for the public, the environment and businesses: Business models that keep clothes in use, materials that are renewable and safe, and solutions that turn used clothes into new clothes.

“The launch of Make Fashion Circular is an exciting step in the journey toward achieving a waste-free apparel industry,” Julie Gehrki, vice president for program at the Walmart Foundation. “We hope this roadmap serves as a tool that helps build partnerships across all regions and markets, catalyzes action and accelerates innovation on critical issues related to sustainable apparel.”

By working toward this new vision, Make Fashion Circular said the fashion industry can capture $460 billion currently lost from underutilization of clothes and another $100 billion from clothing that could be used, but is currently lost to landfill and incineration.

“We know from our Life Cycle Assessment studies that the useful lifetime of functional apparel is a key factor for reducing its environmental footprint,” Bernhard Kiehl, Gore Fabrics’ sustainability leader, said. “That is why making durably performing products has always been at the heart of what we do. Certainly, we are also eager to learn from and get inspired by what others do to create a circular economy for textiles.”

Make Fashion Circular was created in May 2017 at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit as the Circular Fibers Initiative, bringing together leaders from across the fashion industry, including brands, cities, philanthropists, NGOs and innovators to stimulate the level of collaboration and innovation necessary to create a new textiles economy, aligned with the principles of the circular economy. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was launched in 2010 to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.