The latest coalition in a string of fashion industry efforts to emphasize environmental and labor issues turns its focus on circular fashion policies to reduce waste.
The newly formed American Circular Textiles policy group (ACT) is aiming to bring circular fashion policies to the forefront. Founding members include Circular Services Group (CSG) and Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), as well as leading secondhand platforms ThredUp, Rent the Runway, The RealReal, and Fashionphile, among others.
“As a leader in recommerce, Rent the Runway has long believed in the power of wearing and celebrating clothing to its fullest potential as a way to curb the enormous amount of waste the industry generates,” Megan Farrell, head of sustainability at Rent the Runway, said in a statement.
“To take our collective work to the next level, we need solutions that will help scale textile recycling and reuse once a garment has reached the end of its wearable life. We’re happy to join Act and drive progress on this important work together,” she said.
According to Green America, about 700,000 tons of used and often unwearable clothing are exported to lower-income countries annually. Three million tons are incinerated and ten million tons wind up in landfills every year.
Fashion is also a leading contributor to climate change, responsible for ten percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the second leading cause of wastewater.
The new group’s goal primarily is to keep clothes out of landfills and shape policies that support that effort. It says that by the end of the year it will publish a paper for lawmakers that proposes industry-supported policy mechanisms aimed at promoting textile re-use and a “preferred materials management approach” that it hopes will start at the top of the circular economy waste hierarchy.
“By 2023, we will expand our scope to textile recyclers and those involved further downstream,” CSG’s founder and textile reuse veteran Rachel Kibbe, told WWD. CSG provides circularity and sustainability consulting with an emphasis on textile waste. “We have already started these conversations. Founding members must be able to delegate a maximum of two representatives with the ability to attend monthly meetings, participate actively in discussions and make expedient decisions on behalf of the company.”
The announcement builds on two recent efforts: New York’s Fashion Act aimed at holding large fashion brands with revenue of more than $100 million per year to environmental and social standards.
Last month, Democratic Senator from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand, introduced the FABRIC Act to the Senate. It’s aimed at rectifying labor issues, building on 1938’s Fair Labor Standards, namely doing away with piecework pay. California’s SB62 outlawed payment per piece, which can reduce wages to under $3 an hour for some garment workers.
Under New York’s Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act, clothing manufacturers would be required to detail sustainability and social accountability metric for a minimum of half of their supply chain. It’s earned the support of celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio and Jane Fonda.
The ACT coalition announcement comes as demand for secondhand and circular fashion is expected to top more than $82 billion by 2026, according to resale platform and ACT member ThredUp.
“Resale has emerged from the pandemic in an extremely strong position. More consumers are shopping secondhand, growth has accelerated, and the interest from traditional retailers has soared,” said Neil Saunders, Managing Director, GlobalData, who helped compile the data. “The economic outlook remains uncertain, but with inflation driving apparel prices higher and higher, more shoppers appear to be turning to secondhand to make their budgets stretch further. These things will ensure resale remains a disruptive part of the market and a force for good in helping people shop sustainably.”
The circular wave is sweeping luxury brands up, too. Just this week Italian fashion house Valentino announced four pop-ups dedicated to resale of its vintage items. Danish brand Ganni launched a new collection that features a textile made from cotton material waste. LVMH has also taken a dive into the circular fashion market with Nona Source. It opened a London showroom last month that sells deadstock from its Maisons including Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Loewe, and Givenchy.
Beyond Circular Services Group and Resource Recycling Systems, The ACT coalition includes eleven resale and rental platforms: ThredUp, Rent the Runway, The RealReal, CaaStle, Thrilling, Trove, Treet, Recurate, SuperCircle, Fashionphile, and Tersus.