Climate Action

Renting clothes could support sustainability in fashion

The circular economy has inspired new plans to move towards a sustainable textile industry.

  • 20 August 2018
  • Adam Wentworth

The circular economy has inspired new plans to move towards a sustainable textile industry.

Globally, one rubbish truck of textiles is thrown away every second. This has resulted in UK landfill sites being inundated with unwanted clothing items costing an estimated £82 million a year, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

The production of clothes is a dynamic process with a constant conveyor belt of new material which leaves behind a mass of unwanted items. Despite the industry’s efforts to become more socially ethical, a lack of commitment to the environment remains.

Fashion is also considered as one of the most polluting industries globally and by 2050 it is expected to use up to 25 per cent of the world’s carbon budget.

The circular economy seeks to incorporate sustainability into the textile industry. Circular fashion, coined in 2014, are clothes, shoes or accessories designed to be biodegradable and recyclable with a high longevity, according to Dr Anna Brismar at Green Strategy, a consultancy.

C&A have launched sustainable jeans in a bid to demonstrate the effectiveness of a circular business model. The jeans are made from non-toxic materials which can be safely recirculated back into industrial process.

Recent research from Nottingham Trent University has explored the idea of clothing rental as another option. The academics point to a survey at the Westfield Shopping Centre in London which suggested renting could become a key trend in the future.

Girl Meets Dress is a British company assessed by the researchers, and a leading provider of luxury dresses for hire. It allows customers to choose among 4,000 designer pieces and return them within either a 2 or 7 day period, in order to combat waste in the industry.

“While we found there were opportunities, certainly at the luxury end of the market, there was resistance to the rental of lower priced items, which were just too easy to buy,” said Naomi Braithwaite, a senior lecturer in fashion marketing and branding at Nottingham Trent.

“If consumers are to engage, rentals need to be convenient, cheap and accessible and fulfil the desire for having something new.”

However, she pointed out that there other issues to consider, such as the impact of dry cleaning and transportation.

“Clothing rental has the potential to reduce waste and extend the lifespan of garments, but to achieve a more sustainable industry a systemic change in business practice and consumer behaviour is needed,” she concluded.