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  • Aaryan Doshi

Circularity in Fast Fashion: The Jacket Series Epilogue

Circularity in Fast Fashion: The Jacket Series Epilogue image: adobe firefly

Have you ever pondered over the fate of all those unused clothes? When the discount sales end and a new season dawns, what becomes of the winter collection? Perhaps, like me, you once believed that these items would be packed away and reemerge the following year. But the truth is far more unsettling. These unwanted clothes find their final resting place in the waterways, deserts, and ditches of impoverished nations, choking their environment and causing irreparable harm.

But why do we produce so many clothes so quickly, so fast? Especially when so much of it ends up in waste - 85% of the clothing in the US ends up in landfills. According to a report from McKinsey, Chinese e-commerce company Shein produces more than 6000 products a day. It is because consumers like you and I crave new cheap clothes constantly - meaning we wear them, get bored, and then want to seek something new - oh, the thrill of trying out something cool and new! And if it is cheaper, even better because then we feel less guilty, correct? And the retailers are only too happy to oblige.

Fast fashion is the most classic example of the linear economy, where we make stuff fast and furious. And then dump it even faster so we can make more stuff to be dumped! The clothes are made with petrochemicals that take hundreds of years to biodegrade. The water consumed to make these clothes, the fossil fuels consumed to ship them, and the massive dumping grounds required to handle their “end of utility” stages significantly strain our planet and climate. Often, this means unsafe conditions for workers, which sometimes have disastrous consequences.

So, how do we transition to a circular economy in retail fashion? The pressure to get clothes to market faster and cheaper means there is no time to consider what will happen to these clothes once they have been rejected, used, or dumped. Making these clothes costs far less than handling their “end of life” or “not purchased” stages. 

The basic principle of circularity is to design products with end of life in mind - meaning, how will we dispose of them? How will we repair them? How can we extend the usefulness of the different “parts” that make the “product”?  This will not happen unless you and I, as consumers, are prepared to ask such questions and change our habits - only then will retail companies be incentivized to change their model.

References (updated Feb 2024):

Srauturier. (2024, February 2). Everything You Need to Know About Waste in the Fashion Industry - Good On You. Good on You.

Mind the Gap: Fashionably green for Earth Day. (2022, April 19).

The Rana Plaza disaster ten years on: What has changed? (n.d.). InfoStories.


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