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Circular economy in the textile industry: sustainable fashion is part of the future

Concepts such as slow fashion, second-hand shops, recycling, renting or leasing fashion items are just a few examples that prove that sustainability is entering the fashion and textile industry. This trend is also confirmed by the ING Circular Economy Report. But where do consumers really stand on the subject of sustainable fashion, and what does this trend mean for the textile industry?

Although sustainability plays an increasingly important role for companies in the fashion and textile industry, more than 50 percent of consumers surveyed still buy cheap mass-produced goods, so-called "fast fashion". This behaviour is expected to change gradually in the future. Even today, more than 30 percent of respondents say that the potential impact that textiles may have on the environment plays a major role in their decision to buy. However, for most consumers, value for money remains the primary criterion.

In addition, only around 35 percent of respondents regularly repair their clothes, which could be due to a perceived lack of repair skills. However, reasons such as being able to wear their favourite items for longer and cost savings could in future encourage consumers to repair their clothes more often.

There is also little willingness to buy or sell second-hand clothing. Only among younger respondents is the trade in second-hand clothing more popular. They mainly use services from online platforms, thus minimising the effort often associated with buying and selling second-hand clothing. In the US, less clothing is repaired and recycled than in Europe, but American consumers are more likely to buy second-hand clothing.

The emergence of new circular business models

More sustainable thinking means that business models based on the concept of renting rather than owning or buying are emerging in the fashion industry. More and more fashion companies are introducing rental or subscription models. Manufacturers from the US, Great Britain and Denmark are pioneers in this area. In addition to these circular economy models, which primarily impact end customers, companies can also start earlier and track or recycle the materials used throughout their entire life cycle. However, this requires close collaboration with suppliers, technology companies and sometimes even with competitors. In the interests of a more sustainable fashion and textile industry, however, this commitment could pay off in the long term - for companies, customers and, above all, for the environment.

Read more about the future of the circular economy in the textile industry and how the outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia has become a pioneer in sustainability.