Case Study

Fashion: Repair, Resale, Recycle

Some business models are not only resource-intensive but actively encourage and accelerate overconsumption and disposal.

For example, e-commerce is fuelling a culture of over-ordering, fast delivery and easy returns. This is only set to increase as a growing middle class in emerging markets start to embrace consumer habits. Despite this, there are positive signs that a growing number of companies are starting to think about how their production and consumption models need to evolve to be in line with planetary boundaries.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that the global fashion industry loses $100 billion each year from clothing that is landfilled or incinerated. A number of apparel companies are now exploring repair and resale business models. Eileen Fisher has take-back and repair lines and Nudie Jeans repaired 55,000 pairs of jeans in its own stores in 2018, with 32 repair shops around the world. In the UK, Ted Baker, along with luxury fashion platform Farfetch and outdoor clothing brand FW, will explore how new closed-loop business models — including resale and repair — could help reduce waste and boost profitability under the “Circular Fashion Fast Forward” project.

"Linear supply chains are a significant threat to the future of our planet in terms of biodiversity loss, pollution and global warming."
Michael Pooley, President, Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool (CHEP) EMEA

The number of apparel companies offering rental and subscription models has grown in the past year and is expected to increase in 2020, with the secondhand market expected to grow 1.5 times the size of fast fashion by 2028. As younger generations recognize the inherent value in their unworn clothing, major players such as US-based thredUP and China’s YCloset are leading the way, with thredUP on track to become one of the largest distributors of clothing in North America by 2020.

Global business — and the fashion industry in particular — is facing an inflection point. Those companies that are able to rethink the value chain for consumer goods and prioritize dematerialization and closed-loop systems could gain a significant advantage in the marketplace.

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