The summary of my presentation to the EU Eco Forum in Vienna as an expert in the clothing industry in 2019 on „Circularity in the textile sector”
The basic rule of circular economy is – “Don’t put it on the market if you cannot take it back”. But the question remains: “Is this approach enough” for the garment industry.
Where do we stand?
According to a report issued by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation in 2018 only 1% of textiles and clothing is recycled. The remaining 99% are either burned or landfilled.
There is a growing but still very limited number of companies and fashion labels that try to contribute to solving the problem in the long term.
Different companies reveal concepts like the “cradle to cradle concept” as well as upcycling or downcycling concepts.
But still: According to research by the recognized sustainability expert Kirsten Brodde the share of green fashion is still far below 5%.
The truth about the fashion industry – some figures
In the last 15 years the number of garments produced has doubled worldwide, in the same period of time the average wearing time has halved.
So even if we have a number of 5% of green fashion trying to implement circular economy to fashion industry developments are still going into the wrong direction.
What went wrong?
In principle the whole mess is a matter of mindset. During the past 40 years garment industry has been searching the cheapest labour cost all over the world.
Production moves from China, the latest hotspot is Ethiopia
For more than 30 years China used to be the biggest producer of garments in the world, now after wages have also risen in China, the industry has moved to other countries like, Vietnam, Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh and lately Ethiopia while we are discussing about circularity in our industry here in Europe.
The only problem: There is hardly any production left in Europe.
To produce a fashion product in Europe to 100% is exactly my way to contribute to make the fashion world a little bit better.
This is how and why I started up the brand BREDDY’S together with my wife two years ago.
What is the benefit of a Production in Europe
Besides the fact that if you produce e.g. fabric in a country like Sweden, you hardly have to mind, whether or not people care about their environment. They will for sure. Because here in Europe we already realize, that we have to take care of nature. You can let your children swim in the river of Danube here in Vienna, this is hardly something parents would allow their kids if we talk of the Yangtze River in Shanghai, China.
But if we want to find the real benefit of a European production we have to go into figures:
We don’t want to put it on the market if we cannot sell it.
Let’s have a look at the following chart
- If we look at 100% of the recourses that we need to produce pair of pants. Let’s start with the stage of weaving. We lose 5% of raw material in the production process.
- Then – in the next stage – we lose up to 20% of the recourses in the cutting room. (as we talk about woven fabric or knitted fabric produced with circular knitting machine). Leftovers of outdated fabric not to be considered.
- Once the garment is finished it comes to sales. But what if the product is never sold. There are only few numbers published that would answer the question: What is the real percentage of garments that are delivered to the retails store, department store, warehouse of the online shop but are never sold. Even if you hardly find any numbers about that. Whenever you find numbers, hardly anybody would guess that more than 80% of the products delivered are sold. My personal guess is, that the number of produced garments never sold is even bigger. But let’s assume the real number is 20%.
- Fast fashion leads us to the next problem: What is your guess of the number of garments sold but never used? Again we are looking at a problem that is very difficult to quantify. Lets us think again of the fact, that within the last 15 years (in which the population on this planet has grown from 6,4 billion to 7,6 – representing a growth rate of 19%) has been doubled. How often does it happen to you: I see a pair of Jeans, you like it but after wearing it once, you never but it on again – for what ever reason? … is it 10% … out of 10 garments you buy – one would be never used? – lets us assume this is the real figure
When we at BREDDY’S studied this chard we tried to find out: How can we contribute, Where can we make a change? How would we try to brake the rules and change the system?
This is the concept
We establish a local supply chain.
Our first step: Have everything produced in Europe
The Cutting and assembling
We concentrate on basics
Instead of fast fashion – we concentrate on basics. We combine basic colour with standard fittings to make our pants a product that every consumer loves and uses for a long time.
We establish a repair service for pants and take back used pants that we upcycle making different products like bags.
What is the benefit
By establishing a local supply chain we can reduce resources dramatically if we produce just in time.
We will save 20% of the leftovers
We will save another 5 – 10% of products never used
What is our challenge – field of development
Find partners in Europa: Textile and Garment industry, has been dramatically reduced in Europe throughout the last 40 years
Find skilled workers – Schools have been closed, in contrast to other countries, Austria has never before offered an academic training opportunity for clothing technicians
There is no technology available for a small series production
The most single limiting factor
Now it is time to create a new mindset
Develop the technology necessary
And find the right people..
To make fashion Industry a little bit better again!
This is how we will be able to achieve our vision.
The client comes to a BREDDY’S store, decides for a pair of pant and in the moment he buys it, we start production of the pant – being able to deliver it within 1 day!
No wonder if that sounds familiar to you
It is exactly the way tailors used to serve there clients for hundreds of years – before something called “pret a porté” was invented some 150 years ago in Paris!