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The solution to toxic consumerism: How circular fashion can save the world

Whether you’ve got rooftop drinks at uber cool rooftop bar Madison, St Paul's for a friend’s birthday, where all the girls will definitely be in silk skirts and leather jackets... Or you’ve finally been offered a day of work experience at the BBC , but don't really get what "smart-casual" means... Or even, your boyfriend’s got you tickets to Hamilton on Friday, and understandably you want a cute pic for the gram for this long-awaited moment. The one thing that all these events have in common: the absolute necessity to have a new fit.

(Source: Sophie Mayhew)

In an age where consumerism and a hunger for newness has infiltrated so many aspects of modern society, the desire to seek out an outfit that matches the latest trends has become a far-reaching issue. With Generation Z becoming the most critical consumer group until now, it is pertinent to steer this generation’s rising spending thrills away from fast fashion and the endless string of influencers promoting the latest must-haves, and instead strive towards more sustainable fashion habits.

I spoke to Eliza Batten, co-founder of hot new multi-cycle fashion business The Cirkel, which promotes an alternative way to refresh your wardrobe. The Cirkel’s brand mission is to reduce the impact of fashion by making second-hand everyone’s first choice, which is what Eliza envisages as the future of fashion.

She said: “I think circular fashion has to be the future…and in order to be the future, The Cirkel needs to convert as many people as possible. We do that by making people feel as though they’re shopping new. In our day and age, we’re such big consumers anyway, we can’t help that – it’s almost like an addiction - and I’m not expecting people to stop shopping. Instead, I want to give them an alternative so they can still get that fix, but without it being as damaging”.

The Cirkel’s concept is to increase the lifespan of clothes by circulating items from wardrobe to wardrobe, instead of from shop to wardrobe to landfill. A genius concept that the Cirkel offers, is to ‘cirkel back’ an item of clothing you bought (within six months), in exchange for a voucher worth up to 70% of the price paid. This is a no brainer for me – you’re making better choices for both the planet, and your bank.

Eliza said: “92% stated they would cirkel back and liked the concept. I think we’ll see a lot more circkel-ing back this summer when people have weddings, balls and other big events like that”. I will certainly be sourcing my statement outfit from The Cirkel when I go to ABBA Voyage - which I envisage to include an array of flares and sequins in old but gold items that I’ll be so smug about, as nobody else will have them. Take that ASOS!

Circular fashion model | Source: Fferal

So what about high street giants? Is it both possible and viable for fashion chains to engage in circular fashion and rewards too? H&M think they can, by setting the bold goal to only use sustainably sourced materials by 2030. H&M’s UK and IE Sustainability manager, Giorgina Waltier, envisages a future in circular fashion too: “A circular approach across our entire value chain will enable us to maximise resources and minimise waste, thus reducing our negative impact on the environment and society.”

It goes without saying that the environmental damage brought on by fashion is an urgent issue, given that the Europe Union alone produced over 2.35 million tonnes of fashion waste in 2018. The team at The Cirkel are now focused on working with brands to help educate their teams and customers on resale, uniting other businesses in the circular fashion march. Eliza says that “it’s imperative we make resale easy and accessible. Fast fashion is the third biggest polluter in the world - it’s more than air and shipping combined, and only just behind oil. Circular fashion needs to be the future." Bringing their online marketplace to the streets of London, the company is hosting their next pop-up event on the 30th and 31st March in Bond Street to give shoppers a chance to view their stock in person.

The growing urgency and interests in moving towards this future of fashion is definitely gaining awareness, as recently highlighted at one of the biggest events of the fashion calendar. The opening night of London Fashion Week saw Oxfam in the headlines, as the charity’s Fashion Fighting Poverty show stole the limelight. All of the clothes modelled on the runway came from Oxfam’s shops, and were available to purchase on eBay after the show.

Whilst the climate emergency is far from cool, environmental activism definitely is. Sustainable options like shopping at The Cirkel and collaborations like Oxfam headlining at London Fashion Week 2023, help hugely in spreading awareness for second-hand shopping and styling.

So what will you do? Dig out those leather pants you never wear and that jumpsuit that’s frankly too small, and take them to your nearest charity shop? Or send them to The Cirkel, helping to change the world in the small ways that you can?

Sophie is a student studying MA Broadcast Journalism at City, University of London. She is pursuing a career in broadcast, with a focus on lifestyle, culture and travel journalism. She is most interested in reporting on new places and its people and cultures. Her Instagram handles are @soph_mayhew_ and @soph_travels_.

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