Textiles & Circularity

Globally, more than half of fast fashion is disposed of within one year of production through incineration, landfills, or displacement to outside communities, while less than 1% of clothing is recycled.1

Acknowledging the imbalance between the consumption of resources and production of waste has set the stage for circularity within the fashion industry. In circular design, every piece of a product becomes a regenerative resource rather than waste, by making critical sourcing, production methods and supply chain decisions.

1 McKinsey, Style that’s sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula (2016)


Define Sourcing Criteria

Material selection often focuses on design criteria like durability and structure. Circular sourcing prioritizes choosing textiles from recycled feedstocks, post-consumer, or industrial waste. Materials that cannot be reused, such as textiles that have high blend counts or fibers with certain finishes, backers, or coatings, should be avoided.

Stretch the Lifetime of a Product

Maximize lifetime of products in use by designing for longevity, durability, maintenance and repair. Maximize lifetime of products after use by offering the take back program appropriate for the products next life.

“Everything you make returns to the earth as food, or poison.” - The Slow Factory.

Key Product Considerations:

  • Material Composition: Is the textile’s content from recycled, renewable or regenerative sources?

Recycled- Sourcing a product’s content from previously used textile waste such as common recycled feedstocks of wool or cotton.

Renewable- A majority of textiles are made from nonrenewable sources while natural fibers such as linen or plant leathers such as Piñatex, do not deplete our natural resources.

Regenerative - Ecologically beneficial materials able to revitalize the energy source or agriculture that creates the textile such as the recent surge of organic or bio-fabricated materials such as algae.

  • Material Management: Is the textile amenable to recycling, upcycling, or composting?
  • Cradle to Cradle: Are the materials in the textile biodegradable & able to be returned to the earth’s biological nutrient cycles?

Compostable- Textile will break down into nutrient rich mixture viable for further soil use, predominantly only achieved in large commercial scales.

Biodegradable- Materials such as hemp, jute or bamboo which do not contain chemicals, will microbially decompose to fit back into the carbon cycle.

Deadstock- Often overproduced, excess pre-consumer fabric leftover from a brand’s order because of imperfections or other reasons.


These selected products highlight different circular design approaches.

“The Universe is circles within circles, and everything is one circle, and all the circles are connected to each other." -Black Elk of the Oglala, Black Elk Speaks 1961


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