Episode 39: The one thing that will let down your Circular Economy strategy
Circular Economy, Circular Design, Quality, Sustainability, Resale, Repair, Reuse, Rent
Welcome to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you need help navigating the fashion industry sustainably, you have come to the right place. I'm your host Belinda Humphrey and my hope is to simplify the fashion industry so that businesses can make the best decisions for people, planet and product.
Hello, and welcome to episode 39 of the Fashion Unearthed podcast. Today's episode I wanted to get into because I was on social media and I was reading some comments on some posts and it's seemingly something that's quite simple but it's also something that's very subjective to a lot of people. So I wanted to spend a little bit of time today talking about that. But before I do a quick reminder that I send out a monthly newsletter, which is where I talk about anything inspiring or new happening within the sustainability and the fashion space and you can sign up for that at belindahumphrey.com.
Now, on to today's episode, the one thing that will let down your circular economy strategy is Quality and like I said, it can be a very subjective area, people have different definitions of what quality is and some people don't even know where to start when they're trying to figure out what quality is and what that looks like. Particularly when the industry has gotten so fast and I think a lot of people have gotten used to a certain level of product or seeing a certain level of quality of product in stores. So today, I thought I could talk about three areas, we could assess your product for quality and then I'll talk about why that's so important for the circular economy.
So the first area probably comes as no surprise, but it's fabric. When you're looking at and choosing fabrics, it really needs to be fit for purpose, it needs to be suitable for the garment that you're making, and the way the customer is going to use that garment. But really, at the most basic, you want a fabric that is durable, it's not going to shrink, and it's not going to distort or fade after washing. And to test those things, you can do your own wear trials or wear tests but you can also get the fabric tested.
The second area that's really important when you're dissecting what good quality is, is construction, or how you've put the garment together. What kind of seam finishes you've used and like the fabric, is the seam finish that you've used fit for purpose. So for example, denim on the inner legs of denim, you would use a felled seam because it's stronger and that's a point where obviously legs will rub together and it will show wear and tear more quickly. But also other things like have you put real pockets in your jackets? Or are they mock pockets? Probably like most women, I've got a real issue with mock or pretend pockets on things. Having worked in the industry, I know that it pretty much takes the same amount of labour and time to make a fake pocket as it as a real one. So you're really only saving about 10 centimetres of fabric by not doing a real pocket and it's not as useful, you can put things in a mock pocket. A really good way to dissect, I guess some different construction methods is to look at Vintage garments. A lot of them were constructed in a much more durable and higher quality way they were they were created so that they had a longer life from the beginning. One example is how they used to have much wider seam allowances so that garments could be led out if they needed to. But obviously, that's all changed now because if you can trim half a centimetre or a centimetre extra off a seam allowance, then that will save you fabric cost if you're making 1000 garments. So yeah, I highly recommend looking at some of the older vintage garments for construction methods.
And the third one is not so much a direct definition, I guess of quality. But if your garment has buttons, you really need to be adding a spare button onto the care label or in a little packet if you want to do it that way. And I know the customer doesn't always use that button and I've seen businesses do cost exercises and remove all the spare buttons off their shirts to be able to save three cents a garment. But that sort of logic really only works if you're only thinking about your product up until it getting to your customer. And that's linear thinking it's not circular thinking.
Which brings me to my final point about why this all matters for your circular economy strategy. For this to all work garments need to be designed at a higher level of quality and to be more durable. Once something is created, it needs to be strong enough to withstand all of the different lives that it may have. If it's reused, strong enough to be repaired, or redesigned, still in good quality to be able to resell it or rent it to many different people. And with many brands taking back some of their products to be able to resell again, you're not going to make that financially viable if you're not taking back the good quality product that you created in the first place.
So I hope today I've got you thinking a bit more about quality and things that you can change when you're designing your product and if you want to know a little bit more about what you can do upstream in the design process, there's a free guide on my website 10 Sustainable Switches that are applicable when you're actually putting a product together at the beginning, just head to the website, belindahumphrey.com and you can get that little freebie. And like I said, if you're interested in fashion and sustainability news, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter there as well at belindahumphrey.com. and finally, you'll find the links and any show notes on the website in the podcast section. Thanks so much for listening. See you next time.
Thanks for listening to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you want to get in touch head over to belindahumphrey.com or you can find me on Instagram @belindahumphrey_
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change.