The regulatory push for circular apparel


by Cyrus Gilbert-Rolfe

Clothing label with recycling symbol on green garment

Sustainability is always in fashion, but how do we get to sustainable fashion? 

The hottest topic in the fashion and apparel industry is circularity. But how can the fashion industry achieve sustainable fashion? After years of promoting fast fashion with unfathomably and unsustainably large numbers of fashion garments, the industry has to change. After a long heyday without thinking about what would happen to this overproduction or what the consequences of resource overuse would be, the fashion industry faces regulation.

Proposed regulation is circular. This circular approach encompasses everything from requiring more responsible resource use in manufacturing and a reduction in production and resource use. It also calls for better, less temporary design, clear end-of-life plans for every garment and consideration for factors like shipping, disposal and overall environmental impact (see figure 1).

In short, the apparel industry must become circular. It will do so by adopting and adhering to four critical Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and remove. And while fashion brands are arguably well positioned (and eager) to adopt more sustainable practices, the question is how. How can they best respond to consumer calls for more circular fashion products as well as comply with regulations? The coming challenge is how to go about achieving and proving circularity and sustainability bona fides.

Regulation: Only the first step in fashion’s future

With its EU Green Deal and Circular Economy Action Plan, the European Union targets a “hit list” of industries. The textile industry and its products, ranging from clothing to furniture, sit stop this list, as potential models for the transition to sustainable and circular production. The regulatory will is alive and well. And most consumers are hungry for the things circularity enables. This means everything from understanding the life cycle of and raw materials in products, gaining credible sustainability claims, and being able to repair or recycle goods, including clothes, that they buy. Even companies subject to the regulations want to be in on and ahead of the demand for change. They too want to keep scarce resources within the economy for as long as possible and reap the benefits of sustainable practices as a brand.

But regulation is only half the battle. How do fashion brands jump from agreeing with regulation in theory to demonstrable, verifiable compliance?

Digital product passports: Facilitating the circular economy transition for fashion brands

Getting clear visibility into the full supply chain – from raw materials to retail outlets to consumers to post-consumer use – is critical to understanding product life cycles and making them increasingly sustainable. This is only possible by assigning unique digital identities to products, which then create a digital data thread containing all of the relevant product information that accompanies it throughout its entire life span.

And weaving all this data together is the digital product passport (DPP). Digital product passports, which will be required by EU regulation for all textile products sold within the EU market, is not only one critical key to smoothing the transition to sustainable and circular production, but also a tool that enables a variety of other benefits. For example, a DPP is a way to provide proof consumers increasingly demand as they move to be more responsible buyers. It’s more than just a compliance tool.

Learn about implementing the DPP and progress to date

If you’re in the apparel and textile industry or supply chain and ready to commit to becoming a sustainable fashion business, the DPP and its movements are critical for future-proofing your brand.  

Join Kezzler for our upcoming webinar that will cover:

  • European apparel-focused regulations
  • Data collection and infrastructure strategy required
  • Implementation of a DPP strategy that achieves compliance at zero incremental costs.