I love questions. The bigger the question, the juicier it can be. Many of the questions we love to ask ourselves in Brave Soles revolve around the circular economy.
In particular, we are interested in how it affects the fashion industry.
Take for example the material that is used to produce much of the clothing that is bought each year around the globe. The clothing industry is a 1.3 trillion USD industry. Of all the textiles that are produced and become the clothing that we wear, only 1% of it is recycled into other items every year.
One percent is not going to help us reach our goals of surviving and thriving on this earth. And here’s the kicker: within that one percent, most of it is exported to countries with no collection infrastructure of their own.
Countries like the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Do you know the math on this equation? Basically, the answer is that it’s creating a global train wreck of STUFF that we have produced and that we can’t figure out what to do with next.
This is what keeps us up at night with excitement and possibilities. We may be one of the few companies in our area to jump into the circular fashion world, but we are believing that we are simply one of them that are going to shine a light on the path for countless others who will join us.
I recently had the privilege of joining Fashion Takes Action for a panel discussion at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto. We were brought to the event to talk about the circular economy.
Don’t worry, there was a time when I didn’t know what that was either ;)
For a long time, what I didn’t realize was that the circular economy is something that has existed long before we decided to give it such an eloquent name. It’s essentially what nature was happily doing all along until we showed up and disrupted the program.
Humans are the only species on earth that don’t know how to deal with the waste we produce. Every other animal produces waste that the earth has a system to handle.
In essence, everything else is playing on the same team...except us.
This would be a good reason to feel shame on our part, and so we should. But, like all things in life, understanding and accepting can provide reasons to begin to think differently, as well.
We can’t change what we don’t know is wrong. However, once we recognize things are not as they should be, the only way to find peace and freedom is to ask what we can do differently to provide a different outcome.
This is where the circular economy comes in. It IS possible to build our view of the world in such a way that we can agree on three goals that can’t be separated:
- Being kind to the earth and creating new ways to reuse and elevate old items is true art
- Taking care of people as a priority on this journey is truly social change
- Doing it all in a way that helps economically support all the people and systems that make it possible is essential.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation says that the fashion industry should be based on what is clean, fair and good.
We 100% agree.
We are not perfect at this and we are learning endless lessons along the way. However, every day, we feel like we can move just a little closer to making a difference if we continue to not be scared to ask questions of ourselves and the people we work with.
For fashion this means finding beauty in what we already have, choosing items that we know the story behind, investing in pieces that will journey through life with us, and not being scared to ask ourselves how we can stop contributing to the problems.
The circular economy is built on one key word : circular. We have to keep things circulating because it’s the only way to generate life and a future. The same thinking that got us to this place won’t get us out of here.
In nature, we see this with water: where there is no flow, water stagnates and chokes the possibility of life. But when it circulates, the power of life and rebirth can begin again.
When the flow of prosperity for people and planet is stopped in business and economies, the possibility of life is choked out.
We have to evolve our thinking. And I don’t see this as a burden; I see it as an opportunity to continue to create.
The only way to build a vibrant world we can all love is to build a future we can all share in.
For us, circular fashion is a growing and evolving way of looking at what we love and embracing new, respectful ways to create with the earth and the people we share it with.
We are learning more every day. And, because of people like you, we are inspired to continue to dream about the beauty that can be found here long after we are gone.