It is often said that transitioning towards a circular economy requires a number of changes in the way businesses operate. For example, the linear supply chain will need to be re-organised into a circular ecosystem, which decouples growth from the use of virgin raw materials and resources.
What do these changes mean in terms of communications and marketing? The
Relooping Fashion initiative created and piloted a closed-loop model for textiles with seven business partners. As part of the project, the following research questions were explored: 1) What are the consumers’ views on circular fashion? 2) How should the remanufacturing process be communicated to encourage consumers to choose circular fashion?
It was found that fashion retailers have a lot of opportunities in creating demand for circular fashion:
- Consumers should be part of the transparent closed loop
- Retailers should move from selling to engagement by developing new services and novel ways of communication with their customers to create a circular customer relationship
- Getting people to buy circular fashion calls for bold marketing, communication and branding. There is a lot of room for developing a compelling circular narrative different from the ‘save-the-world-by-buying-this-product’ marketing messages
Developing a circular narrative plays also an important role in the big picture. There needs to be a two-way push and pull for circular fashion: Businesses need to proactively develop garments and services based on circular principles, but to succeed there needs to be a rapidly growing consumer base buying these products so that a shift towards a circular society becomes a reality.
The objectives of the two-year Relooping Fashion initiative were as follows:
- creating and testing a closed-loop textile ecosystem with seven business partners ranging from waste management to fashion retailers
- testing a new carbamate cellulose dissolution technique developed by VTT (Technical Research Centre of Finland)
- researching and understanding how to create consumer demand for circular fashion
The key research questions were:
- What are consumers’ views on circular fashion?
- How should the remanufacturing process be communicated to encourage consumers to choose circular fashion?
The research methodology consisted of the following:
- Five one-to-one, semi-structured, in-depth interviews (two men and three women aged between 18-55 yrs)
- Workshops: several internal workshops with the project partners and one external workshop with marketing professionals
- A five-week online discussion on VTT’s Owela platform (engaging around 50 people)
What is circular fashion?
Circular fashion is still in its infancy; the participants of our study were more familiar with the reuse and return of old garments. In this text, circular fashion is used to describe new, high-quality garments made from chemically recycled post-consumer cotton (Fontell and Heikkilä, 2017). In the literature, the terms “relooped” and “remanufactured” garments are also used.
Anne Raudaskoski, Kaisa Vehmas
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