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Knowledge category: Tools and methods

Creating circular fashion ecosystems - a roadmap for systemic change

Updated on 31.05.2023

This document presents findings from the foundation phase of circular fashion ecosystems developing in UK cities. In this work, the Doughnut Economics framework is applied, for the first time, to the fashion sector.

Author: Circle Economy, British Fashion Council, Positive fashion
Year of update: 2022

More information

The steps in this methodology are described in the following phases. For each phase the activities and outcomes are provided, and the outputs that the user develops. The reader can follow the phases and the activities to get to the outputs:

  1. Create a blueprint for city ecosystems by using the target areas identified in Phase 1 and the Doughnut unrolled framework, which raises awareness for potential synergies by stakeholders and renews stakeholder commitment. The outcomes of Phase 2 are mapped between circular initiatives and relevant stakeholders in a city, list of relevant knowledge gaps and research needs, aspirational and holistic vision for a city-level CFE, unified narrative for all stakeholders and indicative overview of potential policy changes, which will be refined and reviewed in the subsequent phases.
  2. Develop ecosystem blueprint through the lens of each stakeholders. This can be done by designing a workshop and using the Doughnut unrolled framework and the five layers of enterprise design frameworks. This will increase understanding of barriers and enablers, and the understanding of the interconnections between stakeholders. The outputs of this phase will be; completed unrolled Doughnut framework per stakeholder role, list of enables and barriers for a CFE and operation effects a CFE will have on each stakeholder.
  3. Design pilot projects across stakeholder landscape. Stakeholders can co-design collaborative pilot projects, which will be the foundation of CFE. This will help collaboration within stakeholders and more commitment from stakeholders to implement solutions. The outputs of this phase will be a list of co-designed collaborative projects informed by the outputs of the last phases and approved by stakeholders, viability assessment of the selected projects and analysis financing opportunities, co-designed processes and roadmap for implementing/monitoring collaborative projects.
  4. Implementing pilot projects by forming working teams. Monitor and evaluate the impact. The output of this phase is: the implementation of collaborative projects; and key insights from the projects to inform future stages of development

Relevance for Circular Systemic Solutions

This report aims to develop a replicable methodology and a multi-phased innovation journey for all UK cities to drive the UK fashion sector to a fully circular economy. This report is the second phase of a two-phase transformation.

In Phase 1, ten action areas were identified. Some examples of the action areas are circular design, consumer empowerment, sorting and recycling, policy and regulation, and innovation investment.

In Phase 2, the methodology was developed and implemented in Leeds and London which stemmed into recommendations, such as: creating a broader impact through collective action by building a network and clarifying value and benefits within collaborations; and identifying synergies and possible collaborations between stakeholders to find joint solutions.

Despite being developed for UK cities, the methodology can be replicated by cities and regions in other countries to help them identify opportunities and challenges along with potential Circular Systemic Solutions that can address them.

How to use this tool or method

A Circular Fashion Ecosystem requires deep levels of transformation across diverse aspects of our current, mostly linear, system. It also requires all stakeholders to be involved and take bold actions to achieve the target state. In the first phase of the work undertaken by the Institute of Positive Fashion, ten priority Action Areas were identified to make this transformation happen. Circle Economy joined the second phase of the Institute of Positive Fashion’s work to assess the feasibility of developing a city-level Circular Fashion Ecosystem.

Proven methods and learnings from Circle Economy’s Textiles, Cities and Circular Jobs Initiative programmes and from their extensive work on applying the Doughnut Economics model on a city-level were revisited. The current landscape of circular activities and initiatives in both case-study cities –London and Leeds – was established, and a first city-level Circular Fashion Ecosystem network was assembled. A methodology for the design and implementation of city-level circular fashion ecosystems was developed and validated. It establishes a scalable model that can be used to help meet the UK government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda.