Linear vs Circular Fashion

The shift from circular to linear economies has had profound implications, especially in industries like fashion and design. Here’s a structured look at these economic models, highlighting their impact and potential in these sectors.
May 5, 2024

Linear Economy in Fashion and Design

Historical Context

The Shift to Linearity: With the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, economies transitioned to a linear model—extract, use, dispose—due to mass production and the use of fossil fuels.

Implications: This shift led to a consumption model centered around obsolescence, contributing to environmental degradation and resource depletion.

Characteristics and Challenges

Design for Disposal: Products, particularly in fashion and design, are often created with planned obsolescence, leading to shorter lifespans and increased waste.

Waste and Resource Use: The linear model results in significant waste, with materials frequently ending up in landfills, challenging sustainability on a planet with finite resources.

Circular Economy: A Sustainable Alternative

The Cradle to Cradle Concept

Nature-Inspired: This approach mimics natural cycles, advocating for products to be either biodegradable (returning to biological cycles) or fully recyclable (remaining in technical cycles).

Implementing Circular Principles

Material Sourcing and Production

Renewable and Waste-Derived Materials: Sourcing from waste streams and renewable resources like plants, avoiding petrochemicals.

Sustainable Practices: Emphasizing minimal harm in fabric production and sustainable farming.

Design and Manufacturing

Conscious Design: Choosing materials with minimal environmental impact, focusing on durability and circularity.

Ethical Production: Adhering to strict ecological and social guidelines to protect workers and the environment.

Towards Zero Waste

Innovative Patterns: Creating designs that are minimal waste, reusable, and repairable.

Community Engagement: Introducing virtual fittings, made-to-order, and rental systems to reduce overproduction.

Recycling and Reuse

Circular Lifecycle: Encouraging the repair, redesign, and resale of items.

Upcycling and Recycling: Transforming old fabrics into new fashion items and recycling materials for new production.


From Soil to Soil: Ensuring biodegradable materials contribute to new life growth, closing the loop of product life cycles.


The fashion and design industries stand at a crossroads between continuing the unsustainable practices of a linear economy and embracing the regenerative potential of a circular economy. By adopting circular principles, from material sourcing to product lifecycle management, these sectors can lead the way in environmental stewardship and sustainable innovation.