What Is Circular?

It might not be what you think, but here are 3 brands doing it perfectly

While the word ‘sustainable’ has been busy over the past few years being overexploited to the point where it’s almost lost its clout, ‘circular’ is the new kid on the block, being touted around by brands left right and centre in their bids to be seen as responsible (which of course sometimes, but not always, they are). But its fate is close to being the same as its predecessor’s, being not only overused, but misused regularly, so I thought I would stick my oar in and talk about it. Because when fashion really is circular, it’s brilliant.

You’ve probably seen circular fashion being discussed in terms of the second hand industry, but I take issue with this. Second hand – whether it’s using resale sites, upcycling fabric into new garments or simply shopping at a charity shop – is not circular unless the place you’re buying from also agrees to take responsibility for the next stage in the garments’ life once you are done with it. What it actually is, is reusing or recycling. And this is obviously a good thing! But what it usually isn’t, is circular.

See, the clue’s in the name – circular design and circular fashion means it is a continuous loop. In order to be circular, you have to know what’s going to happen next to your trainers/dress/anorak, and infinitely so. The circularity needs to be designed into the item from its inception. Can it be disassembled and recycled easily? If not, does the brand take it back and sort that out for you? What will it be remade into? Will that also be circular? You get the gist (and if you want to learn even more about it, I highly recommend checking out The Ellen McArthur Foundation).

Anyway, what could be a better way of demonstrating circular fashion than showing you three brands that are doing it really well? So here they are…

Recycled anorak : The Re-Pete Project

I always think a good sign that a brand is doing well when it comes to being sustainable is just doing one thing, and doing that one thing really well. Why churn out hundreds of products that are just OK, when you can concentrate on a single item and make it perfect? 

That’s exactly what the Re-Pete project is doing with its new circular anoraks. Made from 29 recycled plastic bottles, the gender neutral style has been designed to suit everyone – something I wasn’t sure about until I tried one myself (see top image). Not only did the oversized fit really work with a couple of turn ups on the sleeves, but I had countless people come up to me at the Isle of Wight festival to tell me how much they loved it. It also means you can share the jacket with multiple members of your household and beyond.

The anorak is available in six colours (good luck making a choice, it took me ages!) and has a spacious front pocket with bonus phone pocket inside, as well as a roomy, adjustable hood. The fabric is really nice to wear and is waterproof, of course (I tested this to the max this weekend). At the end of your anorak’s life (which I think will be AGES because it’s very robust!), you send it back to be broken down, rewoven and made into a new anorak. 


Circular underwear: One Essentials

I get loads of questions on Instagram about not only where to buy sustainable undies, but what to do with them when they’re threadbare, rather than chucking them in the bin. And while I’ve found some great places selling knickers made from natural fibres and recycled plastic bottles, One Essentials is the first I’ve come across that encourages you to send them back to them when you’ve finished with them.

Made from 50% organic cotton and 50% recycled cotton, as well as a biodegradable elastane, the knickers are currently only available on pre-order because the brand is so new. But I’ve had a lucky sneak preview and have tried and tested them myself, and they’re honestly now my absolute favourite pants. The fabric is really comfortable and the fit is really, really nice. You can get 10% off by using my exclusive code HANNAHROCHELL10.


Trailblazing tees: Rapanui

Circularity was always on the cards when Rapanui first started making organic cotton T-shirts in 2008 – it has always designed with the intention of its customers sending back their worn-out clothes. But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that it launched its groundbreaking circular organic cotton tees; if you’re asking your customers to send back their old T-shirts to be recycled, it follows that it will take a while to collect a decent amount of them (especially if they’re great quality and last a long time!).

Anyway, recycled cotton isn’t that unusual, but more often than not it’s combined with another fibre like polyester to strengthen it. The great thing about Rapanui’s recycled T-shirts though is that they are 50% recycled organic cotton, so there’s no plastic at all. The brand has now added to its recycled line flannel shirts, sweatshirts and beanies. You can also choose circular T-shirts if you’re designing your own on Rapanui’s other on demand T-shirt printing business, Teemill.


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