Online fashion retailer Asos has launched its first Circular Collection. The 19-piece range was designed in collaboration with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, part of the London College of Fashion. The new collection, which encompasses ’90s-inspired apparel with oversized cuts and unisex silhouettes along with accessories that range from lace-up boots and a cross body bags to a beanie and sterling silver ear cuff, is designed to comply with the industry-leading principles of a circular economy.
The launch of the Circular Collection follows the brand's commitment at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2018 to train all Asos designers in Circular Design by 2020. Since then, Asos has worked with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion to develop and implement a training program that all designers have completed.
In order to comply with the basic principles of recycling management as defined by the Ellen McArthur Foundation, a non-profit environmental protection organization, Asos has created eight of its own principles for its Circular Collection that cover such points as zero waste design, recycled input, minimized waste and dismantling, durability and upcycling.Vanessa Spence, head of design at Asos, says, "We have worked closely with our suppliers to apply the Circular Design principles that we have established for ourselves. What this collection shows is that you don't have to choose between recycling and fashion, and that you can make sustainable products without compromising on design or price. Now that all our designers are trained in circular principles [...] it's exciting for us to find out how we can drive this project forward and use our size and influence to share our expertise with our suppliers, but also with other brands and retailers.”
This is all well and good, but there is a big BUT to the story. At Asos, however, every piece from the Circular Collection only has to be designed according to at least two of the eight principles to meet the corresponding standards. That's where the problem starts. The circular economy system is understood as a closed loop, only in this way can a completely sustainable system be created. The individual components build on each other and are in symbiosis. They cannot be considered independently of each other.
The Asos Circular Collection not only recycles used parts, but also creates new garments and brings them into the recycling system. The production of new goods also means ever new consumption of resources, means more environmental pollution and thus also the destabilization of natural systems. In order to be truly circular, Asos would have to harmonize all the principles in the production of its Circular Collection and also not use new resources/materials.
In addition, the question also arises as to what actually happens to the garments when they are no longer worn? Can customers return the clothes? Will they then be recycled or upcycled?
And finally, the 19-piece Circular Collection is just a drop in the ocean compared to the mass of clothing that Asos produces according to conventional standards and throws on the market every year.
According to the German online portal for statistics, Statista, a total of 72.3 million orders left the online mail order company in 2019. According to Statista, the number of active Asos customers grew last year by ten percent to around 20.3 million (previous year: 18.4 million). Many people, therefore, on which the British company could have a lasting influence.