THE CIRCULAR DESIGN DRESS OF MINISTER KAAG
From a one-off circular design dress, to affordable sustainable clothing for everyone
AT A GLANCE
Clothes the Circle plans to produce affordable and high-quality circular textiles on a large scale. The consortium consists of businesses involved in textiles in the Netherlands and India.
Every year, companies worldwide produce millions of kilos of clothing, a large part of which is never sold. The Dutch fashion industry alone ends up with around 21.5 million unsold pieces of clothing every year*. Together with millions of kilos of worn clothing and leftover scrap fabric, these unsold items end up on a huge pile, which is then considered as waste. It is either burnt, dumped in landfills or used to drain wet patches of land. Globally, only 1 percent of all worn textiles are returned to new textiles. In short: the current textile industry is responsible for a huge waste of raw materials and water.
*Conclusr research, commissioned by MVO Nederland (2016)
Time for change
It was about time something changed. That is why in 2017 MVO Nederland set up Clothes the Circle, a Dutch-Indian platform where relevant textile businesses can join forces to make the concept of circular textile a reality. The goal? Produce high-quality and affordable textile products on a large scale, working with recycled and circular materials in a transparent, CSR-friendly production chain. Michiel van Yperen, Transition Manager at MVO Nederland, brought together a group of entrepreneurs from all points in the chain: from sorters and processors of textile waste all the way through to spinners, knitters, and retailers.
Start with India
For now, the focus of Clothes the Circle is on pre-consumer (industrial) textile waste. However, the consortium also plans to include more post-consumer textile recycling. Pals Brust, former CEO of C&A and one of the key partners joining with his company UPSET, explains why India is a good place to start: “India has the largest source of pre-consumer textiles. In addition, textile production uses shocking amounts of water, especially cotton. Water is scarce in India. If we don’t make a change, we will literally dry out the country.” But they are not alone. Hence an expansion to other countries is already being considered.
CLOTHES THE CIRCLE USPS
- Circular production
- Affordable for every consumer
- Good quality
- Environmentally-friendly production
- Excellent working conditions
- Contribution to developing communities
“I immediately pictured what the dress should
COUTURIER RONALD VAN DER KEMP ON HIS CIRCULAR DESIGN DRESS
The circular statement dress of Minister Kaag
In May 2018, Clothes the Circle showed the world the first results of its circular textile initiative, when Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag made a statement wearing a beautiful ‘circular’ dress on a trade mission to India. The dress was designed by the world-famous couturier Ronald van der Kemp and produced by Khaloom, entirely from circular 100% recycled textile fibres made available by UPSET textiles. UPSET textiles, Khaloom and MVO Nederland jointly initiated this demonstration project. Later, at the start of the parliamentary year in September, Minister Bruins of Health, Welfare and Sport also wore a suit made of textile waste.
Focus on quality and price
For an initiative like Clothes the Circle to be successful, there are two main determinants: price and quality. Pals Brust: “More and more people are supporting sustainable developments. However, to actually switch to sustainable consumption, the products need to be affordable. And they need to have the same looks and quality as conventional products. No one wants to invest in sustainable clothing if it doesn’t look good and falls apart quickly. That’s why price and quality are the main requirements of our project.”
HOW IT ALL STARTED
“There’s growing demand for textile and clothing made from circular material. Unfortunately, there’s too little of it available, the quality is low and it’s too expensive,” says Michiel van Yperen, Transition Manager. “Before setting up Clothes the Circle, I had been in contact with Pals Brust for a while. He was busy with his start-up UPSET with which he wanted to change the textile industry from the inside out. With UPSET we came across a new technology from the United States: a way to fiberise textile waste, which saves the fibre length by unravelling. Together with technology providers and other partners we formed a coalition to set up a circular supply chain to implement the technology in India. Minister Kaag's circular dress inspired many Indian textile factories. With Clothes the Circle we put circular clothing on the agenda.”
Clothes the Circle has formulated the following ambition for the future: in 2023 there will be a comprehensive and working business case for making mainstream textiles from 100% post-consumer and post-production textiles. We will do this in a circular, human and environmentally friendly way. For now, this ambition applies only to products sold in the Netherlands. Later we expect other countries to follow. And what is happening right now? “The feasibility study has been completed and the first investors are being attracted,” says Michiel van Yperen. “We’re now focusing on properly sorting and fiberising the supply and feedstock of post-consumer textile waste in the Netherlands, so that it can be processed in India.”