Traditionally, the textile industry operates on a linear system.
Raw materials–either petroleum derived synthetics, or naturally harvested plant based fibres–are extracted to manufacture a new product, then shipped from one country to another, for distribution to retailers, taken home by customers, only to be used (maybe once) and thrown away… In landfill.
While this model historically has been in operation for centuries, today, it is outdated. As we turn toward circularity and a zero-waste system the linear model is fast becoming irrelevant.
Developing circularity for textiles specifically, is to assess all stages throughout the lifecycle to understand and maintain the materials inherent value until End of Life (EoL). A number of Australian companies; (e.g K Mart, Country Road Group, Cue Clothing, Nobody Denim, General Pants, PE Nation, Spell & The Gypsy Collective, G-Star, Cotton On) are making great strides when it comes to the lifecycle of their product. During conversations with Industry colleagues ACTA acknowledges local companies now place the principles of circularity at their very core. Somewhat a bumpy road, there is no magic click of the fingers for instant change.
In recent years, we have seen a pivot in favour of fashion rental; both in consumer preference and as a business model. Today, fashion rental services are deeply embedded in our shopping habits, with commentators predicting the second-hand clothing trade will be larger than fast fashion retail within the next decade.
How does a rental business model work?
A rental service is available online either via subscription or uniquely a one-off; customers pay considerably less than if they were to purchase the same item brand new in-store.
As a service, rental focuses on access rather than ownership, in turn, extending the life of the garment and providing fashionistas with an ever-changing choice of outfits for work, formal events or a weekend away.
Founded in 2012, by husband and wife Dean Jones and Audrey Khaing-Jones, GlamCorner, is an Australian fashion rental business providing customers with a seemingly endless wardrobe tailored to their lifestyle needs.
Jones and Khaing-Jones have gained a loyal customer base by operating with circularity and the needs of customers at the forefront of their operation. They have built one of the largest rental operations Nationally. While other competitors offer similar services GlamCorner have integrated custom built technology using RFID to track garments, while processing their ever-expanding rental wardrobe.
Their point of difference allows smarter connectivity, flexibility and a greater understanding of garments durability. GlamCorner subsequently have formed close relationships with designers and often work closely with the creative teams by providing feedback on thread quality, fabric choices and more.
“Fast fashion used to be part of my life. I used to buy a couple of pieces, wear them only a few times & then they would just sit at the back of my closet, but GlamCorner has seriously changed my life.” – Angela, Sydney
Dean believes GlamCorner plays a vital role in the fashion retail space, as a company that operates in the sharing economy, GlamCorner removes “the burden of ownership”, and provides customers with the opportunity to outsource a portion of their wardrobe.
As a rental business, GlamCorner holds a unique position in the fashion market, and can collect the data about the brands, styles, materials etc. customers choose to rent, or purchase and to then feed that information back to designers. “Taking the guesswork out of designing” by providing designers with the information required to produce highly consumable textile designs.
GlamCorner customers say both the expansive options available and reduced cost of rental over outright ownership keep them coming back.
“Since I’ve joined GlamCorner I saved quite a lot of money because it stops me from buying things that I only wear once and now I’ve always got something new and exciting in my wardrobe.” – Samantha, Sydney
Rental is bucking the retail trend.
As full-price retail continues to work within a linear system, garments remain solely for the customer to use, abuse and discarded without considering EoL or emphasising the importance of longevity.
To overcome this, ‘obsolete’ systems must change. Textiles in circulation is the top priority. In our next article we’ll discuss Circular Design, drawing attention to removable branding and tags for effective reuse or repurposing post-consumer to ensure textiles retain their value.
For circularity to become the norm, all stakeholders must collaborate to make the change. Further, rethinking the systems that operate the economy will enable growth and ensure the finite resources we have, are distributed effectively and efficiently.
Author ACTA Intern Eliza Sears (RMIT Journalist Student)