Hack the take-make-waste model


Did you know?

At a speed of thirty to fifty collections a year, fast fashion reduces the lifespan of a piece of clothing to just a couple of weeks. Ultra fast fashion platforms even launch three to five hundred styles per day.

A traditional business model can be summarized as follows: you take your resources, turn them into a product, sell it and after use (sometimes even before), the item is thrown away. Meet the take-make-waste model. This is slowly changing: circular business models add a sustainable spin to the traditional linear model. In the European Green Deal, the EU’s plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, circular business models are key. The textile industry is one of the priority industries in this Green Deal. Here you’ll find all you need to know as a textile company.



A lot of big shots are already doing it: installing a take-back model. The possibility to return garments to the retailer, who gives them a second life as resources for new items, is gaining popularity. Retailer and manufacturer are often one and the same company in this story.

A second big movement is taking place within the peer economy or the sharing economy, where consumers tend to pay for using clothes rather than owning them. The rise in clothing libraries, where you can rent clothes, is just one example. Initiatives like swishing or swapping clothes are becoming more and more common as well.

Furthermore, today’s clients want to be involved in the design process and attach more importance to the experience. Focusing on this as a retailer will enhance the bond with your customer and create ambassadors for your brand. Small services do the trick, like offering a repair service, styling advice or made-to-measure clothing, or letting the customer pick his or her own print or pattern.

There are also plenty of online possibilities to give clothes a second life. A lot of platforms enable peer-to-peer selling or swapping.

What’s often forgotten in the sales process, is the impact of your brand’s marketing efforts. Think of clothes hangers, tote bags or price tags. Small changes in this area can make a huge difference.

Selling to B2B customers, too, there’s a lot you can do, like organizing a digital showroom. For your physical showroom, in turn, you can invest in streamlining and optimizing your sample collections. A bit of careful planning goes a long way to limit their number.

Introducing new business models can be quite a challenge and can be met with resistance. Will it pay off? Will customers be interested? Get cracking with short-term objectives and proceed step by step.

strategies for Retail

Keep your textiles in the loop

While younger generations daringly invest in completely new business models, well-established brands tend to focus more on closing the loop and collecting clothes. The Belgian brand (CAUSA SUI), for instance, not only offers a capsule collection that customers can lease, but also sells their software (called (CRCLR)) to bigger fashion companies.


Several manufacturers and clothing chains have already started to collect clothes. To encourage consumers to return unwanted items, they often offer a discount on the next purchase. Some brands team up with NGOs (such as Marks & Spencer, which donates the clothes they collect to Oxfam and gives the customer a discount), while others place collecting boxes in their own stores.

The American outdoor brand Patagonia has slightly higher ambitions. The label mainly wants to collect its own clothes and reuse them for its own collections. The idea is to create a closed-loop system.

Likewise, the Belgian denim brand HNST and sunglasses brand Yuma Labs have based their business models on collecting and reusing resources.

The best known initiative is probably H&M’s Garment Collection Program, which directs its efforts to recycling old clothing. In 2014, H&M released its first capsule collection made from 20% recycled fibers from used clothing that had been collected through its special program. In addition, H&M invests in the development of better recycling methods, for instance organizing a competition to stimulate innovative technology and reaching out to researchers working in the field of recycling, reusing and sustainable fabrics.

Another brand that’s looking into take-back programs is The North Face, which collaborates with I:CO(llect) and has collected over 43.000 kilos of clothing and footwear since the start of their program. 

In Flanders, too, there are several interesting partners to be found if you want to collect clothes and close the loop. If you want to give recycled textiles and take-back systems a shot as a designer, don’t forget to check out this strategy and to look into partnerships! This list of organizations specialized in upcycling and recycling will definitely come in handy. Are you or do you know a company that also belongs on this list? Make sure to reach out to us.


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Rethink the definition of ownership

The idea behind the sharing economy or peer economy is that you have access to a certain product or service, rather than owning it. Take cars, for instance. They used to be a status symbol, but younger generations don’t regard them that way anymore, which is why initiatives like car sharing are catching on. In fashion, too, young people tend to rethink the definition of ownership, selling their used (second-hand) clothes via online platforms for preloved items, or swapping them.


Swishing vzw is a non-profit organization that specializes in, well, swishing. They organize pop-up events where you can leave your clothes behind in exchange for coupons. These coupons, in turn, can be used to buy someone else’s clothes. Swishing’s twin sister Swapping blew over from the States and also specializes in events where you can exchange clothes.


‘Wear beautiful clothing, but not at the expense of people and the environment’, LENA’s website states. This Amsterdam-based fashion library opened its doors in 2014 as an alternative to bulging wardrobes and fast fashion. After all, it’s common fashion knowledge that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time.Various subscription options are available from LENA: you can lend clothes that you simply swap for others after a while.

Similar initiatives are appearing in Paris, Malmö and Berlin. In Belgium, BeCoquette is paving the way, as is the more recently launched clothing library Dressr.


In 2013, MUD Jeans pioneered the lease option. For €10 a month, customers can lease a pair of jeans. After a year, they become their owner, and they can decide to keep them or exchange them for new rental pants. Customers that get a second pair pay less. High-end brands like GANNI have recently implemented a lease model, too.



Click through to ‘a second life at the online marketplace' for more information on online sharing and the collaborative consumption of clothes.


  • Clothing libraries and online rental platforms
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Go for a more service-oriented business

While it used to be important to buy a lot (without really considering the consequences), today’s customers attach more importance to having a say about the things they buy and shopping consciously. This trend gives rise to a lot of speculation: could consumer involvement have a positive effect on sustainability? The theory goes something like this: the higher the involvement, the longer a consumer will cherish a product (and its maker).

It might be interesting, then, to incorporate this into your sales process and to turn the purchase into an experience for your client. By including such a service, you create real ambassadors for your brand.

Café Costume has become synonymous with this principle. They specialize in tailor-made suits and treat their clients to a two-hour experience that will last long after they leave the store: the visit lives on in the wonderful story they tell about it.

In addition, several brands offer a styling service that not only makes for a nice experience but also discourages impulse buying and results in purchases that last longer.

Think about the services you could offer as a designer. Could you do made-to-measure clothing? Perhaps a styling event might work? Or would you like to offer a repair service, like Nudie Jeans?


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  • Use a ‘made-to-measure’ system
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  • Give advice on how to mend the clothing that you sell
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A second life at the online marketplace

Borrowing and sharing is not all that new; people have been doing it for ages. The novelty is that these days we also borrow from and share with complete strangers.

Food for thought:

Up to 30% of the clothes in people’s wardrobes are never worn.

The internet is a huge facilitator, providing previously unseen possibilities for giving away, swapping and selling or buying second-hand. Various sites and apps bring suppliers and buyers together (sometimes in return for a fee).

Big and well-known brands from various segments are teaming up with these online platforms, sometimes even investing in them. Kering, for instance, pumped quite some cash into the Vestiaire Collective platform. Via the ‘Brand Approved’ service, customers can resell their clothes with the brand’s stamp of approval: an innovative way to boost the preloved principle. Etsy recently added the Depop platform to its portfolio.

When products are shared or sold on, we don’t have to make as much new stuff, meaning fewer resources are used. In addition, borrowing and sharing saves money. It costs a lot less than buying something new. The person who has something to share might, in turn, make a small profit – though he or she can obviously also decide to share or lend something for free. There is a paradox to this trend of selling unwanted clothes online, though. Because it’s so easy to get rid of things via these platforms, consumers may be tempted to buy more clothes and simply resell them after a little while. In other words: this option does not necessarily reduce overconsumption. Continually sending clothes back and forth, moreover, increases their environmental footprint.

Finally, even the main shopping streets are dotted with second-hand stores these days. They used to be associated with a certain style, but now there is a nice offer for every segment.


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Think about the impact of your marketing

As a fashion designer, you can reduce your environmental footprint by paying attention to all the little extras. They are often overlooked, but they do have a large impact. Yet keep in mind that decisions about labels and tags are often already made in the production phase.

Food for thought:

68% of women want to buy sustainably, but only 11% know where to go.


This useful item is frequently forgotten, though it passes through millions of customers’ hands: the clothes hanger. Worldwide, 8 million plastic hangers are discarded every year. Picture the Empire State Building stacked from floor to ceiling with clothes hangers, and multiply that by 4.6 to get an idea of this enormous quantity.

What happens to all those hangers which are carelessly tossed in a box under the counter? What are they made of? Are they durable? Are you going to reuse them? If you offer your clothes in shop-in-shops, make sure to talk to your partner about improving the sorting and recycling process.

Get some inspiration here, or go hunting for information yourself: there’s lots to find out there.


Another item to consider is your price tag. It’s easiest to look for paper or cardboard ones that you can recycle. Make sure to avoid plastic when attaching the tag to the garment: otherwise people will be tempted to consider the entire tag residual waste. Also pay attention to the use of ink. How about using soy ink instead of traditional ink, for instance? A lot of brands get creative with their labels, printing inspiring quotes or brand information on the back of their price tags.

Big plastic bags are out of the question these days. Paper bags are becoming more common, but try to avoid the laminated versions and carefully select your ink. Perhaps you can go for reusable bags?

Can’t see the wood for the trees anymore? The ‘circular packaging in the fashion industry’ infographic is sure to help you gain perspective, just like this template that you can use to map your packaging.


The labels that are stitched into the clothes themselves are a whole different ball game. But here as well, common sense is king.

The smallest step is to work with tags made from organic cotton. In the case of single-material clothing, make sure your label is made from the same material.

Are you keeping your recycling options open? Then your label should also be recyclable. Dare to go a little further? Check out washable ink for your printed labels.

Also think about what to put on your label. You could include washing instructions so customers can take better care of their clothes. Consider putting the symbol on your label to guide consumers to this website with more washing instructions.

Yet, as we mentioned before: the best time to think about your labels is during the design and production phases!



You could use your communication channels to share your stories. Discuss your choice of materials, your sustainability efforts and their results on social media, via direct mailings or on your website.

However, make sure to avoid the greenwashing trap. Communication is key, but don’t present yourself as more environmentally friendly than you really are. Dare to discuss the things that are not yet as they should be. Nobody is perfect! Share your goals with your customers, as well as the steps you’re taking to do better in the future.


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