When you think of a circular economy, what do you think of? Perhaps repurposing and reusing? Restoring and renewing? Repairing and mending? Recycling and upcycling?
In this conversation, Nicole is going to share:
- What the challenges are with shifting linear business models into circular ones;
- How the Renewal Workshop helps fashion brands reduce their waste and become more circular;
- The large-scale shifts businesses need to make to address the climate crisis;
- Why brands are not talking about slowing down production and producing less;
- How designers can start to design with circularity in mind;
- And more!
Tune in to this episode of the Conscious Style Podcast below, or on your favorite podcast app.
To watch the video version of this interview, check it out on YouTube!
The transcript of this episode of the Conscious Style Podcast is below.
ELIZABETH JOY: When you think of a circular fashion economy, what do you think of?
Maybe you think of secondhand and repurposing and reusing, maybe you think about repairing and mending, or perhaps about recycling and upcycling.
Well, today, I am going to be talking with the co-founder of The Renewal Workshop, a circular fashion business dedicated to helping brands do all of those things.
In this conversation, Nicole Bassett of The Renewal Workshop is going to share:
- What the challenges are with transforming linear business models into circular ones, including some really unexpected [challenges],
- How The Renewal Workshop helps fashion brands reduce their waste and become more circular,
- The large-scale shifts that businesses need to make to address the climate crisis,
- and why fashion brands are not talking about the elephant in the room — slowing down overproduction and producing less
As always, the transcript for this episode is in the show notes on consciouslifeandstyle.com if you prefer to read along or read this interview instead.
Also, new for season two, there are now video versions of all of these interviews! So you can head to the Conscious Life & Style channel on YouTube to watch this interview with Nicole if you prefer to consume the content that way.
Something else new for season two is the themed seasons. This season, as you may know, is all about circular fashion. So if you like this episode and want to learn more about circularity and circular fashion, make sure to hit subscribe or follow on your favorite podcast app.
And also giving Conscious Style Podcast a quick rating and review on Apple Podcasts will help me get more amazing guests onto the show for later in the season.
Okay, and one final thing before we get started if you are curious to learn more about sustainable fashion, which I’m sure you are if you’re listening to this podcast right now, you will definitely want to join the Conscious Edit community, which is my weekly newsletter where I share reads, podcast documentaries, videos, brands, and more resources.
You can subscribe for that at consciouslifeandstyle.com/edit, and it is completely free.
All right. Now let’s dive into today’s episode. We’re going to get started here with Nicole sharing her background and why she decided to found The Renewal Workshop.
NICOLE BASSET: I got into the apparel industry via environmental studies.
So I did a master’s degree in Environmental Studies in Business and out of school, got an internship at Patagonia and I wasn’t necessarily interested in the apparel industry or really understood the apparel industry but I was very much interested in environmentalism and how businesses could be agents of change.
This is back in the early 2000s. So it would be weird for people to think about but there was a time when businesses weren’t as engaged from a proactive perspective.
And so my job at Patagonia early on, was in the human rights side of the business.
So I had worked in the supply chain, and we looked at the factories that we were in and then went down all the way to the cotton fields we were in and looking at how human and environmental rights were being addressed in the supply chain and trying to find factories that aligned with our values as a company.
And then I went on to work for prAna, which is another apparel brand in the outdoor space. And back then it was early days inside of the sustainability strategy within the company.
And it was an interesting story because prAna… as you can imagine, for those yogi’s who are listening ‘used the life force’… all the customers of prAna just assumed everything we were doing was completely environmentally and socially conscious.
And that wasn’t necessarily true at that time. The company had done a little bit of organic cotton, but that that was about it.
So I was brought in to really like create a whole strategy [for prAna] and move the company towards a lot more sustainable practices.
So, we did great work and again, looked at human rights in the supply chain, and [prAna] was one of the first companies to bring Fair Trade apparel to the US; the Fair Trade standard inside of the apparel industry.
And then we looked a lot at materials and how to increase the amount of organic and recycled materials, and also the chemistry of the products or packaging or operations, like all of it.
And interestingly, I did all of that work for about 12 or 13 years, and at the end of the day, kind of came to a realization that we were doing really good work, but we were still making more stuff.
The reason we had to make more stuff is the business had its structure was based around a business model that was, the more stuff you make, or the higher price point you make is how we generate revenue.
That really got me thinking about, okay, well, how are we going to change the industry, if we’re all relying on a business model that’s about growth?
And the circular economy is obviously not something new. It’s been around the concept for a long time, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has been talking about it since the early 2000s.
So at that time, I took a sort of a step back and started to really think about what would it look like for the apparel industry to have a circular business model where truly the product is designed, and there is a post-consumer supply chain for it to the product to have its life extended, and, and to be able to capture her recycling.
That really became the sort of lightbulb moment of okay, that doesn’t exist today. It’s gonna have to get built. And so let’s build it. And that’s kind of how we got started.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, really cool. So you’ve been in the sustainable apparel space for quite some time.
And I do want to get into the nitty-gritty of what The Renewal Workshop does today. But first, I wanted to step back a little and talk about the key word of this season of the podcast, which is circularity.
And so as someone who works directly inside of the circular fashion economy, a co-founder of a circular business, could you share your perspective of what circularity is, especially how it relates to fashion?
So in fashion, it’s really about the supply chain, that create the products. Are we doing right by the people on the planet?
And then once that product has done its first use, is there actually a system for maintaining the value of that product so it gets more uses. And ultimately, when it’s no longer useful in the state in which it was designed for, there’s a system in place to collect the value of that and move it into another state.
So for me, circularity is about designing products and systems, thinking about where things came from and where they’re going to go next.
So you can see products being designed for reuse, and then recyclability, and then brands setting up systems in place that could allow our product to easily move through these different phases of its lifecycle. That’s how I would say it.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, that’s great. That’s really useful.
I think that we hear that word a lot. And it’s confusing what it means.
But it’s really about… yeah, the whole system, not only what it’s made from or not only where it’s going, but kind of the whole picture. So thank you for that and for breaking that down.
And now I’d love to dive more into how The Renewal Workshop supports a circular fashion economy.
So could you walk us through the process of how The Renewal Workshop partners with brands to make their models more circular? And maybe other initiatives that you’re involved with?
NICOLE: Yeah, absolutely.
The Renewal Workshop’s primary customers are brands.
So we work with brand and basically provide all of the operations and services needed to take their product post-consumer to the next phases of its lifecycle.
I’ll use The North Face as as an example. They’re one of our customers.
So now with The North Face, all their products that get returned to them, either through their stores or wholesale accounts or e-com business that was otherwise like damaged.
So you can imagine a zipper gets broken and it gets returned to them or someone tries on something at a store and there are makeup stains on the product or someone takes it home and washes it and returns it.
So there’s a lot of reasons why the product comes back that a brand can’t resell as new — and this is across all brands; all brands have this experience.
Also, brands get products back that are from their customers directly. So The North Face has a trade-in program for their VIP customers, but other brands have take-back programs as well.
All of that product before was sort of at the end of its first life. Brands had the option of donating it. A lot of donations went overseas. A lot of products get landfilled or incinerated. There just weren’t a lot of options for what happens to this product. But it’s perfectly good, great functional clothing.
So that product comes to our facilities where we then sort it for its quality standards. We have the ability and we can extract more product — about 40% more product — out of this pile because we have operations in a house with cleaning and with repairs.
We have different quality standards, so there’s a new or a very good or a good option for consumers to buy the product. And we do photography on that product. And then we actually have the technology that allows us to resell the product again.
So there’s some stuff where — and we can talk about this a little later — but product today isn’t designed for getting resold again.
So we have to do a bunch of work behind the scenes. We have a tech platform that does that to get access to that data it allows it to get resold again.
Then we have a re-commerce platform that brands use to actually do the resale. So you can go to The North Face Renewed, and the entire site is filled with renewed products.
As far as the business model for the brand goes, they are now taking a waste — so a cost to their business — and they pay us to renew the product, and then they get to resell it again.
They’re actually able to generate sales off something that was already made and didn’t have value before.
Our operations really are about getting the brand in a place where they can see the viability of having another way of generating revenue off of what they’ve made before.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, that’s incredible.
It really just makes so much sense on so many levels: reducing waste, minimizing costs, maybe even adding a revenue stream.
So you mentioned The North Face, and actually, and I actually didn’t realize that North Face Renewed was your technology or that The Renewal Workshop was involved with that, so that’s really cool.
I love to see more and more brands do that. And these brands have such a big customer base, so they can really reach so many more people who maybe wouldn’t otherwise be introduced to circular fashion or secondhand fashion.
And so you do work with quite a few larger brands. And I would imagine that would be kind of complicated that these brands have large, complex supply chains.
So I’m curious what some of the challenges have been that you’ve run into, and then how you worked around it, how you found solutions? Or maybe if there aren’t solutions yet what do we need to get there?
NICOLE: Yeah It is a really great question.
Because really what’s happening right now is we have a linear economy where if you think about it, everything was designed for making and selling something. No one wants the stuff back — having it back is a big cost to the business.
The accounting, the product design, everything is very set in its ways, and it’s been like that for a long time. So we’re trying to change a very entrenched model.
So you can imagine what that’s like… there’s definitely a lot of challenges. I’ll give you an example.
Products were definitely not designed to be resold again, so we have to do some fancy things to get access to information that when you were first designing a product, and you didn’t think about reselling again, you would never have considered this.
For example, if I’m wearing let’s call this the Nicole Tank Top and it originally retailed for $50.
When this tank top comes into our building, all we know about it is that it is black because I can see that; it’s a tank top, because I can see that.
And hopefully, fingers crossed, it has the size tag still on it and the content tag still on it, right?
So I didn’t know this is called the Nicole Tank Top and I didn’t know it sold for $50.
So we have to use some kind of ID on the product to be able to match back to the original product data so that it could get sold again.
That’s an example of where like, oh, if I needed to sell this again, how do I design it the first time to make it more efficient, so it could go and get sold again?
Another challenge that we’ve run into, which I think is really interesting is that brands will design products for a specific trend, or they may be designing products for an outlet store or a wholesale account that they actually don’t ever want to sell again.
So then they that has to get factored in as well. It’s like okay, I’m making this product today and it could come back into my life in three years from now.
Do I want it back into my life again? Or was I just trying to make a quick buck early in the business cycle and now I’m going to have this burden later on. So thinking about that..
The other thing is around accounting. Accounting systems are set up and inventory management systems are set up so that you make a product, you get a margin, and then oh, wait, I want to resell this again, but my inventory management system was not designed to have a new version and a renewed version inside of the same system.
So with a lot of those challenges, there’s a lot of solutions that can happen as brands start to embody like a circularity strategy and they start to look at design through that lens and say, okay, I am going to see this product again in the future.
Then they’re starting to design differently, and starting to think through how to do the accounting differently, and things like that.
But as far as having solutions on the table, we’ve been able to work with our brand partners, and get access to the original product data.
We use our technology and our platform to be able to move that data through the system so we can get back out for the consumer so they can have a really high-level experience when they’re shopping.
So all of these things are more like little puzzles that we’re constantly solving.
But we also get really excited about this vision of like, we designed the whole system in the way we see it. We’re going to be able to unlock a lot of opportunities.
Because right now we’re dealing with a lot of things that are a bit manual and sort of a little bit backwards because the system we’re in was and is linear still, really.
And that’s why the Ellen MacArthur Foundation talks about how it starts at the design stage: designing out waste, designing with circularity in mind from the beginning.
And also, it’s something that is taught a loti in the Slow Factory courses: designing out waste, or waste-led design, like really thinking about the end of life of that product.
But speaking of challenges, something that a previous guest on the show brought up, Emily Stochl in Episode 10. She was saying how while brands are launching resale programs, we’re still not really seeing a decline in new production overall.
The total number of garments being produced is still going up, maybe not last year with COVID, but overall, it is still increasing.
So could you talk to that a little bit? Why aren’t brands talking about making less stuff? Do you hear brands talking about reducing production behind the scenes? And if not, what do you think we need to get that conversation going?
NICOLE: Yeah, it’s a great question.
It’s a great question and I’m glad you’re asking it — and I think it’s the right one to keep asking.
So I would say we are at the beginning of something. I think there’s a little bit of — for those of us who have been in it for a long time are like — “oh, it’s really obvious and clear.” And for others, it’s like, “oh, I need more data, or I need more time to figure it out.”
So I want to answer your question in sort of a roundabout way.
When we started the company, we actually were like, “Okay… does renewed actually have a lower impact?”
And so intuitively, people are running around saying, of course! You wear something again, instead of making something new — that has to be a lower impact.
But when we started looking around, we actually didn’t have any data to prove that.
So we are going to launch a report this fall, our Second Leading Circular Report, that’s going to demonstrate the data that we’ve been able to show where actually yes, renewing something has a lower carbon impact than making something new.
Now that we have this data, what we can say to a brand is okay, if you want to reduce your carbon impact, you can do so by creating new revenue out of items you already have. So they really could make less stuff and still grow their businesses.
But where we are today, I would say is most brands are looking at re-commerce as additive revenue, and there isn’t a strategy around “oh, yeah, I feel the confidence of being able to say we’re okay to make less stuff.”
Because I mean, a lot of brands are public companies, and they’re required to show quarterly earnings and what is their profitability like and what is their growth like.
So if that’s the only measurement stick, we’re never gonna see a decrease in product. We’re only going to see like, “Hey, wow, we unlocked a whole bunch of extra revenue!”
But it’s when we line up the carbon and the revenue together, you have to create boundaries on either side.
So the tension has to be strong enough to show, okay, I am increasing my revenue but I’m also increasing my carbon.
Or if I make these strategic business changes, like making less new and putting more emphasis on other business models inside the company, re-commerce being one of them, then we can actually start with data to show, okay, this is where we can start to make some chips away at our carbon impact.
So yeah, so it’s probably the most important question. And more and more companies, hopefully over the next few years are gonna start to like have a strategy around it.
But right now, everyone’s just sort of like oh, this is a nice little win.
ELIZABETH: Right. Yeah, I was kind of afraid of that.
Is there legislation in the works? Because I know France either has or is introducing end-of-life legislation.
And I know that Germany, other countries are starting to take more action on human rights diligence.
But I haven’t really seen anything in terms of production. But I was curious if you’ve heard of anything like that happening?
NICOLE: I haven’t, and there won’t be anything around legislating less production.
What will end up happening is either these public statements around carbon reduction are going to be held more accountable, either by the investor community or by government.
And brands when they start to disclose their carbon impact, and they’re not showing demonstrated improvements on reducing it, that’s then potentially where legislation could get involved in like there could be fines or there could be cap and trade.
There’s a lot of things that could be happening. Or incentives could be in place around businesses who reduce their carbon by a certain amount.
The other legislation that doesn’t get at production but is something that always gets talked about is extended producer responsibility, which is when brands take responsibility for what they make.
And we’ve had a few wins in the states recently in the packaging space.
So Maine passed a bill. Oregon just actually passed a recycling modernization bill, but within that bill, the money from the producers of packaging have to invest in recycling systems. It’s sort of like a step towards some more stringent EPR.
But the US is, is behind, like really behind. Canada has stuff, Europe has stuff.
So hopefully brands who sell into those markets are going to start to think through like, okay, what do I do as a business as a whole?
ELIZABETH: And do you think that consumers holding brands accountable would help?
Or do you think consumers just should buy less and then it’ll eventually happen? Because with that, my concern is that brands already waste so much, like waste their inventory.
So I don’t know if necessarily demanding less is the entire answer to reducing overproduction, but maybe it could help.
NICOLE: That’s something interesting to talk about.
Because it is true, right?
Like it’s almost like competing, or parallel existences. You’ve got a brand who needs to generate revenues, and the only way they know how to make more stuff. So that’s occurring over here, regardless of whether or not there’s a consumer that wants their more stuff.
The consumer relationship with the brand is so complex, that it may be like a personal decision of I’m not gonna buy anything period, as a consumer, and does a brand actually… [are they saying] oh, but what if I designed it cooler? Or if I did things in a different way, would you be able to get that customer back? Or is that customer gone forever?
And I think there’s a gap of time of learning the customer behavior, and then how the business transitions.
I would say for anyone who’s interested in wanting to see the businesses actually change is to find the brands who are being very strategic around circular, and not one-off projects that just sort of are like oh, I upcycled some stuff once…
It’s truly like, I am committed to offering a renewed line into my business model. I’m committed to taking back what we make. I’m committed to circular product design.
Not only that it has to be part of their strategy, but it also has to be demonstrated in our actions. And then be like, okay, I’m going to be a consumer within that and I’m going to support you in that.
Because a brand will not be able to do it if there’s no consumer that wants it to happen. So as much as people can support the change that they want to see, that is really where it happens.
ELIZABETH: So instead of buying new, buying something that was renewed or repurposed or…
NICOLE: And from the brand, I would say.
So like yeah, I can go down the street to Goodwill and buy a pair of jeans and that’s fantastic because I’ve gotten those jeans for you used again and it doesn’t have to go into landfill or whatever.
But the brand didn’t get any revenue from that — it didn’t change the brand’s business model.
It operated over here outside of that system.
So as much as I can come, and that’s where customers do have a great voice to go to all your favorite brands and be like, I don’t want to buy your stuff knew I want to buy it renewed.
How can I do this? How can you give me that option?
Maybe sending emails or messages [to brands] being like, I love the style of your clothes, but I want to shop only secondhand or mostly secondhand, would you consider doing that?
And so these conversations about reduction and production are not just important, of course, from a waste perspective, but also from a climate lens.
The IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), recently released their Sixth Climate Change Assessment Report, and it was their most alarming yet declaring that climate change is, quote, “widespread, rapid and intensifying.”
So there wasn’t necessarily anything new if we’re reading climate news on a regular basis, but the report is still an extremely urgent call to action.
We really need every industry to do their part, including the fashion industry, of course.
So from your vantage point, what sort of large-scale business model shifts do fashion companies, and maybe companies in general, need to implement?
Well what’s very exciting is that even in the timeframe of The Renewal Workshop when we first started five years ago, it was a lot about waste. And now it really is shifting to a decarbonization strategy and how do we address carbon.
So even that the awareness and the fact that the language has changed is really important, and I think it gives me a lot of hope that people know the urgency.
So as far as shifts that businesses can do, I’ve been doing sustainability for a long time and we started back in the day with what we can control.
Really, it comes down to the products that we make.
So if you’re an apparel brand, you make apparel. If you’re a textile brand or home goods brand, you make home goods.
And when we started to assess the impact, the key thing was to figure out was what are our leverage points for changing that impact? So is what harm are we causing and how can we fix it?
That’s why you’re going to see a lot of emphasis on materials, and why brands are really looking at the environmental impact of our product in the materials piece, because materials make up a majority of our product’s impact.
So what I find, sort of heartbreaking and a little bit is that work was done decades ago. And the industry still… there are a lot of brands that don’t — even though we have the solution, and we can say this material is more environmentally friendly, this material has a lower carbon impact, all of these things — a lot of brands have not adopted a material strategy.
And they’re still making products, with the conventional materials that a lot of people know just cause harm.
So you’ve got like some brands that are further along the process, who are moving into other issues, which are these things like the energy use of our supply chain, or the business model in which is built on.
Basically, what I really see is that we need to have a faster adoption into these solutions that we know exist already.
So if we’re trying to reduce our carbon, we just have to use less carbon. So that can come from decarbonizing the energy of the industry.
So really looking at the supply chain and saying.. I remember going to factories in India, and I literally saw them shoveling coal into a burner to heat water to run the boiler to die fabric…
And so how do factories like that get solar? How do they get wind? Are there other options that are out there? And so that’s a big piece.
Then the other is, how do we make our revenue without using as much stuff, right?
So I would say it’s a little heartbreaking because I’ve been in it for 20 years, and I’ve only seen so much change, and I know what we need to be doing, and we’re like we’re just not moving fast enough as an industry.
It’s not going to change until we see more push, like the pressure has to get more intense.
And it really will come from government and consumers. And government will move things faster than consumers will.
But my experience has been we’ve had a lot of solutions at the table and brands are like oh yeah, we’ll get to that in 2023 or we’ll get to that in like this time in the future.
And I think that the most recent IPCC report showed us is that we literally don’t have more time. We cannot wait ten years or five years to start this stuff.
We have to start in the next two years because it’s cumulative problems, right?
I’ve read the report and it’s actually the summary report is really easy to read in the sense that — I mean you can get into the weeds really quickly — but there’s a lot of great visuals. The modeling allows you to see like, oh, that’s what a 1% change could do, or a one-degree temperature change could do.
And that’s what, three and a four.. and you look at the four-degree temperature change, you’re like, whoa, okay, I got some motivation and need to do some now.
ELIZABETH: Right? They need to be like looking at that before every meeting that the executives have. Like reminder, do something about this.
Yeah, that’s interesting that these changes have been around for so long. I think as an individual, you don’t necessarily know when the better solutions were available to these brands because they’re not necessarily taking action on it always so that’s very interesting.
So you touched on this a little bit. But what do you think needs to happen for the fashion industry to shift from being more linear to circular? Obviously, The Renewal Workshop is being part of the change.
NICOLE: Yeah, so I will definitely plug us a little bit here because that’s why we started the company is to be a solution for these brands.
Because shifting your entire business model from linear to circle is not easy.
And if you can have someone that can sort of hold your hand through that process, then you’re going to get there faster without as much disruption.
Especially today. Like us five years ago, versus where we are now and what we know…
So re-commerce is available today. Brands could roll it out tomorrow and get that business model going. And maybe today it is an additive revenue.
But over time, as the brands get more sophisticated, and how they’re planning their revenue and their strategy, then if they’re locked in and have a really solid re-commerce business model, then they’ll feel the more freedom to be able to make other changes.
The other thing that brands can do is go through a circular design workshop. We run that for brands and basically help designers think through not only designing product for circular, but designing for circular business models.
And we’ve run a number of brands through that program who have adopted change immediately.
Like the next day, they went into their line reviews and they were like, okay, now I know. Because I didn’t know before. A lot of it is just a brand new way of seeing the world.
And I love that. I love sitting there listening to a designer go, okay, so what you’re saying is that I’ve been building garbage for the last 10 years in my career?
And we’re like, a little bit! [And designers are like] okay, but now I know, and I know the places where I make decisions that can change that.
So those are things like tomorrow, get that going inside the business.
Then longer-term, brands can start to change their products and their internal software, and their business models and sort of financial models. And that stuff comes over time…
What we see is that all change management happens in the same way, right? There’s resistance, and then there’s sort of a bit of adoption, and then there’s like, okay, I understand it a bit more, and then it builds on itself.
We’ve watched the brands we’ve been with over the years take that and start to adopt and advance themselves in ways that they couldn’t if they didn’t get started.
ELIZABETH: Mhm. I think that’s really interesting; training designers to design for circularity.
Could you talk about that a little bit more? I think that’s really fascinating and a part that we don’t always talk about very much.
So what sorts of things does The Renewal Workshop train designers on?
So we have this great workshop and we actually augmented it this last year and a half to be virtual, because of COVID, which has a lot to offer the workshop to a lot more brands who are not necessarily in Oregon or Amsterdam.
So what it is that designer’s come in and it’s a very hands-on working workshop where they get exposed to the one-on-one of what is circularity.
So the stuff you’ve referenced with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the design principles, and why materials… like we can recycle an aluminum can, but why can I recycle a ski jacket?
And really getting the thing of understanding like, oh, all of these little components on our product are made of different materials. Or, oh, this is where the recycling systems of textiles are today.
Yeah, we all wish it would look different than it does, but here’s where we are.
Or we don’t talk about what if you design a product that’s like, now you have to sell it in five years from now. We do some really great stuff around disassembly and repairability.
The thing of it is, is that most designers go to school and learn how to design product to build the product. And then they come and work in a business and the business puts this pressure on them.
They’re like, yes, build that brain jacket, but I need it to be at this price point. So designers really learned over time like, oh, okay, yeah, I gotta save 15 cents, I’m going to use this zipper instead of this zipper.
But then all of a sudden, if you go, oh, hey, by the way, all of here’s the data back on all your product and where it fails over time.
And say they say it was like your product pills extensively, then they might say, okay, I am going to invest more into the material the first time, because then I’m going to yield more product into the second time.
So it’s about just sort of giving designers the tools of how to think through the new future that their products are going to have to live in.
And if companies are having take back and resell programs, they’re going to be more incentivized to design with longevity in mind. So it’s all sort of connected.
Lots to think about there. A lot of exciting things that The Renewal Workshop is doing. I loved hearing about that and hearing about some of the solutions.
Thank you for this conversation, and for taking time out of your day to chat with me.
We are nearing the end of the interview, but I have one last question. What does a better future for fashion look like to you?
NICOLE: That’s a good question.
So fashion is so unique for me because it has so many coexisting realities within it.
Fashion is an element of functionality, right? So I have to wear clothes because it gets cold outside or there are laws that say I can’t be naked running around. So you have this functionality piece to it.
But then fashion is also this deep expression of identity. And this importance of reflecting me inside of the culture and society that I am.
It’s becomes complicated quickly because there’s a lot of “oh stop fast fashion”. But then there’s also like, well, fashion is changing over time, like can you truly have completely timeless products?
What I’d like to see in the fashion industry that can hold this duality inside of it. So having flexibility for creativity, but then to be constrained inside circular principles.
So that fashion brands are committed to the principles of circularity — design without waste, design for repairability recyclability, resale — but then also to have space for creativity and self-expression.
I think of it as a system that mirrors nature where there is no waste.
ELIZABETH: And that’s a wrap for this episode.
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ABOUT NICOLE & THE RENEWAL WORKSHOP:
Nicole Bassett is the co-founder of The Renewal Workshop, a circular business that is leading the apparel and textile industry towards circular business models restoring value and reducing waste. Prior, Nicole has applied her passion for environmental responsibility and human rights in consumer products. She has served as Director of Sustainability for prAna, Social Responsibility at Patagonia, and Head of Human Rights at Specialized Bicycles. Nicole received her Master’s in Environmental Studies with a focus on Business Strategy and Sustainability from York University in Toronto, Canada.