Giving digital IDs to clothing could help the fashion industry cut waste

The circular economy strives to be waste-free, by actively engaging in reuse, repair, recycling, remanufacturing, and resale. But for the fashion industry, a waste-free standard is hard to live up to. Currently, the business model supports a one-way supply chain: manufacture, distribute, and sell. At that point, the manufacturer loses sight of the item.

Gabriela Hearst is adamant this needs to change, which is why her brand is the first to introduce the CircularID to her clothing. The CircularID can be attached to a garment as either a clothing RFID tag or a QR code that holds information about the garment.

But according to Natasha Franck, founder of CircularID, it’s more than that: the label is an avenue for a full-fledged conversation between the brand and the consumer, bringing transparency to the product’s entire life. Through the digitized ID, brands can engage with the customer from the moment it is produced, through its secondhand resale, and finally when it is passed on to a recycler. This digital trail enables brands to work toward circular business models.

Some of the information consumers can access include styling tips, design inspiration, the garment’s carbon footprint, where to bring the product for recycling, or how to exchange it for a new item. Resellers and recyclers can find out information like the product’s second-hand value, or material content.

Franck says she already has major partner brands including H&M, Target, Tommy Hilfiger, and Calvin Klein. She expects 10 million products with a CircularID to be launched by the end of the year.

By becoming an industry standard, CircularID could finally help the fashion industry address its terrible environmental track record.

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