A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future

The clothing industry’s take-make-dispose model has large economic, environmental, and social costs. A transformation based on circular-economy principles could lead to better outcomes.

The clothing industry provides the world with comfortable, protective garments, as well as hundreds of millions of jobs. At the same time, it fails to tap valuable economic opportunities: more than $500 billion of value is lost every year because of clothing that is seldom worn and rarely recycled. Industry practices also put pressure on resources, pollute and degrade the environment, and create negative societal impacts. Since global clothing sales are on track to increase fivefold by 2050, the industry’s footprint could expand to catastrophic proportions if business goes on as usual.

In short, the industry is due for profound change. This report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with analysis by McKinsey, offers a vision of a new textiles economy, based on the principles of a circular economy, in which clothes, textiles, and fibers are kept at their highest value during use and never end up as waste. By putting special emphasis on innovation, such a textiles economy could produce substantially better economic, environmental, and societal outcomes.