Fabrics' stockists in the circular economy
The regeneration of a business model
Once, they were called remnants shops and attracted tailors mothers engaged in the difficult art of making ends meet for the family. Then came sustainable fashion and second-hand materials became valuable. Today, they are real boutiques where stylists and creatives, students of fashion schools, start-ups, or simple handmade enthusiasts compete for the highest quality fabrics, sure to make a great deal.
Only a small percentage of ready-made garments are recovered and reused, and an even smaller part is recycled. On the other hand, a system of upcycling of unsold fabrics, second choices, samples, and production surpluses have grown. Materials that usually remain stacked in warehouses but today find a new value content and a new life thanks to the circular economy. An approach that is good for everyone: to companies that can thus give a chance to materials otherwise treated as waste and to garment makers able to use them in new and original collections. And of course to the environment. It means less consumption of raw materials, energy, and water to produce virgin raw material and less waste landfilled. The regenerated materials compared with the virgin ones generate a CO2eq saving equal to 50%.
Companies dedicated to the sale of fabrics and accessories discarded by textile companies are something more than just retailers. Over the years, they have developed a complex business model that, in addition to the recovery of materials, provides inspections to separate the valuable batches from those to be improved with dyeing, printing, and coating processes. These companies adopt marketing methods similar to the weavers that sell new collections. They prepare samples that the sales force presents to customers, often in showrooms or at trade exhibitions or taking advantage of e-commerce platforms. The use of digital technologies makes available traceability of lots, with IDs on barcodes or QR codes buyers can read with dedicated apps.
Second life materials are a traditional supply chain. Still, they are now reimagined in a fresh, modern, and efficient vision that offers opportunities and involves a growing number of businesses and allows garment makers, stylists, and designers to create more sustainable garments. Therefore, it is a business model that draws strength from the culture of sustainability and the consumer sensitiveness in items with a low environmental impact.
They are not 'rags' anymore, but quality fabrics with documented green content, in some cases also by environmental labels that tell the story of sustainability.