Dame Ellen MacArthur on Building Momentum for Sustainability in Fashion

This interview is part of BoF’s State of Fashion 2018 report, published in partnership with McKinsey & Company. For more insights into the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the global fashion industry, download the report here.

LONDON, United Kingdom— After making yachting history in 2005, becoming the fastest solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe, Dame Ellen MacArthur turned her attention to launching her foundation, which works with education, business and government enterprises to educate and support the transition to a regenerative circular economy.

BoF: Could 2018 be a watershed year for the fashion industry, in terms of a greater commitment to sustainability and circular-economy principles?

Dame Ellen MacArthur: Since we launched the Circular Fibres Initiative in May 2017 we have seen that leading brands are increasingly committed to tackling some of the drawbacks of our current “take-make-dispose” model.

Today’s textiles economy is so wasteful that in a business-as-usual scenario, by 2050 we will have released over 20 million tonnes of plastic micro-fibres into the ocean. While existing mitigation efforts are essential to reduce the negative impacts of today’s system in the near term, we need to start the transition to a fundamentally different and better system — a new textiles economy. We need to raise the level of ambition and aspiration by working towards a common vision and setting clear targets. There are already efforts underway to get commitments to some of the ambitions of a new textiles economy. For example, the Global Fashion Agenda is gathering commitments towards building a circular economy for textiles, to be achieved by 2020.

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