Circular fashion

The textile industry is the second biggest polluting industry in the world, after the oil industry. In the Circular Fashion programme, Wageningen University & Research, ArtEZ University of the Arts, State of Fashion (SToF), designers, and businesses work towards solving the issue of how to make the fashion industry fairer, cleaner and more sustainable.

Curator State of Fashion José Teunissen describes the current situation as follows: "The fashion industry is facing a huge challenge. On the one hand, experienced designers and big brands are noticing the overbearing pressure to launch one collection after another at an ever-increasing rate. As a result, there is less space for reflection, contemplation and renewal. In addition, the continuous race to reduce production costs and to have even shorter life cycles ultimately has disastrous consequences for humankind and the environment. Globalisation, climate change and the pressure on scarce agricultural lands and resources make the situation even more urgent."

- Unfortunately, your cookie settings do not allow videos to be displayed. - check your settings

In the Circular Fashion programme, we are bringing the worlds of design and science closer together to stimulate cross-pollination and innovation. Are you interested in contributing to this collaboration? If so, please contact Kim Poldner or Ilse Markensteijn.

Next to research and teaching projects, we organize events together with the Circular Economy Student Hub. Please check their website for an overview of what we have done in the past and for opportunities to get engaged!

Read about our past event(s):

Collaboration WUR-ArtEZ-SToF through student projects in 2017-2018

During the academic year 2017-2018, we have incorporated current questions about Circular Fashion in different WUR degree programmes. WUR students are working on questions such as: What new, sustainable materials can we develop for the textile industry? What is an ideal, fair, clean and sustainable fashion system? How does this relate to the behaviour of consumers and new business models?

Student guidance is provided by ArtEZ Centre of Expertise Future Makers, designers, SToF and WUR researchers. The result of these projects will be on display during the first edition of State of Fashion (June-July 2018) and during the celebration of 100 Years WUR (September-October 2018).

Read more about projects and partners

Examples of current student projects

Living Colors: Naturally produced pigments for the textile industry

In this ACT project students are asked to explore which natural pigments can be extracted/produced by plants, algae and microorganism and to which extent this is feasible in relation to the fashion industry. Students are invited to research the potential of these ‘living colors’ for the transition to a more sustainable fashion system. Possibilities are researched to create a new color palette and a new visual aesthetics through sustainable biodesign and upcyling colors.

Period: March – May 2018

Designers involved: Ilfa Siebenhaar & Laura Luchtman

Living colors II: towards natural produced dye produced for the textile industry
Currently different entrepreneurs and designers are experimenting with natural pigments, upcycling colors and residual ink for textiles and applications in fashion and design. They are working with pigments and dye created by living organisms, such as plants and micro-organisms. Possibilities are researched to create a new color palette and a new visual aesthetics through sustainable biodesign and upcyling colors.

In this ACT project students are asked to perform a feasibility study on how to make dye out of bacterial pigments: how can we extract the optimal conditions out of bacteria, combine them and upscale the production of natural dye? Students are invited to research the potential of these ‘living colors’ in the context of a sustainable fashion system.

Period: May-July 2018

Commissioner: Centre of Expertise Future Makers

Combining arts & science to reduce the textile industry’s footprint: upcycling of ink
In the fashion industry still chemical produced pigments are used, because these pigments have more fixed attributes and can be efficiently produced. This has a major impact on the environment. In scope of creating a more sustainable fashion industry it is interesting to explore whether these chemical produced pigments can be upcycled in order to create a circular color palette.

Artist/Designer Aliki van der Kruijs is working on a study about residual streams in the textile digital printing industry. Aliki wants to contribute to the reduction of the footprint of the textile industry by creating awareness and stimulating the upcycling (or reuse) of residual streams. She is asking ACT-students to create an advice on how to contribute to the degradation and transformation of ink, in order to upcycle chemical produced colors.

Period: May-July 2018

Designer: Aliki van der Kruijs

Fibre hemp: in search of ecological fashionable textiles

Hemp fibre crop has the potential to provide strong and attractive fibres to produce different fashionable fabrics. The main research question is: What are the most promising combinations of production and technologies yielding the ultimate fibre and quality for the textile industry in an ecological way? The project reviews the current state of the art in post-harvest crop processing and bio-refining of hemp crop, taking into account the environmental impact and economic feasibility of the various routes. The team provides a review report and presents the results with recommendations to selected stakeholders.

Period: March – May 2018​

Inspired by nature: Biomimicry in fashion

In this project the relationship between biomimicry and sustainable principles for applications in the field of fashion, textiles and design was explored. Literature research complemented with interviews disclosed the potential of biomimicry in the fashion industry. Findings showed five examples of biomimicry in fashion and five potential innovations of applying biomimicry to textiles. One novel opportunity was explored in-depth: the ability of the Chinese juniper tree to catch particulate matter through its epicuticular wax structure.

Period: January – March 2018

Oranges in your shoe - leather from fruit waste

The process of producing conventional leather is not sustainable due to the high pollution and use of the carcinogen chromium. In order to research the possibilities of fruit leather, two important elements were investigated: (1) analyzing the technical and production feasibility of producing fruit leather, which included an overview of feasible plant waste as the potential natural materials and layer structure within a new compacted system; and (2) analyzing the marketability, which included an overview of consumer acceptance and likelihood of purchasing.

Period: January – March 2018

Designers involved: Luc Aarts & Tjeerd Veenhoven

3D printed clothes from biodegradable waste - the future?

Cellulose – a substance that can be found in many natural fibres – can be used as raw material for sustainable textiles. Five Master students (of degree programmes such as Plant Biotechnology and Development Studies) investigated which waste streams yield the most cellulose, including sugar beet leaves and stems as well as old paper. Subsequently, they looked at how cellulose can be processed (sustainably) into textiles and what the quality of this end-material is. They also interviewed consumers: Would you wear clothing made of biodegradable waste? The advice: "Engage the consumer in the story!"

Story telling Circular Fashion ACT Onderwijsloket.png

Period: September - October 2017

Designers involved: Tjeerd Veenhoven, Lilian van Daal, and Eric Klarenbeek

Textile as Living Skin

In addition to cellulose, mycelium, algae, and kombucha are also interesting sustainable raw materials for textile and interior design. Forty Bachelor and Master students of different degree programmes participated in the "Circular Economy: Theory and Practice” course in which they investigated how to use the Cradle to Cradle perspective for a transition to a circular fashion system. The abovementioned raw materials – and the impact that clothing made from these materials might have on personal identity – were the focus of this project.

Period: November - December 2017

Designers and entrepreneurs involved: Aniela Hoitink, Emma van der Leest, and Iris Houthoff

‘Get funky: start wearing fungi’

Would you wear a dress made of mould or shoes made of fruit leather? How can you convince consumers to buy sustainable clothes? Bachelor students of the degree programmes Communication Sciences and Consumer Studies developed behavioural change campaigns in which they used persuasive techniques to inspire consumers to buy circular fashion.

Period: November - December 2017

Fashion Made in Holland

Four Bachelor students of Management Studies are writing their Bachelor thesis for Fashion Made in Holland (FMIH). FMIH's goal is to revive the Dutch fashion industry. Dutch designers are very well-known in the world, but in the past decades, we have outsourced the production of clothing to other countries. Nowadays an average piece of clothing travels 1900km before it arrives in the hands of the consumer. At the same time, fashion academy graduates often cannot find a job. FMIH wants to stimulate local production and employment and decrease the environmental impact.

Period: November 2017 – January 2018

Sustainable fashion: A quantitative analysis of consumers’ purchase behaviour

An MSc student in Marketing & Consumer Behaviour wrote her thesis on potential strategies to positively influence Dutch students’ purchase behaviour of sustainable clothes. In two consecutive quantitative studies a total of 308 students were reached. The results showed a positive relationship between the attitude, perceived norm, personal agency and perceived customer value. The thesis contributes to previous studies by shedding light on consumers’ purchase behaviour of sustainable clothes.

Period: March 2017 – January 2018

Circular Fashion in Indonesia

In his Master’s thesis, a student in Management Studies investigated the best practices for a circular fashion industry in Indonesia. The fashion industry in Indonesia is currently focusing on themes like water, security and alternative biodegradable materials. The Indonesian Fast Forward programme’s vision of the future is to create a fashion industry in which creativity, commerce and the environment are on par with each other. This thesis project included a comparative case study of the 17 main companies in the field of circularity in fashion in Indonesia. The result was that collaboration and transparency are key themes for the sector to develop to the next level of circularity.

Period: September 2017 – March 2018

Circular fashion in The Netherlands: Discourse & Practice

For her Master’s thesis in International relations, a student is using ethnographic research to investigate how circularity is evolving in both “practices” and “discourses” within the Dutch fashion industry. Questions are: Who are the leading actors and why? What stories do they tell each other and, in doing so, what discourses are created? What “best practices” can we define and are there any tensions between the discourses and practices?

Period: November 2017 – April 2018

SOFE: Sustainable & Social Fashion Enterprise

The Social & Sustainable Fashion Enterprise (SOFE) is a European-funded training programme in which a positive impact on the environment and people is key and which provides fashion-entrepreneurs with skills and a network.

Linked Data: Collaboration enabler across the circular economy?

The aim of this project was to investigate the use of semantic web technologies to increase collaboration across the Circular Economy. The investigation focused on developing an approach for the conversion of material passports into Linked Data representations. Three scenarios were developed: for food, buildings and fashion. Results indicate that actors and products can be connected and meaningful answers can be obtained for circular collaboration patterns. Expected users of this data model are: umbrella organizations and governments wishing to accelerate the Circular Economy, businesses and consumers wishing to find circular trade partnerships.

Period: May – November 2017

Mylium: mushroom leather

The start-up Mylium founded by biotechnologist Iris Houthoff explores opportunities to create a sustainable alternative to leather and provide additional revenue streams for mushroom growers.

Parties involved

Wageningen University & Research

Circular Fashion is a growing theme at Wageningen University & Research. Work is carried out on this theme through student projects, circular fashion symposiums, 100 Years WUR festivities, and research. With the programme Circular Fashion, we want to make even better use of the scientific knowledge of WUR for fair, clean, and sustainable fashion.

Centre of Expertise Future Makers

Centre of Expertise Future Makers is a collaboration between ArtEZ's Professorships Fashion and Product Design & Interior Architecture, and various public and private partners. Future Makers aims to develop more sustainable value chains for products and services in the field of fashion, textile, product, and interior design.

State of Fashion

State of Fashion is a platform and driver of the global quest for a fairer, cleaner, and more sustainable fashion system. State of Fashion is the new fashion event of Arnhem (Gelderland) held every four years, organised by the Sonsbeek & State of Fashion Foundation. It is the successor of Arnhem Mode Biënnale, an initiative of ArtEZ Fashion and Arnhem municipality, which saw five successful editions between 2005 and 2013. The first edition of State of Fashion opens on 1 June 2018.