Fast Fashion VS Circular Textile


Fast Fashion VS Circular Textile

Textile products are closely related to our lives

The textile industry is a fashion industry that creates huge economic benefits. While we enjoy the happiness and satisfaction brought by textile products, our environment is also negatively affected. Due to lengthily developed complex supply chains and low entry barriers, the traditional textile industry is highly responsible for various types of pollution including water, air, soil, and high carbon emissions.

Taiwan's textile industry was once a leader in generating foreign exchange earnings. After reaching its export peak in the 1980s, its competitiveness and exports declined. However, in recent years, Taiwan's textile industry has gradually developed its own unique advantages and continues to strive to change its negative image. The most talked-about is that Taiwan is the main producer and supplier of functional and environmentally friendly fabrics in the world. In the 2022 FIFA World Cup, many national teams used Taiwan's environmentally friendly functional fabrics for their jerseys. Although Taiwan did not participate in the World Cup, it was hailed as the invisible champion of the event.

(See article The Story Behind 2022 World Cup Qatar for details.)

Due to the development of globalization, the demand for sustainable environmental solutions, and advances in recycling technology, the values that underpin the global textile industry are changing. This transformation is happening through the design thinking of textile products, which is also concretely affecting corporate management and leadership.

Fast Fashion

What is Fast Fashion?

The development of the Fast Fashion culture in the early 21st century, where clothing is made from textiles, has had a significant impact on the entire clothing industry. Fast Fashion, also known as "fast-paced fashion," caters to current trends to a considerable degree. It is called "Fast Fashion" in Europe. The Guardian has also coined a new term "McFashion," with "Mc" derived from McDonald's, meaning to "manufacture and sell" fashion like McDonald's. Fast Fashion offers the latest styles and elements, with low prices, a large variety of designs, and limited quantities, stimulating consumer interest and satisfying consumer needs to the maximum extent. However, it has also triggered social crises, including poor durability, profit exploitation of production factories, and the rapid increase in second-hand clothing causing social burdens.

The fast-fashion industry refers to a business model that can launch trend clothing exhibited in fashion weeks in a short period. Consumers can purchase trendy clothing at low prices. This fashion trend has swept the globe in the past decade and created amazing wealth.

Problems with Fast Fashion

According to the report "A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion's Future" published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, global clothing consumption doubled from 2000 to 2015, but clothing utilization (the average number of times a garment is worn before being discarded) fell sharply by 36%, with some clothes worn less than 10 times before being discarded. Due to the development of Fast Fashion and the growth of the middle class, the demand for clothing has increased, and it is expected that clothing and footwear consumption will increase by 63% by 2030. While the amount of textiles continues to expand, the negative impact on energy consumption and climate will continue to increase.

Fast Fashion completes the entire process, from design, fabric selection, sample production, and order placement to production, within a few days, with the aim of fast launch, popular fashion, affordability, and a large variety of designs with limited quantity.

• Rapid Launch- Rapid launch means fast production, and production factories often have to work overtime to meet the requirements of Fast Fashion companies. Overtime production has become a fixed production model, but "few people dare to refuse it. Apart from it, you cannot find a customer with such a large and stable order volume," which is the helpless reaction of Asian manufacturers.
• Affordable prices - Behind the affordable prices is the need to reduce costs, emphasizing cost-effectiveness not only deprive manufacturers of profits, but also reduces the quality of products, and further creates a negative image of cheap clothes that are not very durable. However, consumers treat it as a consumable and still regularly purchase and consume it.
• Variety over quantity - The burden of producing less but more diverse fast fashion products increases the preparation of production materials and inventory. Although the fast fashion industry provides consumers with unparalleled freshness and spiritual satisfaction, overconsumption results in excessive waste of material resources. In reality, although these fast fashion clothes have excellent designs and novel styles, they lack exquisite workmanship, reuse, and preservation value. Once outdated, they can only be discarded and usually end up in incinerators.
This constantly wasteful industry has been protested by environmentalists. If fast fashion companies cannot improve this resource-wasting business model, the pressure they face will undoubtedly become a strong obstacle to industry development.

People's reflection on fast fashion

Fast fashion exploits the earth's ecology and resource limits, pushing our environmental burden to a critical point in recent years, resulting in a large number of greenhouse gases, pollutants, and waste clothing. The production of clothing itself also consumes a large amount of water and land resources. Europeans discard an average of 11 kilograms of textiles every year. Fast fashion companies are labeled as generating waste and responding to environmentalists' questions, usually placing second-hand clothes recycling boxes in stores to provide a channel for recycling old clothes, but 80% of the recycled old clothes end up as waste: globally, 57% of textiles are ultimately buried and 25% are incinerated. Around the world, one truckload of textiles is buried or burned every second. Only 8% enter the second-hand clothing market as commodities, and about 10% are crushed into filler for recycling and remanufacturing.

The second-hand clothing trade, which was originally thought to be part of the solution to reduce waste, has now created a new problem. The massive left-over "McFashion" garments not only contribute to waste but also disrupt the developing textile industry in parts of Africa and South America. When garments are supplied endlessly at very low costs, why bother building up your own textile manufacturing capabilities and supply chains - essentially the whole textile industry? As a consequence, the rapid increase in waste clothing is indeed a big problem that needs to be addressed.

Circular Textile

The Design Thinking of Circular Textile

The rise of fast fashion has accelerated the change in design thinking. The new generation of textile designers not only needs to understand the development of the textile industry upstream, midstream, and downstream, the technology required for circular textiles, and the fashion trends of textiles, but also need to focus on environmental textiles, sustainable development, and other public issues, and most importantly, have innovative design thinking! The linear thinking of traditional textile products is that product designers only consider whether the design of the product meets the needs of consumers and profits, and therefore the product ultimately ends up in waste.

The design thinking of environmental textiles (eco-textile) is to extend the life cycle of raw materials and reduce environmental impact. For example, environmental fabrics produced in Taiwan mainly use recycled polyester bottles as raw materials for textiles, but their ultimate fate is still waste.

The new generation of design thinking must broaden their perspective, look to the future, and take responsibility for environmentally sustainable development. Such design thinking must be an innovative learning method with "user needs" as the core. Using professional methods and tools of designers to extract inspiration, combining the feasibility of human needs, recycling technology, and business development success. Future design thinking must balance environmental protection and sustainability, which is the thinking model of circular textiles.

What the world has done for circular textiles

In the 2020 United Nations Environment Programme report "Sustainability and Circularity in the Textile Value Chain," priority actions are outlined for creating sustainable and circular textile value chains. The key strategy is to increase textile reuse, either through material or product design, with the aim of enhancing product recyclability and reusability, or by offering repair services to extend the product lifespan. In short, the linear value chain of past raw material-manufacturing-use-disposal is transformed into a circular system, where materials are not discarded after use but are transformed and used for a long time in the textile value chain loop.
Before delving into the eco-processes of the raw materials used, some designers have already taken a relatively simple step by simplifying the materials used in a garment. Let’s consider an extreme example: if one garment is made of only one material, then all eco-processes, including recycling, reusing, or regenerating via either chemical or physical means, will result in the least carbon emissions. Will the latest fashion trend resemble beggar styles? Nah, please have faith in our fashion designers and the evolving technology which offers a variety of performance in raw materials!
The European Green Deal announced in March 2022, unveiled the Sustainable Circularity Strategy for Textiles, which includes expanding Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs, ecological design requirements for textiles, microfiber pollution prevention, encouraging circular business models, establishing traceability and standards, waste textile management systems, and innovative recycling technologies. The goal of the strategy is to make textiles more durable, repairable, reusable, and recyclable to address problems such as fast fashion, textile waste, and the destruction of surplus inventory.

Polyester used in the garment industry

Polyester (PET) is the most widely used fiber in the clothing industry, accounting for about 52% of global fiber production. In 2021, the total global polyester fiber usage was approximately 57 million tonnes, but only 15% of the polyester raw materials were from recycling. Furthermore, 99% of the recycled materials came from PET bottles rather than from textiles, which have the largest production volume and waste volume.

In 2021, Textile Exchange and the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action jointly launched the "2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge" to accelerate the expansion of the recycled polyester market and to lead investment and development in recycled polyester technology through market mechanisms. As of July 2021, over 100 brands and suppliers, such as H&M, INDITEX, and Adidas, have agreed and committed to increasing the proportion of recycled polyester used in their relevant products to 45% by 2025, with an estimated demand of 17.1 million tonnes.

According to the big data analysis of the Sportswear Market Intelligence System (SMIS), a system jointly developed by the ITIS project team of the Textile Institute and Business Administration National Taiwan University, the proportion of sportswear new products using "recycled polyester" has increased year by year for the four major sportswear brands, NIKE, Adidas, UNDER ARMOUR, and lululemon, from 2018 to the first half of 2022. Among them, Adidas is the most active brand to adopt recycled polyester, with as much as 96% of its styles using recycled polyester in the first half of 2022, which also echoes Adidas commitment to "practice 90% of products using sustainable materials by 2025."

Circular Textile in Taiwan

As most textile products are made up of different fiber materials, the primary challenge after recycling is to sort and separate different materials before entering individual material recycling systems, with polyester/cotton (T/C) blended fabrics accounting for the largest proportion.

Far Eastern New Century Corporation (FENC) has established textile recycling and recovery technology - ChemCycle, which effectively classifies, grades, and recycles waste textiles, addressing the recycling issues of blended fabrics, and has actually completed the world's first recycled mixed textile functional textile product.

Through patented recycling technology, FENC enables waste textiles to be reborn into production cycles. Without changing the current business model of Taiwan's textile recycling, FENC classifies and grades waste textiles that would otherwise be incinerated, and recycles them.

First, fabrics with high cotton content are turned into solid-derived fuels (RDF-5) or cellulose alcohol to become green energy fuels. Fabrics with high polyester (PET) content are processed through patented polyester "chemical" recycling technology (TopGreen® ChemCycle Process), reduced to raw materials of polyester (rPTA and rEG), and then remade into high-value functional polyester textile products.

FENC 's patented technology not only allows for the recycling of mixed waste textiles but also the recycling of other polyester waste, such as packaging materials, electronic-grade films, and printing labels, achieving the green and sustainable development of the polyester industry through a circular economy, and realizing the concept of the industrial circular economy.

New attempt: Physical Renovation

Physical renovation, also known as upcycling, is a sustainable fashion approach that involves transforming old or discarded clothing into new pieces. Patagonia's ReCrafted series is a prime example of this concept, where damaged and unwearable second-hand clothes are selected from landfills in California and sewn into new clothing that combines old clothes through classification, deconstruction, and reorganization. The result is a unique piece of clothing that has some traces of used or second-hand clothing, adding to its individuality and character.

Patagonia's ReCrafted series of clothing is made by dismantling 3 to 6 pieces of second-hand clothing, which are designed, combined, and sewn. The combination of old clothing pieces creates a new balance and unique aesthetic. Other fashion brands have also started exploring the concept of upcycling as a way to reduce waste and promote sustainability. For instance, some designers are using old denim jeans to create new jackets or handbags, while others are turning discarded plastic bags into fashionable accessories.

Apart from reducing waste and promoting sustainability, physical renovation can also be an excellent way to personalize clothing and create one-of-a-kind pieces. Companies that offer customization services allow customers to bring in their old clothing and have them transformed into something new and unique. This not only reduces waste but also allows consumers to express their individual style and creativity.

As more fashion brands and consumers embrace the concept of upcycling, we can hope to see a significant reduction in the amount of textile waste generated each year. Physical renovation is a promising approach to sustainable fashion that promotes circularity in the industry and supports a more eco-friendly future.

Developing a Circular Economy for Textiles

A circular economy is a regenerative system that sustains human life through economic activity. By designing for reduction, reuse, and recycling, businesses can fully utilize the limited resources within the system to achieve the goal of sustainable balance between resource and energy generation, input, waste/discharge, and human well-being. We must coexist with the environmental resources around us and generate economically viable activities. In the imagined future of a circular economy, every product manufactured is carefully designed for multiple cycles of use, and different materials and production cycles are carefully considered to allow for the output of one process to become the input of another, creating benefits.

In a circular economy, products are not considered waste when their useful life ends; rather, they become raw materials for new production cycles that are both environmentally friendly and economically beneficial. In addition to the urgent need for energy independence, a circular economy is likely to dominate Taiwan's next stage of industrial and economic development.

The current development is only the beginning of a concerted effort. Due to the wide variety of textiles, the recycling routes for different types of textiles are almost never the same, and efforts must begin with product design, process management, product recovery, consumer cooperation, and simplification. Furthermore, the recycling techniques and quality requirements for different textiles are different, so appropriate recycling methods and corresponding channels must be established first, all of which require the latest technology to accomplish. We look forward to optimistic collaboration from all sectors to work together in the circular chain and make Taiwan a circular textile environmental technology island.

Philosophy and Action of Fanterco

Fanterco is a clothing company in Taiwan with a long history of over 50 years. We are committed to providing customers with environmentally friendly and healthy products. With Taiwan's excellent research and development capabilities and technology, we aim to make breakthroughs in environmental protection and circular textile.

On our official website,, you can find our products categorized into “Recycling,” “Sustainable Use,” and “Sustainable Production,” in accordance with the circular textile closing loop. Since 2020, we have helped one of our major clients switch to recycled polyester for most of their product lines. We are now entering the second phase, which involves replacing virgin nylon with recycled nylon. Additionally, in 2023, we will participate in a carbon footprint measurement program supervised by the Taiwan Textile Federation (TTF).

Functional fabrics are one of Taiwan's specialties, with a global market share of over 50%. Furthermore, the market share of functional fabrics in international outdoor brands is as high as 70%. We are dedicated to continuing this legacy of excellence in functional fabrics while prioritizing environmental sustainability.

We are not suggesting that we should “kill” fast fashion and rid ourselves of all the negative aspects associated with it. We understand that fast fashion is a consequence of consumerism, which is a natural development in human history. However, this development is not healthy for our planet and will eventually lead to our demise. We believe that beauty does not have to come at the expense of the environment, and that everyone should do their part. As a textile manufacturing solutions provider, Fanterco actively works to integrate environmental protection and sustainability into every aspect of our business, including product design and material sourcing. By choosing Fanterco, customers can not only look good but also contribute to protecting the planet.
Overall, our philosophy and actions demonstrate our commitment to environmental protection and sustainability. By choosing Fanterco, you can support a company that prioritizes the health of the planet and its inhabitants.


· 陳恆毅 財團法人紡織產業綜合研究所 《紡織品的循環經濟》
· 紡織所執行產業技術基磐研究與知識服務計畫產業分析師 《紡織業永續減碳關鍵-紡織品回用技術》
· Xin-Hong Li 《Patagonia回收舊衣翻新計畫》
· Patagonia, Inc.

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