Ecofashion 94: a responsible fashion system is possible

This fast-growing French association is mobilizing the community to develop a circular economy model for textiles



Kinga Kovacs & Simona Aronica

Publication date

October 31, 2023

We are almost in November, the new season is knocking at our door and it hardly only brings snow, it comes with its doses of overconsumption. Black Friday will fuel again the planetary crisis with fast fashion at its core: new styles, buy more, buy cheap, move on, throw away!

Fast fashion is indeed responsible for about 10% of global carbon emissions – this is as much as the European Union or more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

It is the second-biggest consumer of water, it dries up water sources and pollutes rivers and streams, even washing clothes releases 500,000 tons of microfibres into the ocean each year, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles, according to Business Insider.

Yet 85% of all textiles go to dumps each year, meaning that every second a truckload of textiles is dumped in landfill or incinerated, according to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation.

Let’s create a sustainable fashion world!

So how can we avoid this? Can local authorities act?

A new system for the textile economy is needed where clothes, fabric, and fibres re-enter the economy after use and never end up as waste.

At the local level, second-hand stores and waste recovery centers have an economic model that is not resilient enough: the waste recovery centers rely on public subsidies to pay their employees, and most of the clothes sold in European countries are new.

In addition, local stores suffer from the competition of second-hand websites such as Vinted. These websites are not a solution, because they have two perverse effects: on the one hand, they encourage a “rebound effect”, pushing customers to buy and resell clothes quickly. On the other hand, their waste management policies are far from exemplary.

Ecofashion 94[1], the sustainable fashion network in Val de Marne, was launched last September to rethink fashion locally by responding to these challenges.

The aim of the network is threefold:

  • to federate actors involved in the clothing life cycle and in the upholstery industry, to avoid working in silos and link them up with clients and other organisations that generate textile waste in the area;
  • to investigate business innovation by helping these actors change their current processes and economic models to make them more sustainable and resilient. For instance, they would co-create innovative and even disruptive selling, buying, and upcycling solutions on a local scale, and generate new jobs;
  • to reduce the purchase of new clothes.

The network involves local waste recovery centers, second-hand stores, recycling organisations and upcycling stores, a home organising company and a restyling company. The main local organisations generating textile waste are also associated, with the purpose of recycling their professional clothes, such as the Val-de-Marne Department services (5,000 employees), the Henri Mondor hospital (3,000 employees and 42,000 patients per year) and the public transportation services maintenance center in Sucy-en-Brie.

Leaving no one behind, people with disabilities and socially and economically underprivileged people are naturally part of the network since waste recovery centers are social companies employing them.

The network is coordinated by Val de Marne en Transition, an association of local transition groups in the Val de Marne department and founded by the EU project Shared Green Deal under the Horizon 2020 programme.

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[1] The number 94 refers to the Val-de-Marne department, a dynamic region located in the Île-de-France region, close to Paris. In France, each department is allocated a specific number, which is widely known and used, thus locals strongly identify with it.