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BFC, UKFT and UKRI launch ground-breaking fashion circularity partnership

Lauretta Roberts
06 September 2023

Fashion trade bodies, the British Fashion Council (BFC) and the UK Fashion and Textiles Association (UKFT), have teamed up with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on a ground-breaking partnership with the aim of accelerating the UK to a leading circular fashion economy.

The partnership, will be known as the Circular Fashion Innovation Network (CFIN), and is co-chaired by BFC CEO Caroline Rush and UKFT CEO Adam Mansell. The network will sit under the BFC’s Institute of Positive Fashion (IPF) and brings together innovators, investors, academia and broader stakeholders.

CFIN will receive £1.8m which is jointly allocated to the BFC and UKFT to run the network, build the community, accelerate knowledge share to members and industry and to activate required industry-led research.

Fashion is a huge player in the British economy, contributing £29 billion to UK GDP (according to Oxford Economics 2022), and it is estimated that new clothing consumption is higher in the UK than in any other European country.

This high consumption is couple with low usage leading to an unsustainable amount of waste, which the network is seeking to urgently address via an “action-oriented forum”.

Among those on the network's advisory board are: Marks & Spencer clothing chief Richard Price; New Look CEO Helen Connolly; British Retail Consortium CEO Helen Dickinson and Chanel. They are joined by representatives from UKRI, NGOs and academia.

The role of the Advisory Board is to focus on the vision of the network, receive briefings from the Working Groups and to address scalability across the UK. The network’s action led road map will be developed in accordance with competition laws and other applicable laws and regulations.

The CFIN will play an essential central convening role in UKRI’s £15m Circular Fashion programme to accelerate positive change within the fashion industry. Other programmes include the Recycling Sorting Demonstrator led by UKFT; NERC’s Network Plus programme led by Exeter University, Leeds University and Northumbria University, which will provide research capability focused on the improvement of data analysis, establishing research-validated baselines and environmental impact and circularity.  Through the BFC’s Colleges Council and UKFT Education Partner Network briefings on the programme to broader academic institutions will also take place.

The CFIN is the first industry-led programme of this kind supported by UKRI.  Its Working Group leads will report to the UKRI programme board, making it central to UKRIs £15m commitment to supporting an innovation-led approach to circular fashion.

The six working groups within the programme are:

  1. Circular business models – Focus on reduction of waste and over-production by embedding circular business practices; consideration of regulation changes.
  2. Recycling infrastructure – Optimise closed-loop recycling processes, develop partnerships and develop foundations for extended producer responsibility (EPR).
  3. Sustainable manufacturing – Lower environmental impact by achieving supply chain resilience, creating deeper links between brands and manufacturers, and scaling digital traceability tools.
  4. Novel technology – Scale up and integrate novel technologies that support circular fashion.
  5. Diverse and future-proof workforce – Upskill the workforce and build a diverse and future-proof talent pipeline to close the skills gaps.
  6. Green growth – Create economically viable Circular Fashion Products, services, and IP which create high value jobs, support growth through responsible design, retail and manufacturing.

BFC CEO Caroline Rush said: “We look forward to The Circular Fashion Innovation Network being the catalyst for essential transformation within the fashion industry. Collaboration has always been our guiding principle in effecting change. The new Circular Fashion Innovation Network rests on this very spirit -– our cross sector advisory board will combine and advance novel technologies and approaches, which we hope will create a world-class blueprint here in the UK. It builds on the BFC’s Circular Fashion Ecosystem work, established in 2020 as a multi-year endeavor to establish not just what needs to be done to achieve circularity in our fashion industry, but who needs to do it.

"BFC and UKFT have a proven track record of working together on Government Relations and International Trade, it now makes sense that we bring together our two networks which covers fashion and textile designers, retailers, manufacturers, tech businesses, government, media, professional services, investors and consumer audiences, to tackle our biggest challenge, our impact on the planet and with that the future of the UK fashion industry. ”

Adam Mansell, CEO UKFT, added: “It has never been more important to combine knowledge and networks to tackle the challenges of sustainability. We’re excited to work with the BFC and other partners via the Circular Fashion Innovation Network to establish both direct interventions and long term plans to help the transition towards a new circular economy in the UK. Our particular area of focus will be sustainable manufacturing and recycling infrastructure, which we believe will be key drivers in helping to build the most resilient, sustainable and competitive sector for future generations.”

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