Insights / Circularity
”Many still think the circular economy is about recycling but long-lasting products are often the most sustainable”
On tracking how 360 end consumers use their garments
14 Jun 2022

Algurén calls himself a ”circular business model innovation coach”. He works as a project leader at RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) with a focus on long-lasting products in business models with high utilization.

— The overall goal of the institutes within RISE is to be internationally competitive and work for sustainable growth in Sweden by strengthening the competitiveness and innovation of the business sector, as well as the public sector. We say we are Sweden’s innovation partner, he explains.

In the project Favorite Wardrobe, you analyze 360 Swedish end consumers’ wardrobes over 100 days. Tell us more about it.

— I and Houdini’s CEO Eva Karlson had a chat about it and when we saw a fantastic study made by Olof Hoverfält where he measure everything he uses, we thought that this is what we should do but scaled up. Fashion brands Asket and Filippa K joined because they have the same view about this, says Algurén. He continues:

— Many still think the circular economy is mainly about recycling but creating long-lasting products that are used well is often the most sustainable way to go. In this project, we want to investigate how big people’s wardrobes are and how much is used. We will also look at cost of ownership, the most expensive garments are perhaps the cheapest calculated as cost per wear. Later we will also see how brands can capitalize on longevity and increased utilization.

Peter Algurén.

So, recycling is not the way forward to create a circular economy?

— Well, it can be one of the ways forward but the most sustainable garment is the piece that is already produced. How can we create garments with longer life? To remain attractive over time we need garments of high quality, that work from a fashion point of view for a long time, can be repaired easily, and more.

What can you say about the results and insights so far?

— We are in the beginning of the analysis and we first need to clean the data from less active users. But, so far it seems like the average respondent in the study has used around 50-60 unique garments during the 100 days of measuring. Around 16.000 unique garments have been used over 100.000 times in the study.

The app used by the project participants to help track how they use their garments.

The Swedish Energy Agency, which supports the project, has stated that it can also help to create new platforms and business models. How and in what way?

— That is what we will investigate later this year. It is important that we find profit in these new business models if the transition should accelerate. A lot of value is locked in unused garments in people’s wardrobes. How can we unlock that value and capitalize on it? Companies can also consider keeping the ownership of the garments and selling them as a service over a longer time to many different customers and capitalize on invested resources in quality and kept value via refurbishment, repairs, and so forth. Perhaps is one option a base wardrobe with favourite garments with a layer on top where garments come and go and find new owners. Connect Me is another project here in Sweden, at Science Park Borås, and is a more futuristic vision where the utilization of garments is measured automatically and where the garments try to sell themselves to someone that wants them more.