'Crazy idea': Fashion brand puts planet first

Interns' Corner

Businesses account for 80 per cent of all waste created in Australia but sustainable fashion brand Citizen Wolf is determined not to be one of them. In May, the company achieved a fully circular economy model for its operations, proving that structural overproduction of waste in the fashion industry is not inevitable.

“It was really to prove an alternative model to the structural waste of overproduction,” Zoltan Csaki, founder of Citizen Wolf, said when asked about the journey of his company and how it attained this elusive status.

“We started about five or six years ago, with a crazy idea, which was to just simply put our customers, and the planet, at the centre of a new fashion brand,” said Csaki, speaking at a panel discussion on the circular economy at the University of Sydney earlier this month.

'Thirty billion of those garments are made only to be ploughed straight back into the Earth.'

“We decided from day one that we would only ever put natural fibre into the world. That's quite rare in the fashion industry, 60 per cent of all garments contain polyester,” Csaki said.

He identified blended fibres and fabrics as one of the biggest problems in the wider fashion industry which produces about 100 billion garments every year. “Within the context of recycling, there’s simply nothing we can do with [blended fabrics]. They just go straight to landfill and that’s a huge problem.”

“Thirty billion of those garments are made only to be ploughed straight back into the Earth. If they’re made of polyester, they’re never going to rot and breakdown, it’s insane and we knew it had to change," Csaki said.

Through Citizen Wolf’s dedication to the strict implementation of a natural-fibres-only policy and by taking "lifecycle stewardship of all our products" to ensure material is recycled, it has been able to close the loop and become circular.

Csaki spoke of the organisation's pride in achieving the 100 per cent circular certification and how mechanical shredding plays into the recycling process. Any Citizen Wolf clothing returns are put into its recycling program, mixed with offcut scraps from their laser cutter. They then ships that bulk fabric to Spain where it is mechanically shredded and re-spun as 50 per cent recycled yarn. This is then brought back into Australia, knitted into fabric and used it to make new clothes. "I’m really proud to say that we can now make your next T-shirt out of your old T-shirt,” Csaki said.

To extend the lifecycle of each piece of clothing, the company also offers free recycled repairs and returns. “You wear it for as long as you want to, and we'll fix it if it breaks. And then once you're done with it, whenever that might be, you bring it back to us and I can now turn that into the fabric to make your next garment. It’s a terrible business decision, but it's the correct one for the planet.”


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