Designing for Circularity

Designing for Circularity

“Life cycle thinking is the most important, so let’s discuss that the longest”. Marie-Louise Rosholm said in our preparation for this month's ESG-focused webinar. The circular design emerged as a crucial topic due to its complexity. We pondered over questions like: What exactly is circularity? And how can brands prepare for future requirements yet to be defined?"


Marie-Louise is the guest speaker. She has 40 years of experience in the textile industry working with many large brands advising in textile innovation from fibre manufacturing to end-of-life strategies. Companies often ask her: “Where do we start?” “What do we focus on?” Marie-Louise is always quite straightforward with them. 

“I won’t say that they have to focus on everything, because then nobody will do anything. I help them to pick out some small bits of the mountain and we start from there.”

Marie-Louise Rosholm


Circularity and designing for the same is very much on top of everyone’s mind. It was mentioned several times in the EU Textile Strategy and continues to be a topic during legislative negotiations and future requirements for the textile industry. The greatest example is the Digital Product Passport (DPP). It is expected that the DPP will need to make information available to stakeholders across the entire value chain. Based on the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) proposal, companies should expect to disclose information on the following product parameters: Durability, Recyclability, and recycled content. All attributes link to Designing for Circularity.   


Life cycle thinking

“80% of the environmental impact of a product is decided in the design phase,” Marie-Louise emphasizes and elaborates that choosing the right material to ensure the circularity of the product, and that the customer wants to use and wear the product for a very long time is key. The focus should be to ensure that you are creating something that people want to use and that your choices of materials are based on the functionality and longevity of a garment. Choosing a mono-material is unbeatable to ensure the circularity of a product, but if it doesn’t provide the correct characteristics for the desired function, the garment quickly becomes useless. That will be a waste of resources. 


A part of working with life cycle thinking is also thinking about the end of life of a garment. What can and should happen to a garment once it is outwarn, and perhaps none-functional in its original state? This is also where the dilemmas come into play, as Marie-Louise says. “You must not let the end of life of a garment overrule the life of the garment”. The needs and desires a garment must fulfill in it's life must be the top priority. 

Resource efficiency

A part of resource efficiency is ensuring that you are using as much as possible of the fabric to reduce the waste as much as possible. It is about calculating precisely and correctly before placing an order with a supplier. Marie-Louise stresses the importance of collaboration in the company to ensure that everyone is a part of reducing the use of resources as much as possible: “We have to break down the silos. The knowledge of the people across the whole process from the first thoughts of a product till it lands at the customer is so valuable in how we use resources. We have to collaborate because one thing done in one place affects the others in the value chain.” That includes the factory as they have a lot of knowledge useful to ensure resource efficiency. 

“Producing items of deadstock materials is just a bad excuse to continue material overproduction”

Maria-Louise Roshom

Other aspects of this topic are also widely known, and not necessarily something we think about, when we discuss resource efficiency. An example of that can be collaborating with suppliers to use green energy or urging them to make a plan for implementation. Marie-Louise provides another example: “It's also about carefully planning our collections to ensure that we do not use unnecessary resources. Better planning can significantly impact the resources used for transportation, production, and financing” 

Durability and Repairability

“Longevity is the most sustainable action you can take!” Marie-Louise emphasized multiple times during the conversation. Ensuring a product’s long life is the focus a design department must have. This doesn’t mean making boring, none-colored products, but making sure that products can live for a long time. When you are done with it, it must be passed on, or better yet sold to a new happy consumer. 


At the same time, Marie-Louise specifies that to ensure longevity brands need to nudge their clients to repair. That means adding amendment components to the style when delivered, which gives a client the incentive to repair. Examples could be thread, yarn, buttons, or pieces of fabric. 

Reuse and Recycling

Ensuring quality is imperative for reusing a product, as it guarantees durability—a crucial factor in extending a product's lifespan beyond current norms. Marie-Louise underscores the significance of decisions made during the initial stages of the design process, emphasizing how considerations regarding a garment's lifecycle directly influence its potential for reuse. A garment consists of more elements. If these elements are compatible, the pure garment continues to be a pure material, also when recycled. If that simply isn’t possible, designing a clever way to disassemble is a good solution. 


Marie-Louise contends that recycling alone cannot address the issue of perpetuating consumerism. Recycling consumes substantial resources and necessitates careful deliberation. Instead, she advocates for shifting focus to a broader perspective. She urges the exploration of ways to prolong product usage significantly, suggesting alternative methods of utilizing garments. One recommendation to brands is to provide consumers with ideas on how garments could be repurposed, fostering a more sustainable approach to consumption and creating a relationship with your customers. 

“Emotional longevity is of great importance when we talk about designing for circularity.”

Marie-Louise Rosholm

Asking an expert in circularity and textile innovation what the greatest focus should be for a brand, Marie-Louise answers very simply: “The aesthetics are so important to remember in the design and making process. We keep things that are beautiful for a very long time. And that in the end is the goal.”