Ccrave, an impact-forward shopping platform focused on circularity, is launching its second pop-up concept in Amsterdam this week. FashionUnited spoke with founder Vincent Van Dessel about innovation in sustainable fashion, emerging business models and his quest to fight climate change.
A circular economy involves eliminating waste, keeping products in circulation, and regenerating nature. How challenging has it been to find interesting brands that tick all the boxes?
Let's first kill the idea of finding brands that tick all the boxes of circularity. Closing the loop and becoming fully circular is still in development in a preliminary phase. More particularly the circular fashion market is in an introductory stage with limited offer. True circular innovation happens at the moment by start-ups or smaller brands, pushed forward by passionate and visionary impact entrepreneurs.
The pool to fish in is limited and certainly even more so when you add outstanding design as an extra selection criteria. But they exist and more interesting brands are popping up: circular sneakers by WAYZ, sports equipment made from cork and recycled materials by Pierre sports, the first-ever recycled and recyclable toothbrush with removable heads by Doop...
Our vetting process screens on different levels of circularity - at least three pillars out of 7 of our circular vetting process need to be respected to have access. A platform with brands that ticks all boxes is our goal: so when we see that there is a good starting position we will give the guidance to grow.
Would you say circularity is a solution to fashion’s climate change contribution?
The biggest problem was the shift to fast fashion over the last decades, the overstimulation of consumers, and the increase of recurrent collection launches. This has put a heavy strain on our resource extraction and climate change; an opposite practice to the central pillar of reduction. We need to simplify our consumption patterns and change this mindset of always wanting more more more.
Circularity is an overall concept that covers a lot of different dimensions from repurposing waste, to reusing to reducing - to buying consciously. The combination of these different elements will result in systemic change and a more climate-friendly fashion ecosystem.
Further more, social fairness is also a pillar of circularity covering the need for fair wages, no child labor, safe work conditions. Pure eco-conscious or fair fashion platforms are not the solution. A platform focussed on boosting the circular economy revolution as ours can be.
You had a successful international career in marketing. What made you want to launch a circular business?
I describe myself as an “ Ex-adman who got conscious.” After almost two decades in advertising working for big multinationals and pushing linear products in Europe and in Asia, I got an A-ha moment. I realised that I wanted to use my experience and skills for businesses and people that made a true difference in the world and contribute to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals. So I shifted to impact entrepreneurship, consulted some social enterprises, and mentored startups before starting my own venture. A visionary book on how design is a key factor to make the circular economy transition succeed was the final motivating factor to start with Ccrave.
Do you have any tips for designers interested in starting a circular business model?
Circularity is complex and has many layers. In our latest webinar, we have identified the 10 key pillars for a successful circular brand. It all depends on the life-stage of the brand to make the right choice as a business owner. Choices can be made on many different levels of the supply chain. Will you start with the material choices? What about certifications? Do you have a budget for LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) & impact measurements tools? What about your logistics and last-mile delivery choices? Do you consider a close the loop and end of lifecycle recollection programs? Will you adopt a rental model? So it's better to do it step-by-step than to be over-ambitious. Successful circular innovation always starts from the DNA of the company and visionary people.
In fashion, desirability is very important. Can circular fashion be just as attractive or seen as even more attractive to consumers?
Differentiating and appealing design is a game-changer if we want linear consumers to shift to a circular product. Decades of unseemly sustainable recycled products have undermined consumers' perception of recycled products. There were not enough stylish offers. With the new generation of circular products consumers are finally able to shift to an attractive alternative.
You can make circular fashion items as desirable as the consumers want by applying the fashion marketing techniques of the linear old world with respect for the circular pillars: a unique brand story, collaborations with artists or other brands, limited-edition drops. But everything always starts with a good product and design.
What are some of the most innovative or highest-impact circular initiatives available on Ccrave?
My personal favourites are two Belgian brands: Yuma Labs - 3D printed circular sunglasses and Honest - circular denim. These brands understand what closing the loop really means - Collection of waste as a starting point - Clear transparency on the positive impact - collaborations and special collections - inspiring end of lifecycle programs, a unique brand identity and story, and nicely designed products that stand out.
What do you predict will be next for sustainability and sustainable fashion?
We will move to a direction where different elements need to be combined to make sustainable fashion successful and the new reference: made to order and real-time production, full transparency with blockchain traceability, innovative circular new materials, impact measurement data that consumers can make informed and conscious choices and virtual fashion innovations.
Ccrave's Amsterdam pop-up concept is open from 24-27 March and will showcase a mix of zero waste and waste-based products.