The three “Rs”: recycle, reuse, repair
The concept of 'circular economy' can be explained by the so-called 'three Rs', i.e. recycle, reuse and repair. In a nutshell, this economic model aims to minimise waste and extend the life of products, as opposed to the linear economy model, which has been in place since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and which only involves production, use and disposal.
In order to put the circular economy model into practice, it is necessary to have a clear plan from the outset, which takes into account not only the use of the product in its first life cycle, but also the possible uses it may have in subsequent ones. And this is where the concept of up-cycling comes in. Sometimes it is a good idea not only to think about recycling, i.e. bringing an object back to a raw material suitable for production, but also about up-cycling, i.e. a next step that gives added value to what would otherwise end up in the trash.
This sounds like a very technical concept, but you probably already do it yourself, for example when you decide not to throw away your butter biscuit tin but to keep your needle and thread in it, or when you reuse your glass jam jar to keep your nails in.
But now let's focus on the fashion industry, and in particular on the companies Freitag and Airpaq, to understand how the circular economy model can be applied in practice to counter the negative effects of the world's second most polluting industry.
Freitag originated in 1993 in the small Zurich flat of brothers Daniel and Markus Freitag from the desire to combine functionality, urban design and robustness. To do so, they took their inspiration from city traffic and decided to make bags and accessories from truck tarpaulins. To this day, it is this philosophy of cyclicity that drives the company, so much so that it has even activated a free repair service and an accessory exchange service for its customers.
Airpaq, on the other hand, was founded in 2015 in Rotterdam by two students, Michael Widmann and Adrian Goosses, as part of a university project. All of their products are made from airbags, seatbelts and belt buckles from scrapped cars. Although we probably don't notice them when we use them every day, these components are high quality and durable, making them perfect for the production of a resistant backpack.
In a nutshell, it can be said that these two brands apply a circular economy model as they not only create their products with materials that already exist, but they also make them more "beautiful", thus up-cycling, avoiding asking for new resources from the planet and creating less waste. What's more, when you hold a Freitag or Airpaq bag, you feel like you're holding a unique product in your hands, because the tarpaulins and airbags they process all have a different story behind them.