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Centre for Building Sustainable Value

Bringing circularity and sustainability to the fashion industry

  • Julia Bevacqua
  • |
  • Jan 31, 2022
Bringing circularity and sustainability to the fashion industry

The latest trend in fashion isn’t a colour or a designer or even a style – it’s circularity.

The fashion industry is one of the biggest global contributors of green gas emissions due to the extensive energy and resources required to produce and ship clothing. That’s a big problem, but it also means there is a big opportunity for sustainable improvement, especially when it comes to more circular designs and processes.

Circularity in the fashion industry is all about reusing and recycling clothing and materials so that resources are saved and nothing ends up in the landfill.

Jason Edwards, EMBA ’20 and Vice-President at BVH Services, understands this and is playing a leading role in promoting circularity and changing the status quo in the fashion industry.

BVH Services is one of the largest players in used clothing in North America. Their portfolio includes Beyond Retro, a European vintage clothing chain, as well as Bank & Vogue, one of the world’s largest wholesale dealers in used goods. The company’s mission is to promote a more sustainable fashion landscape through circular services.

To do this means competing with and displacing 100-year old established supply chains. But for BVH, this is an exciting challenge to tackle. “We like change, we love innovation, and we find great pleasure in working on a solution. In some cases, that can appear hard to a customer whose supply chain is robotic. So, the positioning of the environmental impact, the workload, timeline, and the costing is essential, along with a sustainability champion who cares. This is hard work, but it matters, and it really can make a huge impact,” explained Jason Edwards.

Edwards is Vice-President of BVH Services. He reports to the founders and CEO and plays an active role across all aspects of the business, from marketing and operations to customer service and growth strategies. Prior to stepping into this role, Edwards had an interest in work that would make a meaningful and positive impact on the world. However, it wasn’t until after a few years in the infrastructure and energy sector and after his EMBA at Ivey that Edwards pivoted into fashion.

Ivey gave him the confidence to pursue his passions and take the leap into something new. He specifically points to an EMBA event about business and human dignity that helped spark his transition. “The cases, dialogue, global connection and leadership showed by Ivey Faculty, and my fellow classmates gave me a sense of responsibility that I/we, as Canadians, have to do more; for my kids, my family, my friends and the planet. It created a fire inside me to change my life and hopefully the world in a positive way.”   

BVH’s mission aligns well with Edwards’ ambitions. The company wants to reclaim, reduce, and reuse 10 billion items. Last year, the company achieved this through 90 million items – a massive achievement but only a fraction of their ultimate goal. However, new partnerships and developments are a promising sign that the organization’s lofty goal may soon be a reality.

One of their largest partnerships is with Renewcell, a textile-to-textile recycling company based in Sweden. The two companies have been working together for a few years to upcycle secondhand clothes that could not be sold into recycled materials, but a new agreement is exponentially increasing the impact that they’ll have.

In this new agreement, BVH will supply 30,000 metric tonnes a year of landfill-bound textiles to Renewcell. Using patented technology, Renewcell will then turn the textiles into Circulose®, a new virgin-grade raw material that will be used by fashion brands like H&M and Levis to improve the environmental impact of their products.

In addition to Renewcell, BVH has partnered with companies and brands like Converse, Urban Outfitters, Gina Tricot, and Selfridges to help upcycle and innovate product offerings. Later this year, BVH will also be releasing a new utilitarian fashion brand made from 100% used textiles focused on timeless styles and high-quality design.

News like this is a hopeful sign for a more sustainable fashion landscape that BVH Services and Jason Edwards are helping to lead. Not only does this work ensure a more sustainable future, but it ensures one in which we can all look good and feel good in what we’re wearing too.