Sustainability in Fashion and Creative Industries (M.A.)

Rethinking textile waste as a resource in (Southern) Africa

An exploration of how textile waste could be reframed as a valuable resource for the fashion industry, while unlocking socio-economic opportunities.

Profil Sarah Botha

In March 2020, the COVID-19 crisis was officially declared a global pandemic, sweeping across the world, restricting the movements of people and disrupting financial markets, upsetting international supply chains and bringing global economies to a halt. The pandemic has highlighted the shortfalls of the current economic system, which is based on a linear approach to resources, which are extracted and then left to waste, causing environmental disaster, climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

Against the backdrop of a COVID-19 recovery, this thesis seeks to explore one of the most troubling issues for the fashion industry, that of textile waste and how this problem could be reframed as a valuable resource for the fashion industry, while unlocking socio-economic opportunities for emerging markets in the Global South. The purpose of this thesis is to answer the following research question, “what is the role and potential of upcycling and circular design innovation in reframing textile waste in (Southern) Africa?”, testing how textile waste can be rethought as a resource for new design-based value-creation, and developing circular design strategies for waste to unlock further social-economic benefits.

Utilising the synergetic industries of innovation, design and the emerging discipline of circularity, this paper conceptualises a framework for circular design innovation, demonstrating the role of design and innovation in delivering the circular economy, and thereby rooting a solution for textile waste in a circular framework. Furthermore, qualitative research is utilised through expert interviews and case studies from experts within South Africa’s fashion industry, to develop a business model based upon circular design innovation principles, outlining opportunities for value-creation and innovation in the textile and apparel waste sector, both for South Africa and Europe.

Highly skilled communicator and critical thinker, seeking circular design solutions for the textile sector.

This solution-orientated thinking has led me to question the role of textile waste as a resource, not only for the fashion industry, but as a tool for social development and employment opportunities within Southern Africa.

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