A.BCH is a Victorian circular fashion label transforming the way people buy, wear and discard clothing.
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A.BCH is a Victorian circular
fashion label transforming the way people buy, wear and discard clothing.
Founded in 2017, with the aim of demonstrating that a fashion label could be
environmentally and socially responsible while remaining profitable, A.BCH
designs and manufactures clothing either
to order or just-in-time within their company-owned factory in West Melbourne.
A.BCH sells clothing directly to
customers through its online store, its design studio in Melbourne and at
pop-up stores. Selling directly to customers allows A.BCH to lower the markup
of its products, making their clothing affordable to a broader customer base.
products and processes demonstrate how design of products and of business
models can incorporate circular principles. Each A.BCH item undergoes a
lifecycle assessment, with special consideration to waste produced. Materials
are only used if they can safely biodegrade or be recycled at the end of the
product’s life – not just fabric, but all aspects of the clothing, including
buttons, threads and labels. A.BCH only uses materials and suppliers that meet
global standards for sustainability, such as the Global Organic Textile
Standard, and provides consumers as much transparency as possible in relation
to the supply chain for each product.
As for scale, A.BCH
keeps most of its stock in raw material state in order to operate on a
just-in-time and made-to-order model of production. This lean manufacturing
system and low inventory levels allows the business to remain agile and
adaptable to changes in customer demand, while eliminating unsold stock or
overproduction issues at the source. The factory, where a majority of the
garments are produced, is owned and operated by A.BCH levelling design and
manufacturing into a collaborative and cohesive unit, while eliminating wastage
in sampling. The factory also operates on circular principals, with any
commercial, industrial or manufacturing waste captured and sorted via the waste
hierarchy. These are then reused in production or repurposed into the brand's
upcycling side project Red Line, while very small offcuts are colour and fibre
sorted for the brand's mechanical recycling program where new fabrics are
engineered for new styles or composted back to soil.
A.BCH continues to take
responsibility for its products after a sale is made. To ensure that the use
phase of the clothing is extended for as long as possible, A.BCH educates its
customers on garment care and end of life actions. A digital care guide is
provided with each A.BCH product so that customers can care for their clothing
in ways that extend the product’s lifespan and minimise resources used for
cleaning. A.BCH also provides free repairs for life on their products and runs
community repair workshops to help materials stay in circulation for longer.
When products have reached the
end of their useful lives, A.BCH encourages their repurposing, return,
recycling or composting: all enabled by decisions made in the design phase of
the product and by their business model. As well as providing a full bill of
materials information for potential external recyclers, A.BCH runs a program
where surrendered garments are sorted and either repaired for second-hand use,
re-made into something else entirely, or used as material for research and a
pilot program of cellulose recycling.
By designing with the whole
product lifecycle in mind – from sourcing and manufacture, to use and repair, to
recycling and responsible disposal - A.BCH minimises waste and resources input
and contributes to a more circular economy.
Running a circular business is not without its challenges, especially when the concept is still new to many people. From the beginning, A.BCH has had to do a lot of work in challenging the status quo and pushing for change from suppliers, industry, marketers and more. Balancing the business profitability with the values of creating circular products when the infrastructure is greatly lacking has been an ongoing challenge from the start.
Sourcing materials is a huge challenge, especially for a small business with low buying power. It’s also quite difficult to maintain a non-compromising approach to design, materials, making and even communications – all of which are crucial for a product to be produced for a circular life or for a system to not cause further issues downstream.
To overcome some of the initial pushback from suppliers and manufacturers, A.BCH has worked with them over longer time periods to build relationships and mutual trust. This also allows A.BCH to maintain an evidence-based approach to systems thinking, rather than jumping onto the latest trends in sustainable materials which may have larger, and worse, implications if not managed appropriately.
One other key challenge is the industry norm of over-production and seemingly endless trend cycles that encourage over consumption. A.BCH works against these factors daily through customer interactions, delivering consultation across the sector, educating at the tertiary level and by working with multi-disciplinary collaborators. A.BCH sees challenging the business model of endless growth as a key issue to overcome in the next 5 years.
The ongoing challenge is balancing all these factors in just the right measure to ensure a sustainable business model, while also staying true to the company values and circular economy vision.
A.BCH shows that circular processes can be embedded into a product’s value chain by considering every aspect of a product’s lifecycle – production, use, reuse and disposal – at the initial design stage, as well as adopting circular business processes like repair and repurposing. Having established systems in place is also important, allowing for sharing, tracking material flows, and waste capturing and recovery to help transition to a circular economy.
A.BCH shows that by setting clear goals around sustainability, it is possible to build a business that designs, produces and sells products incorporating circular principles. This is strengthened by engaging with suitable suppliers and certification organisations while communicating transparently and effectively with consumers and other potential collaborators.
Businesses should examine each
step of their value chains and product lifecycles for opportunities to
introduce innovative processes, such as repair services, and generate more
value for customers. Circular economy principles can be incorporated into both
products and processes, ideally through an understanding of how the 2 influence
Circular economy principles need
to be considered at the start of a product’s life (the design phase) to embed
circular principles throughout the whole lifecycle. This ensures that product
design choices consider the use, reuse and disposal opportunities, as well as
what business processes can be enabled by the design.
For more information visit the A.BCH
A.BCH is currently building a
digital platform to connect the oversupply of textile materials with demand.
The project has received funding through the Circular Economy Innovation Fund.