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AIAYU is a Copenhagen-based sustainable luxury wear brand rooted in quality and craftsmanship. Since their first collection in 2005 the brand has strived to demonstrate that a 100% responsible business practice is the only way to do business. Merging ancient production skills from Bolivia, India and Nepal with Scandinavian simplicity has allowed AIAYU to create uncomplicated yet unique designs. But the brand’s ethos reaches far beyond design; from textile certifications to packaging and transport, AIAYU have always aspired to ensure the environmental impact their pieces carry is of equal importance as the aesthetic. AIAYU signed the Global Fashion Agenda 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment setting the goal of increasing the products made of recycled post-consumer textile fibres.

For this week’s Circular Sunday segment we caught up with CEO of AIAYU Maria Glæsel to find out if they’re on track to meet their targets, how they’re avoiding waste in their own production and what she thinks the future holds for the fashion industry.

AIAYU has been a sustainable brand with responsible business practice since its conception. At what point did circularity and zero waste become a focus for you?

MG: It has always been a part of our mission but got our full attention in 2013 when we started producing with organic cotton. Each product had so much leftover! In our existing knitwear line, we didn’t have that problem because the cutting is set to a minimum. We wanted to do something about it as an alternative to not producing. We don’t compromise on design, quality or integrity of our products, but make them truly sustainable by taking measures along our entire value chain. We only use organic, natural fibers, our Bolivia factory recycles 100% of its water, in India we produce using solar energy and we have a free repair service in place.

Could you tell us a bit about your zero waste programme; what were your key learnings from its implementation? Can we expect to see more products added to the range?

MG: We design intelligently, using all the material we have. A wide product portfolio allows us to use most of it – bed linen, pillows, clothes, pouches. Leftovers are used to make care labels and hang tags, smaller pieces become rugs.
 Biggest learning has been to treat scrap as the high quality, organic cotton resource it is – instead of as a byproduct – and to make good design to suit it. Our aim is to reduce not re-use, so we don’t have plans to add more to the range unless it comes naturally. Our zero waste
 products can be as profitable as our newly produced products which is a very important learning and brings a whole new perspective on the possibilities of business models.

RAW RUGS. Zero Waste Collection from AIAYU

AIAYU signed the Global Fashion Agenda 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment setting the goal of increasing the products made of recycled post-consumer textile fibres by 200% – are you still on track to achieve this by 2020?

MG: We are on track, but not the way we envisioned. For us it’s a 360-degree process. We re-use 4000 tons of scrap. We use scrap from other companies as well. Our Zero Waste products have increased because we have grown and our volumes in general have grown. We didn’t arbitrarily increase it to meet the 200% goal. Producing, even if with scrap, just to meet a target is illogical. Our aim is to produce only as much as we need to without any waste. The commitment is a great source of inspiration – but we don’t know if we will meet the 200% increase goal.

How do you see the future of the industry? What would you like to see happen at an industry level to transition to a circular fashion system?

MG: It could be great if the fashion industry implemented a resource quota system like the fishing industry – so a company can only use x amount of resources in year. Our natural resources are depleting. Along with controlling overproduction I think it will do wonders for creativity – we will get better design. Companies will focus on making good design which will sell. So, in the end it is simply good commerce.

Read more about the targets set by the signatories and the 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment.