Ccrave wants to make circular fashion accessible

Ccrave, a shopping platform specializing in the circular economy, opened its second pop-up concept in Amsterdam last week. FashionUnited spoke to founder Vincent van Dessel about innovations in sustainable fashion, new business models and his goal to fight climate change.

Circular economy means avoiding waste, keeping products in circulation and regenerating nature. How difficult was it to find interesting brands that fit all of these criteria?

First of all, let’s forget the idea of ​​finding brands that meet all circular economy criteria. Closing the loop and moving to a circular economy is still a work in progress. The circular fashion market in particular is in an introductory phase with limited supply. Real innovations are currently being dreamed up by start-ups or smaller brands, driven by passionate and visionary entrepreneurs with influence.

The pool where you can fish is limited. It gets even smaller if you use outstanding design as an additional selection criterion. But they are there, and more and more interesting brands are emerging: recyclable sneakers from Wayz, sports equipment made from cork and recycled materials from Pierre Sports, the first recycled and recyclable toothbrush with removable heads from Doop and many more.

Our verification process examines various levels of the circular economy – at least three of the seven pillars of our verification process must be met in order to gain access. Our goal is a platform with brands that meet all criteria. So when we see that there is a good starting position, we provide the guidance for growth.

Image: Wayz Sneakers

Would you say that the circular economy is a solution to fashion’s negative contribution to climate change?

The biggest problem was the growth of fast fashion in the last decades, the overstimulation of consumers and the increase in ever faster collection rhythms. This has severely impacted our resource extraction and climate change; a practice contrary to the central pillar of reduction. We need to simplify our consumer behavior and change this mentality of wanting more and more more.

The circular economy is an overall concept that encompasses many different dimensions, from reusing waste to recycling to reducing it – and buying consciously. The combination of these different elements will lead to systemic change and a more climate-friendly fashion ecosystem.

Social fairness is also a pillar of the circular economy and includes the demand for fair wages, the abolition of child labor and safe working conditions. Pure platforms for environmentally conscious or fair fashion are not the solution. A platform focused on driving the circular economy revolution like ours can be.

You had a successful international career in marketing. What made you decide to start a circular economy company?

I describe myself as an “ex-advertiser who’s become conscious.” After working in advertising for large multinational companies for almost two decades, marketing linear products in Europe and Asia, I had an aha moment. I realized that I wanted to use my experience and skills for companies and people who are making a real difference in the world and helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. So I switched to impact entrepreneurship, consulting for a few social enterprises and mentoring startups before starting my own business. A book about how design is a key factor in the success of the circular economy transition was the ultimate motivating factor in founding Ccrave.

Do you have any tips for designers who want to start a circular business model?

The circular economy is complex and has many layers. In our last webinar, we identified the ten most important pillars for a successful circular brand. It all depends on the life stage of the brand, whether you as an entrepreneur make the right choice.

Decisions can be made at many different levels of the supply chain. Do you start with the choice of materials? What about certifications? Do you have a budget for LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) and impact measurement tools? What about your logistics and the last mile? Are you considering closed-loop and end-of-life reclamation programs? Can you introduce a rental model? So it’s better to go step by step than to be too ambitious. Successful circular innovation always starts with the company’s DNA and visionary people.

Desirability is very important in fashion. Can recyclable fashion be just as attractive or be perceived as even more attractive by customers?

A differentiated and appealing design is a crucial factor if we want linear consumers to switch to a circular product. For decades, unsightly sustainable recycled products have undermined people’s perception of recycled products. There weren’t enough offers with style. With the new generation of circular products, people can finally switch to an attractive alternative.

You can make circular fashion items as desirable as people want them to be by applying linear old-world marketing techniques to the circular pillars: a unique brand story, collaborations with artists or other brands, limited editions. But everything always starts with a good product and design.

What are the most innovative or impactful circular initiatives on Ccrave?

My personal favorites are two Belgian brands: Yuma Labs – 3D printed circular sunglasses and Honest – circular jeans. These brands understand what circular economy really means – collecting waste as a starting point, clear transparency on positive impacts, collaborations and special collections, inspiring end-of-life programs, a unique brand identity and story, and beautifully designed products that stand out.

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Image: HNST Jeans

What do you expect next in terms of sustainability and sustainable fashion?

We will move in a direction where different elements must be combined to make sustainable fashion successful and the new point of reference: made-to-order and real-time production, full transparency with blockchain traceability, innovative and circular new materials, data to measure the Impact, enabling people to make informed and conscious choices, and virtual fashion innovation.

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Image: Vincent Van Dessel, Founder of Ccrave

This article was previously published on Translation and editing: Barbara Russ.