Can You Make A Difference And A Profit With A Circular Model?

Can You Make A Difference And A Profit With A Circular Model? 

GUESTS FOR CHANGE: KARLA MAGRUDER PART 1

Within the Guests for Change series, thought leaders, pioneers, visionaries, and game-changers are interviewed to give us more insight into the world of sustainability and circularity. In an exclusive conversation with Karla Magruder, we learn about her story, beliefs, and values.

Having founded Fabrikology, a textile consulting company, 18 years ago, Karla Magruder has been involved in the industry for more than 30 years. Her global experience spans from fibers to finished garments. She more recently founded a new non-profit organization in 2019, called Accelerating Circularity- with that exact intention in mind, specifically focussing on the recycling of textiles.   

Karla is driven by an intense curiosity, and the need to find out why things are the way they are. Her main source of inspiration for entering the textile industry comes from an affinity with textiles. From making her own clothes at a young age to attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, every choice she has made in her career has led her to work primarily with textiles. Karla describes: “people assume because I am in the textile industry I love fashion but if I had to say there was one thing I loved its textiles.”

She has always had a love of textiles, and even admits that she would “forgo the latest style for the nicest fabric”. 

Recognizing that the textile industry concerns more than just clothing, her understanding of circularity is “A system that connects each step in a product’s life and maintains a product’s life for as long as possible.” It is from within this perspective that her more holistic perception of integrated industries stems.

for Karla, circularity and sustainability are two very different things.

To elaborate, a circular system is one in which carbon impacts are reduced. This differs from her perspective of a sustainable system - which is one in which a more ethical balance is struck between the economic, social, and environmental aspects of the manufacturing processes of a product. This balance is one in which we have yet to get right, she reveals. As such, we are not there yet in terms of circularity as it is a new business model that we are still becoming familiar with. 

Circularity therefore is a system. And, in Karla’s understanding, that entire system needs to be in place in order for it to be considered circular. Companies will use recycled fiber and say that they are circular, however that is not circularity. 

Image by Terri Bleeker from Unsplash

circularity encompasses everything, from the inception of the garment through its entire life cycle - creating continuation of that life cycle.

When considering the biggest problem that the textile industry is currently facing, Karla states that there is a disconnection within the reality of the true cost of the textile industry from an environmental and a social perspective. Back in the day when one member of staff on the production line was not happy with their working conditions they could simply stop and the entire production line would fall behind - everyone was dependent on each other, however now we face mass production whereby the individual is overlooked and overworked. 

When considering the biggest problem that the textile industry is currently facing, Karla states that there is a disconnection within the reality of the true cost of the textile industry from an environmental and a social perspective. Back in the day when one member of staff on the production line was not happy with their working conditions they could simply stop and the entire production line would fall behind - everyone was dependent on each other, however now we face mass production whereby the individual is overlooked and overworked. 

Image by Mel Poole from Unsplash

Building upon Karla’s insight we asked her whether she thought that there could be a balance between making a profit and making a difference? Her view is that if your main goal is to make a profit then you don’t need to create anything new, as it already exists. On the other hand, if your goal is to be circular, then you need to prioritize reducing carbon and commit to a circular business model that will make a profit in a way that works for everyone within the system. The advice she would give to those starting a new business while adopting a circular model would be to question if you have the capability of truly creating something that is circular...


Read part two of our conversation with Karla to gain an insight into the important role chemistry plays within the textile industry, how as a consumer you can tell the difference between realistic transparency and then greenwashing, and where she thinks the real power behind change is… 



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