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Q&A with CAP Member: Ross Barry

Dec 17, 2021

What do you believe the biggest hurdles/opportunities for transitioning to a new circular business mindset will be, for WA, for the industry?

Full circularity ushers a new paradigm for clothing manufacture. The biggest hurdles will be obstacles by vested interest in the status quo and given the global nature of the industry, no one can envisage where these hurdles will come from. The biggest challenge will be maintaining focus and momentum for those committed to circularity.  

Name 3 things you think businesses will be doing differently in a circular future.

Designing for circularity – we are already seeing a move to mono fibres.  As circular technology and designers start aligning, the design process will naturally incorporate end of life considerations, including the ability to recycle blends.

Traceability – irrespective of EPR, brands are becoming more interested in how and why their customers choose their product and how they use it.  New technology will enable a raft of data for brands to track and trace their clothing from start to finish and assess levels of wear and tear.

Logistics – a new method for collecting clothing at end of life will need to be developed, be that in-store collections, courier collection or something entirely new.  Does it go to one hub to sort for brands or do brands collect their own stock?

Briefly describe your background, interests, areas of expertise?

Like so many textile merchants, it’s no surprise I’m third generation. My grandfather would have considered himself in the textile reclamation business, specialising in recycling to the point he went to night-school to learn Italian so he could sell wool to Prato directly.  My father started afresh in 1985 and pioneered the bourgeoning reuse market in Sub-Saharan Africa.  With the advent of circularity, it feels we have come full circle and now back to recycling however, the expertise of established reuse markets are essential as the most sustainable solution is extended life.  It will be interesting to see if alternative business models such as hire, will eclipse this.

What does circularity in the textiles industry mean to you?

A lot of people seem to take a literal approach to circularity; a T shirt doesn’t have to be a T shirt again and circularity can still incorporate recycling and extended life.  The difference with circularity is responsibility. If you make a garment and it is recycled to produce carpet underlay and you have a retail presence, then purchasing back the recycled carpet underlay can still be circular. I think businesses need to broaden their vision and try to keep resources proximate to their operation.   

What made your decision to join the CAP?

The hope that I would learn more, not just about WA but also insights from the varied and interesting group which make up the CAP.

How important is this Circular Advisory Panel approach for preparing a company like WA for the market (i.e. a business starting out with the sole purpose of enabling circularity but entering the market in ‘linear times’)? 

WA is taking the first steps into a brand-new world. I feel the CAP is a team preparing for an expedition, drawing on experience and expertise to try and map out the route and hopefully ensure the chosen route is the best with all the available information.

What do you think it will bring to the company?

A broader spectrum of expertise than they will have in-house and with people operating in spheres who will be able to access information and direct it into the company where they may not otherwise be privy to it.

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