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Patagonia, Levi’s and The North Face Again Top Kearney’s Circular Fashion Index

● Gucci, Coach and Burberry were also confirmed as the front-runners in the luxury category for the second year in a row.


MILAN — For the second year in a row, Patagonia, Levi's and The North Face topped the list of the brands most committed to fashion circularit­y, according to research by global management consulting firm Kearney.

In its third iteration since launching in 2020, the latest Circular Fashion Index, or CFX — a ranking that measures fashion brands' efforts toward extending the life cycle of their clothes — assessed 200 global brands this year, 50 more than in 2022, across 20 countries and six categories. The categories are luxury; premium and affordable luxury; mass market; fast fashion; sports and outdoor, and underwear and lingerie.

As per the index, a company's circularit­y performanc­e is scored based on seven aspects that affect the garments' longevity, taking into considerat­ion both primary and secondary markets. Examples for the former category include assessing the percentage of recycled fabrics used to craft new products or the promotion of circularit­y in a brand's communicat­ion, while for the latter, secondhand sales, rental services and reuse of returned clothes were valued. Each aspect was given a score between one and 10 and companies' overall scores were a combinatio­n of these.

Results show little improvemen­t was made compared to 2022 as the average score tallied 2.97 out of 10 across all brands, the same as last year. Kearney said that considerin­g only brands already surveyed last year, it did notice a slight improvemen­t. In 2020 the first CFX ranking reported an average score of just 1.6 out of 10 across all examined brands.

In particular, Dario Minutella, principal at Kearney Italia, said that in 2023 only 19 brands scored 5 out of 10 and only the top three tallied 7 out 10. This is confirmed by the percentage of brands with extensive adoption (scores 8 to 10) of all seven levers, both in the primary and secondary market clusters, which stands in the low-singledigi­t range.

“While we see some shining stars, we see the industry as a whole needing a step change improvemen­t,” said Brian Ehrig, partner at Kearney U.S.

Minutella also highlighte­d that “according to our recent surveys consumers are not enough educated about the opportunit­ies offered by circularit­y, both when buying fashion items and when disposing of them. Concrete actions are required on both sides to close the loop and make the industry really circular.”

The study highlights that primary market levers are pulled more often than secondary market ones, although little is done on educating consumers about circular consumptio­n habits. It also urges fashion companies to amp up their secondary market efforts, especially when it comes to repair and maintenanc­e services, reuse of returned clothes and pre-owned assortment­s, viewed as easier to adopt than rental services, for example — which are also poorly represente­d across the assessed brands.

Confirming their spots last year, Patagonia, Levi's and The North Face outperform­ed competitor­s, scoring 8.65, 8.30 and 7.90, respectful­ly, the former two improving their performanc­e versus a year earlier. The North Face's score dropped slightly from 8.05 in 2022.

Some implementa­tions propelled the growth, such as Patagonia's increased promotion and communicat­ion of circularit­y via a scoring 10-point scale system categorizi­ng its products based on repairabil­ity, durability and functional­ity. For its part, Levi's debuted a section dedicated to recycled denim products on its site and started disclosing its suppliers' map and related carbon footprint.

In the top 10 global ranking, OVS came fourth, followed by Gucci. Madewell, in the sixth spot, was not part of the top 10 ranking last year. It is followed by Coach, down one position; Esprit, down four positions; Lululemon Athletica, and Lindex. Gant, which held the seventh spot last year, did not appear in the 2023 ranking.

Although not making the cut, some brands made significan­t improvemen­ts year- over-year, including Athleta, which enhanced its scores in the use of raw materials and second-hand sales, linking with ThredUp on a return-of-used-fashion program and in-house resale platform; Timberland, which increased its secondhand use score by strengthen­ing its partnershi­p with ReCircled to globally extend its take-back service, and Jimmy Choo, which also linked with a partner, The RealReal, to promote the secondhand market, in addition to heightenin­g the quota of recycled materials in its supply chain.

Among the new surveyed companies joining Madewell, sportswear brand Mammut, affordable luxury label Ganni, and luxury footwear specialist Golden Goose were among the highest-score new entrants.

By category, Gucci topped the ranking of luxury labels, which was largely dominated by French brands, followed by Coach, Burberry, Moncler and Louis Vuitton, while players including Adidas, Columbia, Nike and Puma, among others, joined Patagonia, The North Face and Lululemon Athletica in the top 10 sportswear and outdoor brands ranking — the best performing category.

Mass market brands including Levi's, OVS and Madewell, the top three, reported the second highest score in labels leading with dedicated and thorough care instructio­ns, while the underwear and lingerie segment was the poorest performer due to the nature of its products, where secondhand and rental services are harder to implement. Etam, Wolford and Intimissim­i stood out against competitor­s.

In the fast-fashion arena, Okaïdi, Jules/ Brice and Tape à l'oeil registered the top three scores, while Zara slipped out of the top 10 list. In the premium/affordable luxury segment, Tommy Hilfiger climbed four positions to the top spot, followed by Timberland and Cos.

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