Design Principles for the Circular Economy

By Commercialising Creativity
May 3, 2023

“Design is at the heart of our industry and can become the driving force behind the implementation of circularity”, Andrée-Anne Lemieux, Head of Sustainability IFM-Kering: Research Institut Français de la Mode

Design is at the heart of the Circular Economy. Principles and strategies already exist for design professionals to ensure that their creations support the transition to a circular economy. This article explores design principles and strategies that fashion designers can integrate into their creative processes.

Eco-design Principles

Eco-design is all about respect for the environment and minimising the environmental impact of products. Its principles offer an approach to design with particular consideration for the environmental impacts of products during the entire life cycle. The Monitor for Circular Fashion 2022 by the SDA Bocconi summarises 10 key industry-specific principles for designing a circular fashion product. The report groups the principles into three broad categories:

Adapted from: Monitor for Circular Fashion REPORT 2022, SDA Bocconi, School of Management, Sustainability Lab, Monitor for Circular Fashion, 2022, Report

There are many environmental benefits of taking an eco-design approach. For example, brands can minimise waste and carbon emissions, reduce dependence on water, stop the use of harmful chemicals. However, the benefits extend beyond the environment, eco-design can also reduce costs in the long-term.

Circular Economy Principles

Designing for the circular economy is not only about minimising environmental impacts, but is also about rethinking the impacts of fashion activities on all people across the fashion supply chain. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation has developed three design principles that can guide a holistic #CircularDesignProcess:

  • Eliminate waste and pollution
  • Circulate products and materials
  • Regenerate nature

Integrating these principles can help designers to create more effective and #InnovativeSolutions for the circular economy.

It is also important to consider how these circular design principles can be integrated into the design process. A method for circular design has been conceptualised by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation and can be broken down into four phases:

  1. Understanding the user, the system and circular flows
  2. Defining the challenge
  3. Ideating, designing, and prototyping
  4. Launching to learn

Design is an iterative process and an activity that takes place continuously throughout the whole value-chain process.

Figure 1: The Circular Design Principles, The four-step method to put circular design into practice, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Work with us on your circular design strategy

We help our clients to focus on sustainable innovation at every step from brand development to collection planning. By incorporating eco- and circular design principles into their work, fashion brands can use design to make a positive impact on people, planet and culture. This can be done in a circular way, ensuring that the product and materials retain their value and are used in a closed cycle, without compromising on aesthetics and function. This might look like choosing long-lasting high quality or recycled fabrics, designing timeless pieces, building and delivering strategies for repair and resale, reusing and upcycling unsold items or communicating the eco-design principles transparently. But it is also about thinking how design can benefit society. This involves adopting best practices in labour, health and safety and ensuring the wellbeing of all people across the supply chain. It is also about considering the diversity of the consumers and encouraging #MindfulConsumption with customers.

We are proud to be working with purpose-driven fashion brands who balance beautiful design with responsible and ethical production. No matter where you are on your journey to incorporating eco-design and circular design principles into your brand strategy, at Commercialising Creativity we can help your business transition towards circular practices. Visit our website or contact us at with any questions regarding your circular design strategy.


  • Monitor for Circular Fashion REPORT 2022, SDA Bocconi, School of Management, Sustainability Lab, Monitor for Circular Fashion, 2022, Report
  • Circular Design for Fashion, Ellen MacArthur Foundation Publishing, 2021, Book
  • Eco-Design: Focal Point of Sustainable Textiles, Fiber2Fashion , online article,
  • Design and the Circular Economy: