A Conversation with Lily Pepper: The Heart and Soul Behind CiRCEE

A Conversation with Lily Pepper: The Heart and Soul Behind CiRCEE

In an enlightening chat, Lily Pepper, the visionary founder of CiRCEE, shares the compelling story that gave life to a brand at the forefront of circular fashion. From an eye-opening moment on a tranquil beach to the ambitious mission of transforming consumer habits, Lily takes us through CiRCEE's journey and her hopes for a greener future.

Can you share the story behind starting Circee Company? What was the moment or realisation that sparked this idea?

Circee started on a beach. A bit cliché, I know, but the idea came about when I sat on one of Zeeland’s many wonderful beaches and saw this old, half-rotten bikini lying next to me. I knew a little about fashion's negative environmental impact, but it only hit me when I saw a bikini polluting the surroundings. The research that followed revealed to me that fashion generates 92 million tons of textile waste and is responsible for 10% of global CO2 emissions. Despite knowing the negative impacts of fast fashion, it's hard to make sustainable clothing choices. Sustainable alternatives can be expensive, hard to access, and require effort to research, resell, repair, or recycle properly. Then, the idea was born - creating a space that removes the obstacles between circular fashion and people – making it easy, accessible, and enjoyable.

The term "circular fashion" carries significant weight in today's linear and fast-paced world. How do you define circular fashion, and what does it represent for Circee?

Circular fashion is a big term. Fundamentally, instead of throwing our clothes away when we no longer want them, we bring them back into circulation and ensure they never end up as waste. It starts as early as buying highly durable clothes made from sustainable materials, which allows us to wear our clothes for as long as possible and maintain them through repairs. Once we’re done with them, we can give them away, so they get a second life with someone else. After that, they can get upcycled or, as a very last resort, recycled into new materials. For CiRCEE, all these activities along the ‘circle’ play a role because we want to combine them under one roof, and we plan to offer everything from the more durable brands to repair and upcycling services and reselling and recycling options.

How does CiRCEE maintain its commitment to sustainability while staying competitive in the market?

For Circee, sustainability forms the very core of our mission. The company loses its foundations if we don’t try to pursue sustainability. However, we must be particularly careful about selecting brands we work with. Thanks to greenwashing, trust is a big issue, so we need to be extra careful in ensuring we do not sacrifice our sustainability to work with a particular brand. We’ve created our sustainability assessment criteria based on meticulous research and constantly review and reevaluating them.

What are consumers' biggest misconceptions about sustainable fashion, and how does Circee address them?

There is a significant lack of awareness regarding the fashion industry's impact on people and the environment. While many individuals know the importance of sustainability, they are often unaware of the fashion industry's role in this. Even more concerning is that many people continue to purchase from fast fashion brands even when they know it is unsustainable. This is called the knowledge-implementation gap, which means people know it is unsustainable but do not act differently. This is a highly problematic situation.

Looking into the future, what vision do you have for CiRCEE? How do you see it evolving in the next 5 to 10 years?

We aim to make circular fashion available to as many people as possible. To achieve this, we plan to expand CiRCEE's reach. Ideally, we would like to set up a hub in every major city, making it convenient for people to access our services. Additionally, we want to broaden our digital offerings to cater to customers who are in remote areas or have less time to go to a store.

If you could share one message with individuals striving to make more sustainable choices in their lives, what would it be?

Buy less new. If you want variety, consider buying second-hand or renting your clothes, which are far more sustainable alternatives than buying new. And if you still want to buy something new, get it from a sustainable brand. It might be more expensive, but you’ll enjoy the piece longer. Also, please don’t throw your clothes away whatever you do, but ensure they end up back in circulation. There are many ways to do that, starting with a simple upcycling session to give the piece a new look or repairing it when it breaks. Host a clothing swap with your friends or resell them online. There are so many options, meaning clothing is unnecessary to end up in the waste bin.

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