A comprehensive review of circular economy research in the textile and clothing industry

Krishnendu Saha* (Corresponding / Lead Author), Prasanta Kumar Dey, Vikas Kumar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


The textile and clothing industry is a significant global sector due to its economic and social contributions. However, it is one of the most polluting industries. There has been a significant uptake of research on circular economy implementation to reduce its environmental impacts. Nevertheless, there is a critical gap in reviewing how the research field is evolving and what the core focus and underlying assumptions of the existing research are. This paper utilises bibliometrics, content analysis, and problematisation to comprehensively examine the state of research. Analysing 132 primary documents dating from January 2014 to April 2023, this study reveals that sustainability-oriented innovation and transition challenges are the core focus of existing research. Technology-oriented circularity and its positive impact on sustainability is the in-house assumption that almost all studies are founded on. Besides unpacking the risk of such assumptions, this study provides tangible suggestions for future research on circular economy disruption, its rebound effect, and sustainability-oriented innovation. Although the time lag and language biases may have impacted the representation of current research trends, findings from this study can facilitate academic research and industry practice in implementing circular economy practices for a more sustainable future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number141252
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 13 Feb 2024


Articles that suggest stakeholder collaboration (e.g., Fischer and Pascucci, 2017; Pedersen et al., 2019; Rainville, 2021; Siderius and Poldner, 2021) propose an emerging but influential metaphor: the puzzle (Grazzini et al., 2021). This root metaphor views circular fashion as a complex system that requires all the pieces to work together to create a sustainable industry. Each piece represents a different aspect of circular fashion, such as sustainable materials, CBMs, or waste management. It shifts the focus from the current business-centric neoliberal view to a more stakeholder engagement by incorporating NGOs and public bodies. For example, collaborations between industry, academia, and the third sector, such as the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funds for a sustainable fashion and textiles industry and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's efforts in a circular fashion, are encouraging circular design competitions and knowledge-sharing platforms. These initiatives have the potential to significantly impact the adoption of circular practices, inspiring the industry to embrace a more sustainable and regenerative model.

FundersFunder number
UK Research and Innovation
Ellen MacArthur Foundation


    • literature review
    • Bibliometric study
    • Circular economy
    • Clothing and fashion
    • Textiles
    • Sustainability-oriented innovation


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