Phat Plastic — A fashion lifecycle system designed to bring brands into the circular economy

Service Design, Systems Design

Phat Plastic is a complete cradle-to-cradle system that helps brands transition towards the circular economy. It consists of  innovations across the material, production, management, and recycling of garments, allowing brands to reduce their CO2 output by 80% compared to regular polyester garments.

Currently, less than 1% of clothes are recycled, and 87% are either incinerated or sent to landfills, meaning that the fashion industry contributes to 10% of global CO2 emissions. Even more, the fashion industry is causing immense ecological damage through pollution, deforestation, and desertification.
The fashion industry has failed to take a systems approach to tackling this problem, meaning that although there have been innovations at various stages of the fashion lifecycle, there has been little development of a fully circular and economically viable system. Therefore, we used a systems design approach, consulting with key stakeholders in material science, fashion design, commercial management, and recycling, to analyse existing problems and opportunities for development. Through this, we developed Phat Plastic.
Phat Plastic is circular fashion lifecycle management system that works with brands to produce garments, specifically designed to recycled and incorporated back into supply chains. By focusing on the production, management, and recycling of garments for partner brands, this system allows brands to double-down on their core propositions without neglecting environmental concerns.
Imperial College Innovation Pitch (2020)
Dyson School Open House (2021)
Nikki Fotiou
Ruben Portz
Service Design
User/Market Research
Business Strategy

A cradle-to-cradle system

Garments are produced using PHA - a novel bio-plastic with comparable properties to polyester but with substantially lower environmental impact. Garments are manufactured using electospinning, a waste-free method that jumps straight from material to garment in a single step. This method allows the creation of novel designs and seamless constructions, whilst reducing the intermediary partners in the supply chain
Phat Plastic garments carry a unique ID on their label allowing both brands and their customers to access a garment’s metadata - ensuring that it is genuine and is sustainably made by Phat Plastic. Garment ID's are associated with tokens that are powered by a distributed ledger network. These tokens carry a monetary value tied to a garment, allowed them to be traded by partners of the system, therefore providing an incentive to care for and eventually recycle garments.
This additional layer to the Phat Plastic system provides liquidity, allowing brands to responsibly manage overstock knowing that unsold garments can be traded back. Phat Plastic recieves all pre and post-consumer waste and recycles them back into PHA from which new garments can be produced. In this way, we can avoid waste and reduce emissions by incorporating recycled content into new garments.
In exchange, customers recieve credit that can be spent on Phat Plastic products under partner brands. When customers redeem their credit at partner brands or retailers, we renumerate the amount spent. With this system, customers are incentivised to recycle their garments and return back to partner brands and retailers to shop for sustainable clothes.

Designed in partner with industry experts

We were supported by mentors from Imperial College Business School who advised on the project. Throughout the development process of the Phat Plastic system, we reached out to over 80 experts within the fields of fashion, business and chemistry. Through interviews, surveys, and a trial-run of the returns system, we identified opportunity areas and validated insights. This research was paired with business proposal to attract potential investors. It comprised of market analysis, a 3-year financial plan, and a roadmap to scale the system. In addition, we established an instagram page gather insights from potential users directly, and drive traffic to our newsletter.