Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management




School of Arts and Humanities




This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Emerald in JOURNAL OF FASHION MARKETING AND MANAGEMENT on 17/05/2022, available online:

Piller, L. W. (2023). Designing for circularity: sustainable pathways for Australian fashion small to medium enterprises. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal, 27(2), 287-310.



Australians consume twice the global average of textiles and are deeply engaged in a linear take/make/waste fashion model. Furthermore the Australian fashion sector has some unique supply chain complications of geographical distances, sparse population and fragmentation in processing and manufacturing. This research aims to examine how Australian fashion small to medium enterprises (SMEs) are overcoming these challenges to run fashion businesses built around core principles of product stewardship (PS) and circularity.


SMEs make up 88% of the Australian apparel manufacturing sector. This qualitative exploratory study included in-depth interviews with three Australian fashion SMEs engaged in circular design practice, and a focus group of 10 Western Australian fashion advocates of sustainability. Analytic coding and analysis of the data developed eight distinct themes. Findings: This study examines the barriers to circular economy (CE) that exist in the Australian fashion sector, and maps the practice of Australian SMEs with circular business models in overcoming these barriers. In CE innovation, Australian SMEs may have an advantage over larger fashion companies with more unwieldy structures. Employing design-thinking strategies, Australian SMEs with a foundation of PS and circular purpose are creating new systems of viable closed-loop business models and design processes.


The themes from this research contribute to the limited literature on circular innovation examples that link CE theory with practice in the fashion sector. The model for circularity maps the practice of three SMEs built around core principles of PS and circularity in overcoming the barriers to CE in an Australian context, and may be used as a visual tool in education and understanding.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License