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This week, international fashion retailers are meeting in Barcelona to explore how to address demands from consumers and regulators to transition to more sustainable models while recovering declining sales in Europe.

Attending the World Retail Congress, one of the largest annual conferences in the sector, are executives from organisations including China’s Shein, Spain’s Mango, and Ireland’s Primark.

They will talk about the difficulties their companies are facing as consumers cut back on their purchases in Europe and internationally due to inflation. More stringent European regulations will also be present.

New regulations on textile waste are being developed by the European Commission, which will hold businesses accountable for managing the waste that their goods generate.

According to Valerie Boiten, senior policy officer at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that collaborates with H&M, Inditex, Mango, Primark, and Zalando, “There is growing pressure from regulators on the fast fashion model, which is premised on high volumes and affordable prices.”

Consumers in the European Union throw away about 5.8 million tonnes of textiles every year, according to the European Environment Agency.

“The current model is set up for failure if you take into account climate change and resource scarcity,” said Boiten.

The European Union is working to transition to a ‘circular’ economy, in which businesses recycle and reuse materials rather than depleting finite resources to create new goods.

In certain of their stores, companies like H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo are now offering garment repair services. In addition to selling brand-new clothing, Uniqlo also sells used jeans and shirts that have been patched with ‘sashiko’ embroidery with a Japanese flair at its Battersea Power Station location in London.

This month, Circ, a US business in which Inditex and Bill Gates have invested, provided Zara with its first women’s line. Circ is the owner of technology that can generate new fabric by separating the polyester and cotton in used clothing.