The Fashion World Commits to Change and Sustainability in Copenhagen

The Fashion World Commits to Change and Sustainability in Copenhagen

A week ago, executives and decision-makers in the fashion world gathered together for the fifth Copenhagen Fashion Summit. Dubbed as the “world’s leading business forum on sustainability in fashion1,” the event had a two-fold mission: 1) ensure that sustainability is a top priority for the industry; and 2) rally the fashion world to firmly commit to the circular economy model.

Were they able to fulfil their mission? Let’s look at some of the highlights of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2017:

1. The summit was able to bring together the C-suites and leaders of the industry to talk about fashion sustainability.

As many as 800 of the greatest figures in fashion and sustainability came together in Denmark to map a better future for the industry. The event, organized by the non-profit Global Fashion Agenda under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, included attendees such as Michael Kowalski, the CEO of Tiffany & Co.; Vanessa Friedman, The New York Times fashion critic; Dame Ellen MacArthur of the MacArthur Foundation and advocate of circular economy; Prabal Gurung, a fashion designer; William McDonough, sustainability leader; Livia Firth, founder and director of the ideas consultancy company Eco-Age; among others2. Bringing together all of these people in one venue and getting them to engage with each other towards a sustainable future for fashion was a feat in itself.

The summit showcased the Pulse of the Fashion Industry, a report of the Global Fashion Agenda, in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group. The fashion industry’s score of 32 out of 100 in terms of sustainability performance as per the HIGG Index3set the tone for the discussion on the need to address the challenges of fashion as the second most polluting industry.

2. Fashion industry leaders agree: there should be a change in mindsets to ensure sustainability.

William McDonough, an advocate of the cradle-to-cradle thinking, introduced “circularity” as a buzzword. According to him, it is important to design products not just for one end but for perpetual reuse.4 In this way, sustainability is ensured.

Adidas commits to sustainability

This idea got giant companies such as Adidas, ASOS, H&M and Target to sign the global fashion agenda to collect, reuse and recycle materials that go into their fashion products.5

However, in a breakout session, Kristen Brodde from Greenpeace noted that the benefits of circularity is still “imaginary” at this point and it is more important to address the issue of fashion overconsumption.6 This brings into focus the importance of creating awareness on mindful consumption as a complement to the circular economy model.    

The Fashion World Commits to Change & Sustainability in Copenhagen

3. Fashion brands are making a stand on sustainability.

On their own, fashion brands are doing what they can to push for a sustainable planet. This refers to the use of innovative technologies, to the application of company-wide sustainable programs, to making a political stand.

Fashion Tech Labs announced during the summit the launch of their incubator program with a $50 million investment fund for the discovery and/or creation of new sustainable technologies in the fashion industry.7 The Hugo Boss brand shared their corporate strategy which includes sustainable metrics8 while Tiffany & Co. related their plea to U.S. President Donald Trump to uphold the Paris Agreement.9 

At the same time, brands are also starting to collaborate and form alliances to solve specific challenges.

4. The fashion industry is seriously looking into the supply chain to ensure a decent living wage for the workers.

In a breakout session on supply chain transparency, the issue of human rights and modern slavery were tackled, towards the thrust of ensuring fair wages for those working in the supply chain. Jessica Simor, a barrister at the European Court of Human Rights, highlighted what she has written in her report titled, ‘The Fundamental Right to a Living Wage’ that “any minimum wage that does not meet the living wage contravenes this right10.

Copenhagen Fashion Summit - Fashion brands agree on decent living wage for the workers.

5. Young leaders presented the very first UN draft resolution on fashion.

The students who attended the 2016 Youth Fashion Summit presented in Copenhagen the first-ever UN draft resolution that include their ideas and demands from the fashion industry. This resolution will be presented to the United Nations in New York this year.

All-in-all, the one-day summit resulted in great outcomes that will hopefully advance the cause of fashion sustainability.

What are your thoughts on the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2017? We’d love to hear from you. 

Show 10 footnotes

  1.  Copenhagen Fashion Summit. 2017. Global Fashion Agenda. Copenhagen Fashion Summit. Available at: https://www.copenhagenfashionsummit.com/global-fashion-agenda/.
  2.  Danish Fashion Institute. Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2017. Copenhagen Fashion Week. Available at: http://www.copenhagenfashionweek.com/article/copenhagen-fashion-summit-2017.
  3.  Kerr, John & Landry, John. 2017. Executive Summary. Pulse of the Fashion Industry. Global Fashion Agenda and the Boston Consulting Group, Inc. Available at: Gush, Charlotte. 2017. 5 of the Most Radical Green Ideas from the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. I-D.Vice, 19 May 2017. Available at: https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/5-of-the-most-radical-green-ideas-from-copenhagen-fashion-summit.
  4.  Gush, Charlotte. 2017. 5 of the Most Radical Green Ideas from the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. I-D.Vice, 19 May 2017. Available at: https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/5-of-the-most-radical-green-ideas-from-copenhagen-fashion-summit.
  5.  Loewe, Emma. 2017. This Is The Most Important Decision You Can Make About Your Clothes. MindBodyGreen, 22 May 2017. Available at: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/takeaways-from-the-copenhagen-fashion-summit-2017.
  6.  Gush, Charlotte. 2017. 5 of the Most Radical Green Ideas from the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. I-D.Vice, 19 May 2017. Available at: https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/5-of-the-most-radical-green-ideas-from-copenhagen-fashion-summit.
  7.  Ibid.
  8.  Loewe, Emma. 2017. This Is The Most Important Decision You Can Make About Your Clothes. MindBodyGreen, 22 May 2017. Available at: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/takeaways-from-the-copenhagen-fashion-summit-2017.
  9.  Nieto, Diana. 2017. Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2017: Seven Takeaways for the Luxury Industry. LuxurySociety, 16 May 2017. Available at: http://luxurysociety.com/en/articles/2017/05/copenhagen-fashion-summit-2017-seven-takeaways-luxury-industry/.
  10.  Gush, Charlotte. 2017. 5 of the Most Radical Green Ideas from the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. I-D.Vice, 19 May 2017. Available at: https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/5-of-the-most-radical-green-ideas-from-copenhagen-fashion-summit.

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