Image: Copenhagen Fashion Summit
One year I will get to attend the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, but until then I will read everything I can, listen to podcasts and watch the event live stream to absorb all the knowledge the fashion sector’s decision-makers, leading NGOs, experts, policy-makers and academia have to off load onto us.
The Copenhagen Fashion summit is the world’s most important event on sustainability in fashion. Bringing people from all over the world to discuss, debate and learn about the most critical issues facing our industry and planet. This is the most important sustainability in fashion event of the year and should be applauded.
The first summit took place in 2009 after President and CEO Eva Kruse Copenhagen noticed that the UN Climate summit programme didn't feature any fashion industry experts. The fashion industry is largest industry and most resource intensive so she was bewildered as to why this was the case. The Copenhagen Fashion Summit was born.
So, after reading A LOT and listening to the interviews and live streams, what did we learn?
"One of the biggest issues [I think] when it comes to sustainability in fashion, is that there is no specific, quantifiable guideline that everyone can follow to what constitutes a sustainable garment...if you're a consumer how are you supposed to make sense of that?" Vanessa Friedman - New York Times
1. Circular Fashion System
The topic of this year's Copenhagen Fashion Summit was "Commitment to Change". During the Summit, several leading companies of the fashion industry committed to take action for a more circular fashion system.
A circular fashion system simply comes down to reusing, repairing, reselling, recycling, REDUCING. Today's linear “take, make, dispose” economic model relies on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy. It is a model that is reaching its physical limits. Taking an approach of a circular system that restores and regenerates materials will offer new opportunities for innovative design, increased customer engagement and capture economic value.
A significant outcome of the summit was the launch of the Call to Action for a Circular Fashion System, which urged fashion brands and retailers to sign a letter of commitment to increase the volume of textiles collected, reused and recycled. By the end of the Summit, more than 30 companies had signed, among them: Adidas, ASOS, H&M, Marks & Spencer & Target.
However, there are great examples of brands that are leading the way with this circular fashion system with reducing, recycling and repairing at the core of their business models.
One of those brands is the brilliant Eileen Fisher, a company that is redesigning the fashion system. Their vision 2020 is a commitment to be a 100% sustainable company by the year 2020 "Our vision is for an industry where human rights and sustainability are not the effect of a particular initiative but the cause of a business well run. Where social and environmental injustices are not unfortunate outcomes but reasons to do things differently.
The Eileen Fischer social innovator project created "Fischer Found" a take back programme that gives "Eileen Fischer clothes life beyond your closet, you bring back your old clothing, we find them a new home or turn them into entirely new designs - because making clothes is a lifetime commitment"
2. Call To Action - Commitment
Eva Kruse and Jonas Eder-Hansen, presented the summit with a new proposal for a Circular Fashion System commitment, proposing a circular fashion system over a linear. Jonas Eder-Hansen stated "We're calling on fashion brands and retailers around the world to really take action on circularity, within four areas. We're calling on them to set targets, within those four areas within the next six months"
· Implementing design strategies for cyclability
· Increasing the volume of used garments collected
· Increasing the volume of used garments resold
· Increasing the share of garments made from recycled textile fibres
Signatories commit to define a strategy, set targets for 2020 and report on the progress of implementing the commitment.
3. Pulse Of The Fashion Industry
The Pulse of the Fashion Industry report 2017 is an attempt to break down sustainability in fashion.
A groundbreaking study developed by Global Fashion Agenda, together with the Boston Consulting Group, the Pulse report aims to offer a common baseline of ideas about sustainability that they believe will enable and empower the fashion industry to act on sustainability, making critical findings about efficacy of different models available to board-room decision-makers and others influencing business strategy.
· As of today, the sustainability "pulse" of the industry is weak – scoring only 32 out of 100
Fashion For Cause panel discussion was extremely interesting to me, as someone with little political knowledge I found this discussion; believe it or not, highly entertaining.
This panel debate explored fashion’s role in current culture and politics, with panellists sharing their unique experiences and discussing the importance of taking a stance and challenging the meaning of fashion in our society.
Much of this debate surrounded the current politically situation in the U.S since President Donald Trump was elected. Sparking fury with his stance against climate change, women and immigrants.
Simon Collins, Founder of Fashion Culture Design bolding asked designer Prabal Gurung "Would you dress the First Lady?" I nearly spat my coffee out, but Prabal answered this question extremely well and it impressed me how articulate and true to his values he was, responding "As a brand, as a person, I believe in diversity. I believe in inclusion and I don't believe in discrimination and thats what I and the brand stands for. And, as an immigrant coming from Nepal and chasing the American dream and realising it is pretty much part of my whole story and what the brand stands for. So, if the First Lady; knowing those brand values, still wants to be dressed by me, I would like to believe that she is showing silently; yet solidarity, towards us and if that's that case then I shall dress her." #applause
In another discussion between Michael J. Kowalski, Chairman of the board and interim CEO at Tiffany & Co. and Vanessa Friedman of the The New York Times, it was shared that Tiffany and Co recently took out an advertisement in The New York Time titled "We're Still In". The ad was a letter to President Donald Trump asking to keep the U.S. in the Paris Climate Agreement in support of climate change.
More so in the last 12 months, we have learnt that climate change is the biggest issue affecting our planet RIGHT NOW and the fashion industry as second most polluting industry in the world as a lot to answer for. This goes back to why the circular fashion system and commitment for change is so important now more than ever. We want to see these changes in our lifetime and we are the people to be pushing for it.
5. In Commitment To Our Future
The voice of the next generation was a powerful presentation by the Youth Fashion Summit Assembly, recalling the 2016 UN Environmental Assembly Resolution and the demands of the 2016 Youth Fashion Summit insisting to make sustainability the primary norm of the industry.
Listen to their demands here, it's a really inspiring speech:
Finally, I wanted to finish this post with a statement from Vanessa Friedman who I have quoted a number of times throughout as her words really resonated with me.
When asked, How much is it the responsibility of the consumer & how much is it the responsibility of the brands? Vanessa responded:
"It's both, I think we have really lost our understanding of value, and how value resides in an object and I think that is partly a trained response. I really think it's how fast fashion has taught people to think, which is that you are in this constant cycle of acquisition and change and boredom. People used to save their money for years and buy something that was; whatever variable levels of expensive, expensive for them, treasure it, keep it and pass it down. That way of thinking, I think, has been lost" Vanessa Friedman - Fashion Director and Chief Fashion Critic, New York Times.
Copenhagen Fashion Summit - www.copenhagenfashionsummit.com
Copenhagen Fashion Summit - https://vimeo.com/copenhagenfashionsummit
Monocle - https://monocle.com/radio/shows/SECTION-D/292/