The Copenhagen Fashion Summit opens today, with leading industry figures from around the world gathering to discuss this year’s major theme: How to make fashion more sustainable?
Famed for its green ethos, it makes sense that Copenhagen would host a major forum of this kind. The summit will see leaders from across the industry – from major brands to marketing leads – join to postulate on how fashion can become more circular. It’s a key challenge, one that is already being tackled by high street giants such as the H&M group and luxury brands such as Stella McCartney. But there’s much further to go.
Making sustainability fashionable
One of the core issues for the industry is how to negate the existing reputation that sustainable fashion has; that is, how to move away from ideas that sustainable fashion is just hemp and orthopedic shoes. The other issue for brands is that sustainable fashion has traditionally been associated with higher costs, and the Copenhagen Fashion Summit also aims to make sustainability ‘fashionable’ in terms of company policy: ‘Global Fashion Agenda takes sustainability out of the lab and into the boardroom, thereby influencing decision-making at a strategic and operational level,’ says the organisation. H&M’s recycling initiative, which sees customers receiving £5 to spend in store for every bag of old clothes they bring in, offers a smart, cost-effective model of ingraining cyclical fashion as a core facet of the brand’s financial model.
Asking the industry to make concrete commitments
According to their research, apparel consumption is projected to rise by 63%, to approximately 102 million tons in 2030 – the results of which will represent enormous environmental and social challenges for the industry, and the wider world. The Copenhagen fashion summit is also designed to make concrete commitments – the aim being to ensure that companies start making active changes now, as opposed to waiting until it’s too late. ‘Improving its environmental and social performance would not just advance the industry’s commercial prospects. It would also add as much as €160 billion by 2030,’ says the organisation. It’s a commercial opportunity not to be missed. Thus far, companies who have signed up to reducing their carbon emissions and becoming more sustainable by 2020 include Adidas, ASOS, Filippa K, Ganni, Marks and Spencer, H&M, Target and Vagabond. And while some brands, such as those in Greece, are embracing a sustainable local model, the need for major conglomerates to share a similar goal is crucial for long-term results to be achieved.
Speakers at this year’s event include Anna Gedda (Head of Sustainability at H&M), Cecilia Takayama (Director of the Materials Innovation Lab at Kering), Dio Kurazaw (Denim Director at WGSN), Simon Platts (Director of Sourcing at ASOS) and Vanessa Friedman (Fashion director and chief fashion critic at New York Times) – among others.
The summit marks a sizeable undertaking from an industry that has often shirked any accountability for the way it manufactures, or how it encourages consumers to relate to fashion. Movements such as these highlight that novelty and innovation need not come at the cost of a frivolous relationship to the planet; perhaps sustainability will be the first fashion trend to last a lifetime.