Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2018 — Review by Devin Gilmartin

By Devin James Gilmartin, Cofounder and President of Querencia Studio

In Mid May, the fashion world gathered in a grand, futuristic concert hall in Copenhagen to self assess.

“FAULT”

“STOP”

“HATE”

“FIRED”

“DO”

Perhaps no five words better sum up the past few years of change and revolution around the world. Simon Collins, a cheery, charismatic and often sarcastic, businessman, ex-dean of Parsons and founder of Fashion Culture Design, kicked off the summit with these words in all caps. “It’s all your fault” he said, speaking to the industry’s leading executives and influencers. Mr. Collins is an industry veteran and he’s been here before. Most of the guests, have. A similar sentiment, though, is shared among those I speak to. The needle is moving towards a more just and sustainable operation in fashion, but how much so and at what pace?

Simon Collins, The Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2018

The Copenhagen Fashion Summit, founded in 2009, has become the world’s leading summit for sustainable fashion. Gathering here each May are the executives heading the world’s largest clothing companies, those setting the tone for the innovation and pace of change within the industry. The feeling here mirrors the usual juxtaposition within fashion industry with a cautious mix of flair and conservation, optimism and dark pessimism. Perhaps it is appropriate then that one leading executive from H&M stated bluntly: “I have no idea how were going to make it”, referring to the companies self imposed carbon footprint limits it has set for the decades to come. It is a shocking statement itself and, coming from someone who, of all people, would have the information necessary to know, left the room perplexed. It should be noted that H&M is among the summit’s major strategic partners. With that, it is safe to say their influence, and pockets, are deeply ingrained in the summit’s agenda.

It is often said that fashion is the world’s second most polluting industry and, although just as frequently refuted, it is not hard to understand how it might be so. Its vast reach on various global industries and its influence on our day to day lives mean consumption and participation in the fashion industry is almost a given. That said, there are notables stepping up in major ways to shine a light on the issues facing fashion.

On day two, Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark delivered a lengthy keynote that made her command of the subject and its complexity clear. It is not the first time a royal has weighed in on the subject. Prince Charles said it simply in a recent interview with the Australian Financial Review Magazine “It is extraordinary how fashions change”. He goes on to say “I couldn’t be more delighted if, at last, there is a growing awareness of the urgent need to get away from the ‘throwaway society’ and to move towards a more ‘circular’ type of economy.”

Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2018

Directly following Her Royal Highness’ speech, David Roberts, a serial entrepreneur and thought leader at Singularity University, delivered a moving presentation entitled Spaceship Earth. It was to the point, attention grabbing and vastly different from the other presenters. It brought the problem back into context and reminded the audience that the result of the problem solving efforts would have serious impacts on humanity and the future.

Key Takeaways:

  • Pulse Score 2018: 38/100, up from 32 last year. (Sustainability performance score, powered by Higg Index)
  • Driver of sustainability is company size, not price positioning.
  • Average performing, mid price segment players have made most progress.
  • Most companies sustainability journey follows a similar improvement pattern, with their environmental and social improving in phases.
  • Sports companies: material and fabric were already part of value chain, differentiating them from competitors, advanced vs rest of industry.
  • Most companies sustainability journey follows a similar improvement pattern, with their environmental and social improvement broken into phases.
Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2018

2018 CEO Agenda:

Three core priorities for immediate implementation:

  1. Supply chain traceability: Trace tier one and two suppliers

2. Efficient use of water, energy and chemicals: Implement water, energy and chemicals efficiency programs in processing stages.

3. Respectful and secure work environments: Uphold standards for the respect of universal human rights for all people employed along the value chain.

Four Transformational Priorities for Fundamental Change:

  1. Sustainable material mix: Reduce the negative effectds of existing fibres and develop new, more sustainable fibres.

2. Closed-loop fashion system: Design products and invent novel collection and recycling systems that enable the reuse and recycling of post-consumer textiles at scale.

3. Promotion of better wage systems: Collaborate with industry stakeholders to explore opportunities to develop and implement better wage systems

4. Fourth industrial revolution: Embrace the opportunities in the digitalisation of the value chain and engage with other brands, manufacturers and governments to prepare for the transition of workforces

What is Value Chain:

  • Design and Development
  • Raw Materials
  • Processing
  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation
  • Retail
  • Consumer Usage
  • End of Use

Querencia Studio uses a multidisciplinary approach to address the social, environmental and human rights issues within the fashion industry. Soon, they will be announcing their plans for a new sustainability hub on the Upper East Side of New York City, opening this summer.

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