Nostalgia of Copenhagen Fashion Summit. The industry needs to act now.

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Pure nostalgia. One of my favourite moments of 2018 has so far been standing on stage of Copenhagen Fashion Summit. It's been quite an experience to attend the worlds leading event for sustainability and fashion. Let's together indulge in reminiscences. 

What is Copenhagen Fashion Summit?

President and CEO Eva Kruse

President and CEO Eva Kruse

To me it has been the event I was looking up to for a while. Over the last nine years, Copenhagen Fashion Summit (CFS) has successfully established itself as the leading event on sustainability in the fashion industry. CEOs, CSOs (Chief Sustainability Officer) and decision makers come together to meet the voices of politics, media and academia. Putting all those influential stakeholders in one event becomes the perfect platform for exchange, shaping the future together.

Copenhagen Fashion Summit is organized by Global Fashion Agenda, together with a bunch of strategic sponsors and partners, what I will be coming back to later. This year, participants could look forward to the release of the annual Pulse of the Fashion Industry report and our presentation from the Youth Fashion Summit focusing specifically on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 Good Health and Well-being and SDG 5 Gender Equality.

A throwback to Youth Fashion Summit.

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Youth Fashion Summit (YFS) was an intense experience that lasted three days before the actual summit. Resulting in a two-year programme it is put together in a unique collaboration with United Nations Global Compact and PANDORA. We worked on two of the SDGs to generate concrete demands, which we have put on the agenda of C-suit attendees of CFS. 112 young talents, a bunch of industry experts and facilitators from all over the world have been put together to create something unique. The independent workshop series let us identify a future of the industry and how it could specifically look like, - our demands.

Our demands.

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The three-day process has started with country-specific presentations. What does SDG 3 - Good Health & Well-Being and SDG 5 - Gender Equality mean in the countries we represent? Following that informative snapshot, we dreamt about a utopian future, created stories and narratives and ways to get there. We talked about current problems in the industry and concluded all in eight demands that address industry heavyweights.

"We demand your participation in a “Glocalised” hybrid organisation. Through the systematic sharing of knowledge, we will foster traceability and circularity throughout the value chain, ensuring the health and well-being of natural and human resources."

For all eight posters, click here and click on Youth Fashion Summit.

Our speech.

Surprisingly, I had been chosen to represent the 112 individuals on stage and create an emotional narration of our demands. Watch the full speech (10 min only) here:

The insecurities of the industry.

What was the summit all about? Being the one most known event for sustainable fashion, CFS has pinpointed out the status of the industry of 2018: insecurity. From the biggest corporates to smaller sized companies, barely have the participants felt comfortable with sustainability as a strategic tool. Why? Simply because they feel overwhelmed by its demands. Those who shape the industry and steer the future nevertheless had some predictions and trends on their agendas.

Transparency & traceability. Circularity & collaborations.

The fashion supply chain is incredibly complex, resource-heavy and dubious. Following scandals like the Rana Plaza factory collapse, consumers and public voices have asked for more transparency. Now in 2018, I have come to the conclusion that it is not only us asking for more accountable stakeholders throughout the value chain but even the industry giant themselves. Transparency and traceability have been the leading topics close to circularity and collaboration. 

Companies such as Li & Fung, a global supply chain company, pushes increasingly for digital solutions to create more reliable processes. Ellen MacArthur and her foundation collaborate with corporates as H&M to work on a circular understanding of processes. The future of the Circular Fibres Initiative is bringing forward exciting examples from various organisations working strategically with circular business models and design approaches.

Thesummit drew a bright and clear picture of what a future for the fashion industry may look like, yet there has been little action taken. Many insecurities need to be faced before any kind of change can happen. 

My personal highlights

David Sinatra and Dio Kurazawa 

David Sinatra and Dio Kurazawa 

Tonne Goodman from Vogue US

Tonne Goodman from Vogue US

  • David Sinatra from Stüssy will soon launch a more sustainable collection. The twist? It will be the cheapest collection ever produced by Stüssy. (Watch the panel discussion here)
  • Dio Kurazawa talking about how to make more impact. To him and his consultancy THE BEAR SCOUTS it is as simple as consulting existing brands on a more sustainable supply chain. And for increased impact, big brands get his consulting services for free. (Watch the panel discussion here)
  • The powerful moment when I was directing the audience to close their eyes and they indeed followed. The room was quiet and all I saw was people following my words. Words to imagine a better future.
  • Stella McCartney for her authenticity. She holds the reputation of being a front-runner of sustainable fashion in the high-end range. She has ever produced items without leather and fur and increasingly watched other materials, such as glue without animal products. Struggling with this leading ethos, Stella McCartney is "doing it alone to a certain extent" and raised the wish for more industry support. (here is the video)
  • Shoutout to all volunteers who managed to keep the place clean, provide food and guidance. Well done!

As an event organizer myself, there is more than the stage to watch. From the thickness of leaflets to the outfits of volunteers...

What I liked

  • Impact // The density of influential opinions and leading brands such as Vogue Australia, H&M, Gucci and many more.
  • Professionality // The Global Fashion Agenda probably consists of detail-fixated people. Everything was on point. From the branded shuttle buses to the colourful red carpet. Light and sound have never visibly failed and delays were only minor.

My critique

  • The Global Fashion Agenda is not so global //  Despite its international audience, the stage was still very male and white. There is more to making it a global format, especially when one of the focus themes has been Gender Equality to the YFS participants. More cultures, more countries and not at least more gender.
  • It still felt sponsored // The whole event has been the result of sponsorships with brands such as H&M, Kering or Boston Consulting Group. And as audience, I could occasionally feel it. 

All in all, it's been a pleasure to attend and feel the pulse of the industry, yet seeing the flaws of the system we created. I went on an emotional and energetic roller coaster ride with my participation at the Youth Fashion Summit and I'm looking forward to enjoying the continuation until next year. With my usual critical perspective, I'm hoping to see some progress at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2019 to hopefully see how all promises have been put into practice. Any sustainability activities are valuable and thus nothing to be afraid of, but much appreciated by visitors like me. 

The pictures are provided by Global Fashion Agenda.