Copenhagen Fashion Summit: Act immediately, unitedly

by Dheeraj Tagra

07-June-2019  |  6 mins read

Copenhagen Fashion Summit 19
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“When we held the first summit 10 years back, few leaders recognised the importance of the business of changing the way we produce, market and consume fashion. Today, a decade later, sustainability has become the most important business responsible innovation driver in the fashion industry and the summit is more pertinent than ever with challenges such as climate change, human rights and resource scarcity soaring to new heights. I’m counting on us all to actually change fashion’s future within the next 10 years.” This statement of Eva Kruse, CEO & President, Global Fashion Agenda and Copenhagen Fashion Summit describes most of the things prevalent about sustainability a decade ago and the things that will be coming up in the decade ahead. The summit, the world’s leading event on sustainability in the fashion industry with the keywords‘10 Years of Rewriting Fashion’ discussed issues likes climate change, worker welfare, collective efforts and many more;these key topics were the highlights of the brainstorming sessions. Action, speed and collaboration were at the heart of the discussion and the message was loud and clear– there is an urgency and united ambition to act now.

With more than 1,000 guests and 78 speakers, none of the issues regarding sustainability was left untouched. Innovation Forum and Future Lab was the attraction for most of the speakers as well as the audience. At Innovation Forum, many start-ups and inventors introduced fresh, novel ideas like non-toxic waterproofing inventions, reusable packaging solutions, eco-friendly dyes, plant-based leathers, recycled textile fibres, etc. SpinDye’s sustainably dyed polyester yarns and few such suppliers also highlighted their offerings.

Copenhagen Fashion Summit
Delivering opening speech, The Crown Princess of Denmark (Princess Mary) mused, “Profit cannot continue to be the primary measure of success.

Various speakers from different backgrounds insisted that the finance department or such stakeholders need to consider a company’s sustainable efforts in their analyses rather than strictly pushing for increased margin. “Sustainability needs to be a non-competitive area–working with open source, using our experience and making sure we don’t compete,” insisted Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability, H&M Group.

It was also emphasised that the industry should focus more on collective responsibility for the lives of the workers. Treat them as human beings that they are and not just as cheap labourers that make clothes. Serious working conditions in apparel manufacturing destinations attracted audience attraction. Anindit Roy Chowdhury, Programme Manager (Global), Gender Justice and Human Rights, C&A Foundation shared how girls are given continuous cycle of birth control pills so that their periods don’t disrupt their working hours in garment factories in India.

Globally and specially in India and that too in the textile and apparel industry, the owner’s involvement is quite high in most of the decisions and majority of them believe in micromanagement. So, it is very much required for the country’s sustainable industry that owners take bold steps. To sum it up in Eva Kruse’s own words, “We have to call for bold leadership. There are so many existing solutions, but we need to push them even further and we also need to be supported by the policymakers.”

India’s international voices

As usual, Anita Dongre was present at the summit and she highlighted that design is a very important part drive of sustainability and, hence, she is focusing more on educating the designers.

Hrishikesh Rajan and Saravanan Parisutham,Founders, TrusTrace, Coimbatore were part of the Innovation Forum. TrusTrace is a software dedicated to finding sustainable solutions through blockchain.

For Delhi-based Madhurima Singh, Founder of the label Dhuri, it was an enriching experience and she came back as a more educated and aware brand owner.

  • In the opening speech, The Crown Princess of Denmark (Princess Mary) mused, “Profit cannot continue to be the primary measure of success.”
  • Kering Chair and CEO François-Henri Pinault shared that he has been hired by French President Emmanuel Macron for a first-of-its-kind role: to create a ‘coalition’ of CEOs and top brands in the fashion industry to join forces and set ambitious sustainability targets together. Kering announced a commitment that the Group’s houses will only hire models aged over 18 to represent adults at their fashion shows and photo sessions as of 2020.
  • Emanuel Chirico, CEO, PVH was on hand to introduce the company’s new corporate responsibility strategy, ‘Forward Fashion’, a list of 15 ambitious goals for transparency and reduced environmental impact.
  • Nike announced its Circular Design Workbook to provide designers and product creators across the industry with a common language for circularity.
  • Google revealed a partnership with Stella McCartney to measure the environmental impact of the fashion industry.

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