Copenhagen Fashion Summit: Call to action

If one is entrusted to one’s own common sense – sustainability – in all aspects of life, will in 30 years time transpire as a golden standard; a norm – disclosing that any other turn of events would be incomprehensible, and at worst – completely devastating. Yet one must not fall into the trap of benevolent naivety of solution seemingly so obvious – that surely even a child would fathom it’s acute immediacy, because – as suggested on the 5th Copenhagen Fashion Summit suggestively titled a ‘Call to action’ – it turns out – that this is evidently not the case. 

If one should trust the numbers (which we do) provided by The Boston Consulting Group as a part of the first ever report on sustainability appropriately baptized as ‘Pulse’, our planet is set to be home to 8.5 billion people by 2030, leading accordingly to an increase in apparel consumption by 63 % – from 62 million tonnes to 102 million tonnes. It doesn’t take a mind of a genius to understand that we are not only talking about vast amounts of products that need to be disposed of – we are also talking about the glaring pressure our planet is facing – both in terms of resources and production.


‘The palpable restlessness rooted in the acute need to act sizzled in the air as the topic du jour was a that of a shift to a more, well, sensible system – one that doesn’t hold the promise of a post apocalyptic future as recently predicted by Stephen Hawkings. ‘

The strenuous relationship between the garment industry and the environment has become very well documented in recent years, suggesting that several links in the ‘linear system’ characterized by the crude ‘take,make,dispose’ mindset are mildly put – faulty. It is not necessarily the question of pointing the finger, as it is the one of lacking development, the one that should have arised in tact with social, cultural and economical prosperity – yet it really seems that in all aspects other than design, fashion has failed to keep up.

What we are seemingly facing today is thus an antiqued system – a fossil – more applicable to the era of ‘Dynasty’ and shoulder pads (although their revival is already noted) than it is to modern culture. The question that remains is if society has evolved past the aggressive butchness which outlined industries that emerged from the 3rd industrial revolution why did fashion stale?
And that was partly a key frustration as pointed out by the president and chief executive of the Global Fashion Agenda – Eva Kruse –  who held the opening speech at the annual installment.
The palpable restlessness rooted in the acute need to act sizzled in the air as the topic du jour was a that of a shift to a more, well, sensible system – one that doesn’t hold the promise of a post apocalyptic future as recently predicted by Stephen Hawkings.

Thus cloaked under the credibility of green Scandinavia, and of society reflecting the higher standards of living, the sustainability summit couldn’t find a firmer ground to hold the fort at.
Nor could it find better peers to preach its values.
By gathering the biggest thinkers in the field, the summit managed to outline key points that hold the promise of a more sustainable future and presented them neatly in a tome whose weight is a testament to it’s importance.
Browsing through the report it became evident that an adjustment of the linear system can be observed from the point of a paradigm shift in the way we produce and consume our clothes; instead of the aforementioned fossilized system, a more holistic and contemporary approach would require a circular flow and structure.
Whilst seeing trees from a forest is an endeavour that requires a great amount of commitment – defragmenting key elements such as water consumption, a means of decreasing fiber shredding and thus pollution, increasing garments’ longevity and reuse, are all aspects that when broken down are all manageable. And the panel of guests which ranged from the NY based designer Prabal Gurung (who delivered a highly cheered point on inclusion and diversity during the late afternoon talks) to Tiffany & Co’s interim chief executive Michael Kowalski to Livia Firth and fashion darling-come-investor and tech business developer Miroslava Duma all seemed to agree.


“If we had to go to yet another conference where we hear pledges, promises, targets to achieve and discussions on what it will look like, we will all become old before it actually happens”. – Livia Firth

While pointing out that transparency and collaboration are key features for further development, it also became very clear that technology has to keep up, especially in order to preserve a profit and take another step towards a better future. New ways of managing waste and the disposal of used garments alongside the production of new materials and creative recycling (either being down – or upcycling) have to be developed – something that Nike, Adidas and Patagonia have been focusing on. And that is exactly what this year’s summit shredded much needed light on – that sustainability is not only good for the planet, but it can also be an interesting, and none-the-least creatively profitable endeavor.
Thus, The Global Fashion Agenda, supported by industry heavyweights like Kerring and H&M, made sure to provide support for all the business that wanted to join in on the call – a registration platform that both smaller as well as bigger businesses with a toolbox and helps to set future goals.

It is a step towards a more practical development from the earlier summits because as pointed out both by Wendy Schmidt of The Schmidt foundation and Livia Firth “If we had to go to yet another conference where we hear pledges, promises, targets to achieve and discussions on what it will look like, we will all become old before it actually happens”. When taking a road less travelled, or in this instance – assuming somewhat the role of a a trailblazer, expecting things to be painless and straightforward may quickly lead to discouragement, but provided one commits enough time and care, a change can actually take place. Now the question remains – who is up for a challenge?