Copenhagen Fashion Summit: Taking the next step to go from words to action The recently concluded sixth edition of Copenhagen Fashion Summit by Global Fashion Agenda was...
The recently concluded sixth edition of Copenhagen Fashion Summit by Global Fashion Agenda was really a big event for the cause of sustainability as 1,300 professionals from more than 50 countries were part of many meaningful and motivational discussions. 75 speakers who are experts in their domain shared their opinions during two days of intense leadership roundtable discussions, conversations and business meetings. This year’s participation was more than that of the last year, especially from Asia. Feeling the urgent need to support and accelerate the decision-making process for fashion businesses, the Summit initiated a new component, Innovation Forum, an exhibition for sustainable solutions in which 50 exhibitors participated. The event was loud and clear on why sustainability should be a leadership priority.
The opening address by Summit patron, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark indicated in strong words that Copenhagen Fashion Summit will continue to be the global platform for bringing forward the industry’s commitment to change. The Summit brought together interesting and diverse experts on a platform. Like in the deep dive session, panellists for ‘impacts and opportunities of purchasing practices’ were Arne Lietz, member of parliament, European Parliament; Bill McRaith, Chief Supply Chain Officer, PVH; Catherine Chiu, GM, Corporate Quality and Sustainability, Crystal International Group Limited; and Christina Hajagos-Clausen, Director, Textile and Garment Industry, IndustryALL Global Union.
During the session, Catherine Chiu was of the view that if the brands and buyers will keep changing things (design, trims, etc.) even in confirmed orders, factories can’t survive as these changes reduce efficiency. While factories are already under pressure, only option for the factories is to make some adjustments even though they would not like to do so. Brands should be more reasonable and give some more margin to the manufacturers, so they can perform better. Shelly Gottschamer, CSO, Outerknown in the same session highlighted that brands talk about ‘ownership’ in regard to vendors, but they have to first see their own practices and how they impact the suppliers in the supply chain.
Bill McRaith, Chief Supply Chain Officer, PVH shared his bitter experience with the brands when he was working as a supplier in his earlier days. He strongly insisted on the importance of increasing proper communication across the supply chain. “Look in the mirror, see what we have created with the supply base; if you want to change or improve something in the supply chain, first look at yourself and fix the action,” he insisted.
In another session, Stella McCartney, Founder and Designer at Stella McCartney, insisted that the fashion industry has to have these conversations and be held accountable. “I am a firm believer that an investment in the environment is an investment
in your life,” she said. Issues like recycling, second-hand purchasing were also highlighted in some discussions and were treated as a concern also, as currently less than 1 per cent of clothing is recycled into new ones and 80 per cent of clothing end up in landfills or are incinerated. On almost similar lines, the concept of circular economy was also a point of discussion. “If we have a pair of jeans, 140 years old that we can still wear today – the circular economy can work,” said
Paul Dillinger, VP and Head of Global Product Innovation and Premium Collection Design, Levi Strauss & Co. William McDonough, Founder of the Fashion For Good initiative (in association with the C&A Foundation), highlighted that being less bad is not the same as being good. We should buy less and care for it better. It was also highlighted in the event that second-hand purchasing of garments is on the upward trajectory and the concern is that 70 per cent of their sellers have never consigned before, and 50 per cent of buyers have never bought consignments previously. As disruption is a buzzword, various changing aspects and modules of fashion were also discussed at the event. “In fashion, we need to move from a linear model towards a circular model, where we don’t consume any new resource and limit our negative impacts,” said Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs, Kering. Kering is known for its luxury products.
Some of the panel discussions like the one on ‘How do we talk about sustainability outside this room’, brought together interesting people like Tonne Goodman, Fashion Director, Vogue US; Lily Cole, Actor and Entrepreneur; and Amber Valletta, Actress, Model and Entrepreneur on to a single platform. In his keynote address, Eric Sprunk, COO, NIKE highlighted that ‘to power and protect the future of sport’, a collective approach and reinventing of the supply chain is must. “I am more convinced than ever that the successful CEO and COO of the 21st century will be the ones who have sustainability at the heart of all activities, compared to other strategies,” he said.
Recognising that it is critical to keep the future and technology together, the event also had a season on ‘the robots are coming’. Pete Santora, CCO, SoftWear Automation and Pamela Mar, Director, Supply Chain Futures, Fung Academy, were the key speakers of the session.
The session highlighted that automation doesn’t kill jobs but in actual fact creates jobs and also has positive impact on sustainability. Pamela Mar stressed, “Regarding the responsible approach towards automation, we need to educate the factories, supported with confidence building, to train and upskill workers, build a new corporate culture…; it will be empowering for the workers. We have observed that workers want to evolve with time and technology.” At the same time, it was also pointed out that having technology, and having leadership that adopts it, are two very different things. This isn’t a technology problem, it’s a leadership one, stressed the speakers. The changes that are needed in the world, and in the fashion industry specifically, were under discussion.
David Roberts, well known expert on technology disruption, innovation, and exponential leadership insisted that the time for change has come.
Some of the recommendations from the Pulse of the Fashion Industry 2018 Report (released the week prior to the Summit) were also discussed during the event. The report claims that 2017 was a turning point for sustainability. Overall 75 per cent of fashion companies have improved their score compared to last year – raising the pulse of the industry by six-points. This is impressive and encouraging. However, more needs to be done.
“Previously, the Summit, with all its inspiring and thought-provoking speeches, panel and roundtable discussions, primarily centred on words, but we felt that this time the focus was more proactive and the direction was to add more action to the event. With the new exhibition space, we’ve made it easier for our guests to actually take the next step, to go from words to action, and to accelerate their sustainability journey.”
– Eva Kruse, CEO of Summit and Organiser, Global Fashion Agenda
Stella McCartney (R) Founder and Designer at Stella McCartney in conversation with Graydon Carter, Editor, Author and Director