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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

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