Our notes from the world’s leading conference in fashion sustainability. By Sally Townsend, Head of Advocacy and Alliances, Outland Denim.
Copenhagen, a hub of sustainable design, innovation, and style, is where approximately 1300 fashion designers, CEOs, government, media, and social responsibility managers congregate once a year for the Copenhagen Fashion Summit.
The two-day event, now celebrating its 10th year, is the leading global conference in fashion sustainability. It’s designed to facilitate meaningful connections between brands and solutions. I was privileged to attend on behalf of Outland Denim alongside freelance fashion designer Claire Ford.
We began our conference experience by accidentally happening upon the unofficial Outland Denim uniform: Claire and I both stepped out in dark rimmed glasses, Lucy True Blue jeans with DIY raw hems, white button-downs and black blazers. Both blonde haired, we decide to strategically coordinate our outfits to avoid the “twinsies” for the rest of the trip.
The key talking point of this year’s conference was climate change, and how we as an industry can reduce our impact. CEO of Kering, Francis Henry Pinault, proposed that the only way to solve the current climate crisis within a short timeframe (the UN proposes that we have 10 years to limit the consequences of climate change) is by extending ourselves beyond what we know is our ability. He and other speakers encouraged that we must not be afraid to set targets we don’t yet know how to reach; that setting the goal in itself will push us as brands to find the solutions along the way.
During lunch I found myself sitting next to Eva Kruse, CEO and President of Global Fashion Agenda. As with every meal the conference catered, we enjoyed a Scandinavian inspired 100% organic menu. Kruse is a self-confessed optimist who believes fashion has the power to be an incredibly powerful force for good in the world, and I would have to agree.
Kruse said in her opening address, “We can solve the planet’s and the industry’s biggest issues if we do it together.” It’s a sentiment that recurs through the entire conference, which is completely geared towards taking action and finding the solutions your brand needs.
Claire, who has worked with us at Outland Denim in designing our upcoming Spring ‘20 collection, and I discuss that a huge step going forward would be to see more designers at the Conference, as they are ultimately responsible for selecting raw materials. Sustainability starts with thoughtful design.
We manage to find a seat in the front row for HRH Princess Mary, Patron of the Summit’s address. “Supply must lead demand,'' she says, explaining that consumers have an expectation that brands will show leadership and take on the responsibility of reforming the industry for sustainability.
In the afternoon of day one, 10 innovators are selected to pitch their solutions to fashion’s sustainability problems. These are done in heats and the final is presented on the main stage. I was invited to be on the judging panel for heat 2. Some incredible innovations were presented, such as winner Cedric Vanhoeck from Resortecs. He and his team have developed a type of thread that dissolves when heated, simplifying the process of taking garments apart for repurposing.
Everyone here is inclusive and accepting. The Conference values the small and growing as well as the large and powerful. It provides a powerful format for good conversation and collaboration, from the Innovation Forum, which facilitates over 600 meetings between brands who are seeking sustainability solutions, and the suppliers who can help them, to the intentional assigned seating of small brands next to large brands who each have different but transferable perspectives to bring to the table.
This is not an atmosphere of competition, but of agreed acceptance that we all have a role to play in solving the issues at hand and the only way we will get there is through working together.