What happened at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2012

Written by Charlotte Turner

On 3rd May 2012 The Sustainable Angle attended the Copenhagen Fashion Summit organised by NICE to hear keynote speeches from international brands and organisations including Gucci, PPR, H&M, Honest By, Terraplana, WGSN, Greenpeace, The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, UN Global Compact, and Peter Ingwersen and the Youth Fashion Summit.

The day included the NICE Fashion Challenge runway, which showcased looks from Danish designers created using entirely sustainable fabrics, and was judged according to design, innovation and sustainability criteria. The contest was won by Susanne Rutzou, whose outfits were made from Newlife recycled polyester, eco silk, organic cotton, bamboo and alpaca.

The conference was opened by Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, who observed that conscious consumers play a pivotal role in developing sustainable business models, through raising demand to brands. Another key comment was from Greenpeace’s Kirsten Brodde, who highlighted the ‘power and influence of global consumers to turn sustainable fashion simply into fashion’.

The importance of customer communication was frequently discussed throughout the day, with Deloitte’s speaker commenting that consumer engagement on sustainable consumption can be positively affected through increased information sharing. H&M (who champion sustainability through their Conscious collection) have found that 23% of their customers are specifically looking for sustainable clothing, showing positive awareness on the high street, but further communication could raise this number. Deloitte’s extensive research has also shown that consumers currently feel social aspects are focused on far more than environmental issues in ‘sustainable clothing’ offers, indicating many opportunities for environmentally sustainable textiles. As PPR’s representative expressed, creative people are creative problem solvers, and designers are positively responding to meeting challenges and incorporating sustainability into design.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s presentation by Rick Ridgeway stressed that a product’s sale price doesn’t capture the ‘externalised cost’ eg. how much water, fertilizer, waste etc. is involved. The SAC Index aims to give each product a score that includes the eco-impact not only as a footprint in a life-cycle perspective but including the whole bio-diversity and eco-system cost. SAC’s research has estimated that the global apparel & footwear industry has an externalised cost of a staggering $44 trillion – the SAC hopes the future will be: a t-shirt that harms the planet in its production will have a higher price tag reflecting these costs.

Leading up to the conference, the Youth Fashion Summit was hosted by Dilys Williams, leader of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, a great supporter of The Sustainable Angle. The youth summit culminated in ‘demands’ from the represented fashion schools to improve the future of the fashion industry and society.

‘We demand a link between the society of makers and the society of wearers – rebuild trust’

Connie Hedegaard, the EU Commissioner for Climate Action, surmised that ‘we need to reinvent, redesign and reindustrialise our world’. She was presented with recommendations for sustainable fashion with specific focus on consumer engagement, in a bid to positively influence European legislation and business practice on sustainable fashion.

Rick Ridgeway from Patagonia summed up progress when he said that Patagonia have used 100% organic cotton since 1996, and back then a response from one customer was ‘I don’t eat my cotton jeans’. He believes we have moved a long way in a short space of time, but it still is a long process to get people to recognise it’s not just what they put in their bodies, but on their bodies.

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