By Eva Kruse, CEO, Danish Fashion Institute
I love fashion. Of course I love clothes and I love the creative minds, the ambitious people and the rapid pace, but above all what I love the most is the power of the fashion industry. Fashion has a reach beyond any other, influencing us consciously and subconsciously. It makes us love, desire, excite, reject and change. Over and over again. On top of that, fashion is also one of the world’s largest industries and one of the most resource intensive when it comes to the use of energy, raw materials, pesticides, chemicals, water and manual labour in (low-wage) countries.
The world is facing serious climate change and other severe issues affecting our habitat, influencing both animal and human life. The global fashion industry has an immense impact on the environment and on the millions of people who work in the industry, making it one of the most important industries worldwide. This is especially since it also holds a tremendous capacity to spark change that could potentially influence the lives of millions and have a monumental effect on our planet. With such influence comes a responsibility to generate new business models and to apply the creative and innovative forces of the industry to bring about a transformation toward greater sustainability.
But what is sustainability even? In the fashion industry there has been increased focus on social and environmental sustainability, which essentially refers to maintaining natural capital for generations to come. Because of the industry’s complex value chain there are many angles to approach sustainability from; design, production, consumption or disposal to name a few. This is what makes the concept hard to define and why sustainability is such a difficult and comprehensive task to take on. But this also underlines that the responsibility lies not only within the industry but also with the consumers. Thus, as a powerful industry we must set a good example for consumers and lead the way.
Concepts like circular economy, recycling, reuse, new materials, longevity and lasting quality are among the innovative drivers for new business models that can lead to innovation and stronger businesses while also minimising the impact on people and our planet.
Thinking the fashion industry as circular excites me. Not only would it be much better for people and the planet but there is also a promising and economic incentive in this line of thinking. Research from the Ellen McArthur Foundation shows that we are globally missing out on values of USD 80–120 billion annually due to unutilised potential in a circular plastic economy. I believe there lies similar – or maybe even more – unexploited potential in a circular fashion economy focused on fibres. A few industry players have started but have yet to realise the full economic potential in my view. Thus, there is a clear incentive to research the potential economic benefits and bring on board policy-makers and investment communities to fully realise the untapped benefits of a circular fashion economy.
Of all the things I do in life, this is what I’m most passionate about and is the reason we initiated the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2009. We wanted to establish a platform for likeminded people to meet, for sustainable brands to shine and a forum for sharing knowledge, innovations and solutions. My aim was to start a movement and then to keep the ball rolling in the fashion industry until consumers everywhere are also inspired to change.
This year’s theme, Responsible Innovation, emphasises once again that Copenhagen Fashion Summit is a catalyst for change. The commitment to and momentum surrounding the 2016 summit have been overwhelming. The impressive speaker line-up and list of participants, with leading companies from more than 50 nations, prove that decision-makers from the worlds of fashion, politics, media, academia and NGOs are ready to take on said responsibility. They are poised to kickstart a discussion on new business models and solutions for a more sustainable fashion industry.
Looking back at the summits that have taken place in the past seven years, I’m proud to say that searching for brands and people able to take the stage and present their work, ethics and innovations is no longer a struggle. Their numbers have clearly grown. We all know there’s still a long way to go but every step matters, even the smallest.
Consumers play a pivotal role in honouring or supporting companies that improve their eco-footprint. However, I do not believe that consumers will be the ones to kickstart change in fashion. The reality is that the initiatives begin with the industry leaders, the top management, top designers, the clever editors, the researchers and scientists, the NGO’s and the policymakers. All of which are represented at Copenhagen Fashion Summit. Thus, as a powerful industry we must set a good example for consumers by offering them a desirable and sustainable choice and by leading the way.
I really do love fashion – especially when I feel empowered and optimistic about where we can drive sustainable development as an industry.
Please join me and my team on this journey to reinvent fashion to make it better based on stronger and more sustainable business models for the benefit of the planet and generations to come.
Let’s restart fashion!