The Great Pivot
Every year Copenhagen Fashion Summit invites
innovative thinkers, industry leaders and fashion game changers to present their findings, thoughts and solutions to some of the problems circling within the fashion industry to inspire imminent change.This year the
annual event needed to pivot in their operations, mirroring the actions of most businesses and people around the world due to the global health pandemic, and did so by moving the event to an entirely digital format which broadcasted a range of industry leaders from their homes around the world as well as create an online platform filled with digital content, live sessions and an online forum that anyone could explore. This new way of storytelling was just another means of driving the industry forward with an objective focused on sustainability and inclusivity. And as the CEO of Copenhagen Fashion Week, Cecilie Thorsmark remarks- Sustainability should be fashion’s first priority and made mandatory.
The event this year was accessible to everyone, it was free to participate in, and not limited to the usual attendees consisting of fashion industry executives, and stakeholders across the value chain, so that everyone could behold the most cutting-edge sustainability solutions. This small change in itself was a nod towards the summit’s theme of ‘Redesigning Value’. Value, a broad concept, and also entirely subjective, as it differs depending on each person’s environment, the country they reside and operate within, their community and past experiences. Through this lens, the filmed sessions and recordings investigated the ultimate question which was ‘can fashion businesses thrive in a monetary capacity whilst also respecting planetary values?’. Can businesses really achieve short term prosperity with a long term vision, which takes into consideration the balance between people and planet?
“To disrupt our thinking and change our minds- need to speak to people with a different perspective than our own”.
What was fascinating about the filmed extracts of people speaking ranging from HRH Princess Mary of Denmark, Orsola de Castro founder of Fashion Revolution, Suzy Amis Cameron the founder of Red Carpet Green Dress, Professor of Sustainability, Design and Fashion Kate Fletcher were the threads interconnecting their thoughts; justice, equality, systemic change and the current fashion infrastructure - all with the capability of adding value.
Positive change could be made through suggestions such as looking at global communities, to examine the impact beyond making something beautiful, and removing the imbalance within organisations, as it’s not about how much money can be made but rather ensuring that every hand profits. Heron Preston talked about the collaboration of innovative minds to create a product with an infinite life cycle with the help of 3D printing technology. He spoke of circularity, an inherent indigenous value that indigenous people have been practicing for thousands of years. There was a call for accountability as a white supremicist society has been built in the fashion world which serves the majority but not minority groups, and the voices of black and brown people need to be amplified. The current system of oppression also needs dismantling and the spaces we occupy diversified; Samata Pattinson (CEO of Red Carpet Green Dress) put it so well by stating that being oblivious is a privilege, not realising the lack of black owned businesses represented in a department store or promoted on Instagram happens because you’re not being immediately affected or impacted and therefore don’t see it.
It is through our universally understood language of fashion in which we express our values and creativity. For many companies creating the fashion pieces their value has been centered around growth; growth of production, output and wealth. But is there a need to create more if it can’t even be sold at full price- is there really a demand for 52 collections a year? Kate Fletcher (professor of sustainability, design and fashion at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion UAL) proposes a new value for the industry; ecological growth where companies don’t focus so much on their economic growth but rather put the growth of the Earth and all of its people as the first priority. Companies can still grow, but aim to pivot once they reach their full size to a maintenance model rather than continue to grow beyond the point that they need to. In essence it’s a means of changing what success means to a business, and it not being simply monetary.
So what were some of the great innovations displayed
at this year’s CFS? Desserto® delivered a natural, cruelty-free durable and soft alternative to animal leather by introducing a highly sustainable plant-based vegan leather made from cactus. Nano-Dye Technologies have created a one step alternative to the traditional commercial dyeing process, which is the most widely used method employed to dye knit cotton textiles and also a major cause of water pollution.
Their formula not only reduces water usage but also 75% of the usual CO2 emissions. Unspun introduced the concept of automated, localised, and intentional manufacturing via their robotics and digital apparel company that builds custom jeans, on demand using 3D weaving and digital fit algorithm to create a zero-waste model of creating. There were also multiple means presented of recycling fabrics on an industrial scale such as from the brand SÖDRA, who have created a circular textile chain combining cellulose from wood with other blended fibres.
With all of the horrific realities that came with CO-VID, the crisis also provided the fashion industry with an opportunity to reset, rethink and relearn their previous operations. Never has there been a moment like this when a reevaluation pause button could be pressed, and brands have the chance to do things differently.
Marco Biazzari, President and CEO of Gucci, spoke about how businesses who previously relied on bricks and mortar shops had to change as 90% of their stores had closed. He also mentioned that their operations are now being led by nature so that the farmers they employ use the soil, then maintain and employ regenerative farming practices to preserve the fundamental topsoil that we need around the world for our food source (it’s currently being predicted to be eradicated in the next 40 years). It is up to big corporations like Gucci to invest in the technologies available today to bring them to an industrially scalable size. Technologies like converting food waste products from pineapple, mushroom, oranges and seaweed into leather; for the leather industry is one of the biggest contributors to our climate crisis due to deforestation- particularly in Brazil, who produce 80% of the world’s leather products. It takes the waste of 16 pineapples to create 1 pair of leather shoes and the excess can be used as fertiliser, but in order for this to become a normal manufacturing process, investments need to be made to bring the cost down for everyone else. Ultimately it all circles back to ‘Value’ as aligning to what is valuable in an organisation- surely creating a common good and shared goal, it is our purpose for being. And we can encourage corporations to alter their values by where we invest our money and which fashion items we choose to buy.
You too can still be a part of Copenhagen Fashion Week and get a front row seat
at CFS+ at globalfashionagenda.com