Our key takeaways from Global Fashion Summit
Last week the fashion industry gathered in Copenhagen for the Global Fashion Summit to discuss and find solutions for the pressing sustainability issues.
17 Jun 2022

Last week the fashion industry gathered in the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen, for the Global Fashion Summit. Attendees were confronted by a distinct and clear message — ”8 years to go…”, referring to the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals that should be fulfilled by 2030. The trajectory at the moment is harsh and clear — if the fashion industry continue at its current pace it won’t be aligned with the 1,5-degree goals and what is expected in 2030.

During the two days, fashion’s sustainability issues were discussed on the main stage from many different angles; transparency and traceability within the supply chain, upcoming legislation, if legislation is needed, material choices, labour rights, circular business models and much more.

The day before GFS, Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), the non-profit organisation that organizes the summit, presented the GFA Monitor. A new, concrete guide to fashion leaders on how to become a net-positive fashion industry. The GFA Monitor is divided into five different areas; Respectful and Secure Work Environments, Better Wage Systems, Resource Stewardship, Smart Material Choices and Circular Systems. The GFA Monitor was made possible with over 30 different partners from across the industry, manifesting the theme of this year’s edition of GFS, ”Alliances for a New Era”.

The theme emphasized that to reach the sustainability goals there will have to be joint actions from all over fashion to actually make a change and create a shared discourse of fashion and sustainability. 

Today we see some alliances that have been formed to tackle fashion and sustainability, such as 

UN Fashion charterthe Circular Fashion Partnership and Circularity for Apparel and Fashion, some of which GFA have been part in establishing. However, Federica Marchionni, CEO of GFA, addresses that the only way forward will be by further strengthening collaboration.

— We’re trying to bring some of the alliances ourselves and potentially offer a good example. The GFA Monitor, the alliance with the UNFCCC, we want to see many more come to life and really be specific on the different problems. There are solutions there. That’s what we’re saying with our reports. We’re sharing it, so the learning for people will be ‘I learn a lot now, I need to act and just take action’. I think, and I hope, that we are inspiring everyone to not waste time.

One example of new, and maybe unexpected, alliances was the principal sponsor, Polestar. The electric car company announced its moon-shot goal in 2021; to create the first carbon-neutral car by 2030. Now they turned to fashion to find solutions, but also to contribute and inspire, to the development of climate-neutral textiles. 

— The important thing for us to come here, was really for everyone to understand that we in the automotive industry are also using textiles and we can be a partner with fashion in developing more sustainable textiles. So, we hope that that’s an aftermath of this. That we will see even more and maybe businesses coming up to us with ideas and so on. But we have definitely met some great potential collaborators here, explained Fredrika Klarén, Head of Sustainability at Polestar.

The summit hosted many major fashion players, that also took the opportunity to present new sustainability commitments. Ralph Lauren announced its new Live On promise, which will strengthen the longevity and lifecycle of its products. Mulberry revealed that they will be starting to digitally ID its products, starting with its circular economy program, Mulberry Exchange. Bottega Veneta’s CEO, Leo Rongone, announced on stage that the Italian brand will be starting to sell handbags from past seasons — showcasing its timelessness. 

A trailblazer within sustainability is the danish brand, GANNI — even though they don’t consider themselves sustainable and instead prefer the term responsible. During the week the brand took the opportunity to present its new initiative, ”Fabrics for the Future”. By implementing innovative, more responsible, materials into its collections, the brand hopes to contribute to start-ups being able to scale their innovations. The initiative consists of unconventional materials and methods; the leather alternative Mylo from mycelium; Circulose, which is recycled cotton by Renewcell and the no-waste weaving technique by Danish start-up STEM

Nicolaj Reffstrup at ‘GANNI’s Carbon Rethink: From Offsetting to Insetting’ talk.
(Photo by Joern Pollex/Getty Images for Copenhagen Fashion Summit)

GANNI was very much present during GFS —after all, Copenhagen is their home grounds. The Action Stage, which was a new addition to GFS, presented case studies on how you could tackle sustainable issues and had more interaction with the audience. One case study was on how GANNI have been rethinking their strategy on carbon offsetting, towards carbon insetting and to decarbonize the supply chain. During the panel, Nicolaj Reffstrup, founder of GANNI, stressed the fact that a lot of sustainability discussions get stuck in corporate bottle necks, that in the end comes down to margins and KPIs. Rather than focusing on complex details, he had a clear message to share, ”sometimes you just got to — to quote Gandhi — be the change. Just do it”.

Nonetheless, there wasn’t just talking during GFS. At the Innovation Forum start-ups and NGOs — innovation providers — exhibited how concrete solutions can be implemented or how certifications and standards are providing a unified framework for sustainability. The exhibiting organizations were covering  aspects of the whole supply chain, from the development of new materials, closing the loop to creating circular business models.

Some of the participants at the innovation forum included; The IDFactory which helps companies to track their supply chains. Embodee, that is simplifying the 3D creation of apparel. Higg, a sustainability insights platform, that provides brands with insights on their supply chains and who is also  the official data partner to GFA. Forest Stewardship Council that provides a forest certification system, that when fashion in the quest for sustainable materials turns to wood and cellulosic fibres, ensures safe and responsible sourcing of forests. Archive that is helping fashion brands to build their own second-hand-marketplaces and create circular business models, that prolongs the life cycle of garments. The idea of circularity was also present at Reflaunt, which connects brands and sellers with the second-hand market. 

Another participant at the Innovation Forum was TrusTraceA platform giving brands access to traceability data of their supply chains, to ensure and develop science-based targets and responsible supply chains. During the week, TrusTrace, in collaboration with Fashion Revolution and Fashion For Good, released their new Traceability Playbook. A comprehensible guide for brands that want to achieve a better understanding and traceability of their supply chains.

To continue driving change in fashion, Global Fashion Agenda is planning to take GFS abroad, ”I think that we’re tackling the sustainability issue from Europe and we want to be global”, Marchionni commented. Already, there is an edition being planned that will be taking place in Southeast Asia, later this year. An area in which most greenhouse gas emissions today are being made and a big part of manufacturing is happening. In the future, there will also be editions hosted in other key cities, in addition to its flagship in Copenhagen. This to include more voices from the fashion industry, and create even more cross-industrial collaboration and new alliances. 

There’s no doubt that the GFS 2022 have done a positive impact. Though, Marchionni stresses that we need to see urgent action and commitments need to be happening now, ”we have eight years to go, key message”.