The Copenhagen Global Fashion Summit, organized by the non-profit Global Fashion Agenda, has become a key event on the fashion calendar. With brand presence from Kering, Bottega Veneta, Ralph Lauren, Mulberry and Ganni, as well as incubators and innovators, this year’s two-day event underscored that brand collaboration and alliances are vital for the fashion industry to achieve greater progress on the sustainability front.
The event started with an announcement from the Or Foundation, a Ghanian non-profit involved in the Kantamanto market, and Shein. The ultra-fast fashion brand will be donating a contentious $50 million over three years through an Extended Responsibility Fund, admitting to its impact in creating excess clothing. While the amount does not reflect the brand’s size, which was valued at $100 billion in April, it is one of the first times a fast-fashion brand has directly admitted to overproduction.
Data collection, circularity and manufacturers’s accountability were other key themes of the event. Focuses on long-term commitments across the supply chain and information sharing between brands showcased the need for collective action, rather than individual brand programs and initiatives.
Data collection for informed decision-making
One of the key focal points of the event was data. Data-led innovation from digital ID company Eon presented how digital ID tags can be starting points for brands to engage with traceability data. Mulberry, Courrèges and Vestiaire Collective announced their participation. The digital ID sits on a digital protocol that functions like a nutrition label on food products, maximizing the product information for brands, resellers and recyclers. Digital IDs and product passports add a necessary layer of traceability to a product’s record.
Brands also need a better understanding of where and how to collect data. The GFA monitor, a cohesive resource of information for brands aiming to reach a net positive status, was one of two reports announced at the summit. “All these systems that are producing our raw materials are connected, and so you can’t only focus on GHG emissions [for example] without thinking about the whole system,” said Ashley Gill, chief strategy officer at the global non-profit Textile Exchange. Supply chain traceability platform Trustrace also announced a Traceability playbook, in partnership with global initiative platform Fashion for Good and not-for-profit movement Fashion Revolution. The goal was to allow fashion businesses to better understand traceability at scale.
Circularity is top of mind
The Ralph Lauren Corporation announced a circular initiative that will involve eccepting all past and future products as part of a Live On program by 2030. The program is focused on resale, repair and re-design, according to cradle design principles, as well as investment in regenerative agriculture across all operations in-store and online.
“Circularity requires a systemic change, and a systems change has so many moving parts. For change to happen, all those different moving parts have to figure out how to move together in harmony toward a common direction,” said Halide Alagöz, chief product officer at the Ralph Lauren Corporation.
Repair, reuse and recycle were also a focus for luxury brand Bottega Veneta, which is bringing in a lifetime repair program as well as a resale drop of bags from previous collections. The brand’s new initiatives will add to how other brands under the umbrella are innovating via Kering’s existing efforts to improve biodiversity.
“Francois Henri Pinout decided over 20 years ago to put sustainability at the heart of the Kering strategy,” said Marie-Claire Daveu, chief sustainability officer at Kering. “When we think about the expectations of our consumers, clients and, above all, millennials and Gen Z, they are expecting and demanding more from the brands and the luxury point of view.” As a result, brands across the luxury space and high street have been investing more into repairs as a way to engage in the circular economy by making their garments last longer.
Manufacturers need to be a part of change
Kathleen Talbot, chief sustainability officer at Reformation, highlighted the importance of achieving even the lowest standard of living wages for workers at factories, irrespective of global differences across the pay grades.
“Transparency here is key. Even with a brand as involved in sustainable production as Reformation, only 70% of our clothing is produced by people on a living wage,” said Talbot. She brought up how even the lowest living wage would be exponentially better than what brands currently have in place.