Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2017: Seven Takeaways for the Luxury Industry


Diana Verde Nieto | May 16, 2017

The Copenhagen Fashion Summit brings together leading figures in fashion and sustainability to discuss the future of the industry. Diana Verde Nieto attended the event for the first time and shares seven takeaways from the event.

The fifth edition of the world’s most important event on sustainability in fashion, Copenhagen Fashion Summit, took place on 11 May 2017. More than 800 leaders from the fashion sector, NGOs, policy and academia gathered together to join forces to make a shift in the industry towards more sustainability. 

The 7 Key Takeways for the Luxury Industry:

  1. The Fashion Industry Has a Long Way to Go

Ahead of the Summit, Global Fashion Agenda published a ground-breaking assessment of the fashion industry’s environmental and social performance, which gave much food for thought for the event itself.

Entitled Pulse of the Fashion Industry, the report was created in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group and highlighted that the fashion industry is falling behind many others when it comes to sustainability. Using data from the HIGG Index, the world’s leading standard in measuring sustainability performance, it was scored only 32 out of 100.

Fashion is often named as the world’s second most polluting industry and is expected to increase by 63% by 2030 in line with population growth. If the industry is to tackle the challenges ahead it must act fast and dedicate itself to positive change.

  1. Circular Thinking Can Create a Sustainable and Profitable Industry

Circular design and manufacture was the prevalent topic of conversation during the Summit. This system requires closing the production loop, recovering resources from unwanted products to create new items that have a lesser impact.

Sometimes considered far-fetched or not economically viable by some, The Pulse of Fashion 2017 report put forward that €160 billion worth of value in the world economy could be unlocked by 2030 if the industry is able to increase levels of output using an improved environmental and social footprint model.

Many leading companies demonstrated their belief in this circular business model, with Kering, Inditex, H&M;, and Adidas being among those signing a Call to Action commitment to defining a circular strategy, setting targets for 2020 and reporting on the progress of its implementation.

  1. Brands Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Take a Stand

Political turbulence over the past year means consumers are increasingly looking to brands to help raise the profile of global concerns – particularly when it comes to sustainability, an issue on which many governments are seen to be dragging their heels. Brands have a responsibility, to both the planet and their customers, to use their platform to push forward the agenda.

Tiffany & Co. recently placed a prominent advert in The New York Times urging Donald Trump to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement. “If you are a company that is committed or even claims to be committed to responsible behaviour, I think you have no option but to speak up and to act,” explained Michael Kowalski, Tiffany & Co’s Interim Chief Executive.

Although there will always be criticism, the response to the advert was overwhelmingly positive with many taking to social media to share the message and their support, demonstrating that brands that don’t share opinions on key issues may risk alienating a new wave of engaged consumers.

  1. Young People Are Leading the Way

Having grown up with the reality of climate change, forging sustainability into business is considered essential by the next generation of designers and entrepreneurs – fashion is no exception to this.

A personal highlight of the summit was to see an inspiring group of young people present a UN draft resolution they had created. The proposal is based around the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and encompasses broader societal aims such as gender equality, poverty reduction, responsible consumption and climate action. The first-ever UN draft resolution concerning the fashion industry, it will be presented to the UN in New York later this year.

These dedicated individuals represent the leaders and the consumers of tomorrow – they are not afraid to speak their voices, and they are increasingly likely to shop with brands that share their values.

  1. Positive Communication is Needed

Although consumers increasingly care about sustainability, there is a danger of creating apathy and cynicism as the topic is often overused in marketing. Fresh and positive communication that celebrates achievements is needed to engage these savvy consumers.

“Get consumers to believe in something, instead of selling them something” stated Vanessa Belleau, Head of Consultancy EMEA, WGSN Mindset.

Daniella Vega, Director of Sustainability at Selfridges, explained that the retailer’s approach deconstructs sustainability into bitesize pieces that people care about and understand. Its Buying Better labelling offers information at the product level, while Positive Luxury’s recent partnership with Selfridges delivers further transparency at the brand level.

  1. Collaboration is Imperative

“At Kering we are rethinking luxury as sustainable, but to make real progress and to address our global challenges it is essential to join forces across the fashion industry,” argued Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Intuitional Affairs at Kering.

Increasingly, the companies that are making the most progress towards a sustainable future are those who forming alliances – even with competitors – to reshape the agenda and deliver solutions that would be impossible alone. For example, both H&M; and Kering have invested in chemical recycling technology Worn Again to fuel innovation in extracting usable fibres from post-consumer products.   

  1. Mindful Consumption is on the Rise

Along with creating a circular system, many speakers were keen to point out the need to move away from a fast fashion system. This trend is already playing out among the Millennial generation who are slowing down their buying habits, often choosing experiences over material possessions.

Since the beginning, Positive Luxury has championed this outlook of buying better, encouraging our community to invest in items they will love and keep for years to come.

Luxury brands are in an ideal position to align themselves with this philosophy. Built on a foundation of quality and craftsmanship, they have a unique opportunity to embrace this considered consumption movement and lead the way towards a sustainable future.