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Copenhagen Fashion Week unveils “radical” sustainability plan

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Copenhagen Fashion Week is looking to make real change within the fashion industry with its new Sustainability Action Plan 2020-2022, unveiled at the opening of its autumn/winter 2020 season, which includes a radical new approach that will require brands to demonstrate their sustainability standards.

At a press conference, Copenhagen Fashion Week, chief executive Cecilie Thorsmark, said that the action plan was a part of the continued reinvention of the regional bi-annual event, reinforcing the event’s sustainable profile in becoming fashion’s sustainability capital, while “reducing negative impacts, innovating business models and accelerating industry change” and would be two-fold approach, covering not only the event itself but also the industry as a whole.

Thorsmark, added: "All industry players - including fashion weeks - have to be accountable for their actions and be willing to change the way business is done. The timeframe for averting the devastating effects of climate change on the planet and people is less than a decade, and we're already witnessing its catastrophic impacts today. Put simply, there can be no status quo.”

At the heart of the Sustainability Action Plan is the implementation of a new minimum sustainability requirements in order for brands to participate on the official show schedule that will access brands sustainability credentials, as it looks to not only facilitate fashion shows but also set an ambitious agenda to drive as Thorsmark explained that the industry has already “reached a stage where transformation is urgently needed”.

“We are in a climate crisis,” stated Thorsmark. “Climate change is here and it is threatening our planet and our lives, and the fashion industry is one of the biggest offenders, account for up to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. As an industry we are not progressing fast enough to cancel out the negative impacts.

“Copenhagen Fashion Week is the cultural and commercial meeting place of the Scandinavian fashion industry. This gives us an enormous responsibility and the potential to create impactful change in the industry at large. By taking this direction we go from being a traditional event to being a platform for industry change.”

Copenhagen Fashion Week launches sustainability plan, as AW20 event begins

From January 2023, all brands will have to comply with 17 minimum standards set out by an expert panel, such as pledging not to destroy unsold clothes, using at least 50 percent certified, organic, upcycled or recycled textiles in all collections, using only sustainable packaging and having zero-waste set designs for their shows.

Each brand will be required to submit an application, and answer a yes and no questionnaire, with all brands needing to achieve a minimum score based on points awarded for six areas of the value chain: strategic direction, design, smart material choices, working conditions, consumer engagement and shows. To test out the scheme, organisers said that a pilot would be carried out in 2020 to collect data on the current baseline to determine the score required to participate in 2023.

“As a biannual event we are unable to directly influence the everyday operations of brands, but we are convinced that the requirements will be fundamental in pushing the industry towards more responsible and innovative business practices, even beyond their shows or presentations, by creating guidelines, supporting innovation and showing good practices,” added Copenhagen Fashion Week in the report.

These sustainability requirements were reviewed by a panel of international experts including Orsola de Castro of Fashion Revolution, Professor Dilys Williams from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Professor of Biological Oceanography Katherine Richardson.

"The action plan and its sustainability requirements reflect my conviction that highly ambitious goals are required to fully leverage Copenhagen Fashion Week's influence and impact on the industry,” explained Thorsmark. “The urgency of the situation we find ourselves in today pushes me to believe that we can no longer simply hope that progress will occur of its own accord.”

The Sustainability Action Plan 2020-2022 was developed in 2019 with Copenhagen Fashion Week's knowledge partner, In Futurum, founded by Moussa Mchangama and Frederik Larsen, alongside the event’s Board of Directors and Sustainability Advisory Board, comprising of industry profiles such as Ganni's founder Nicolaj Reffstrup, Global Fashion Agenda's chief executive Eva Kruse and Vogue Australia's sustainability editor-at-large Clare Press.

The plan also explains how the Copenhagen Fashion Week event will transition to become more sustainable, with Thorsmark stating that the plan is to reduce its climate impact by 50 percent and rethink waste systems in all aspects of event production, including banning plastic coat-hangers from 2021, with zero waste as the goal by 2022. In addition, organisers are also going to explore what it called “digital solutions” to target a global audience while reducing travel to Copenhagen.

To deliver on its vision it will be focusing on selected UN Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 12 - responsible consumption and production; SDG 13 - climate action; and SDG 17 - partnerships for the goals. This has led to the creation of three pillars guiding its efforts, “reduce, innovate and accelerate”.

Thorsmark, added: “Collaborating is a vital part of this transition to a more sustainable fashion week. This isn’t a plan against the fashion industry, but for the industry to future proof brands.”

Image: courtesy of Copenhagen Fashion Week

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