In collaboration with Copenhagen Fashion Week, BoF convened industry leaders from across the value chain, including Pascal Morand, Julie Gilhart, Nicolaj Reffstrup (co-founder of Ganni), EU Parliamentary Committee chair Dr. Christian Ehler, journalist Clare Press, and representatives from Renewcell and Lenzing. They discussed and brainstormed concrete solutions that could immediately reduce the fashion industry’s negative environmental impact.
Suppliers, designers, brands, and retailers all along the fashion value chain need to work together to bring about this kind of systemic change. By 2030, resale and rental, two examples of circular business models, are projected to account for $700.0 billion (or 23% of the fashion industry’s total revenue) in the global economy. Nonetheless, neither the rate nor the scope of this change are adequate.
One of the groups rethinking the structures our industry is based on is Copenhagen Fashion Week (CPHFW). Since taking the helm in 2018, Cecilie Thorsmark has increased the scope and significance of Copenhagen Fashion Week (CPHFW).
After three years of planning, “this particular edition of Fashion Week marks a milestone for our event and for our organisation,” as Thorsmark reflected in her opening remarks. To participate in Copenhagen Fashion Week, a brand must be able to demonstrate compliance with the standards and provide supporting documentation. These standards consist of 18 minimum requirements spanning the entire value chain.
The event was hosted by BoF senior director Robin Mellery-Pratt, and it featured speakers from all points of the fashion industry’s value chain, such as Pascal Morand, executive president of Fédération Française de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM), Julie Gilhart, CEO of Tomorrow Ltd., Nicolaj Reffstrup, co-founder of Ganni, Christiane Arp, chair of the Fashion Council Germany, Josephine Philips, founder and CEO
Chatham House rule discussions are described below, along with anonymized insights shared with the BoF community and the industry at large.
The Role of Consultation and Regulation
Participants emphasised the importance of industry and lawmakers working together to find a workable compromise that will effectively lessen the environmental impact of the fashion industry. Current fashion business practises are unsustainable, and cannot be maintained. Even if best practises are adopted across industries, the reduction in emissions and waste will not be sufficient.
There are currently sixteen bills being discussed in Brussels. Legislation with real teeth that will affects how we work, what we make, how we dispose of our trash, and so on. I’ve long maintained that the fashion and textile industries are rapidly evolving from a largely unregulated sector into one that is heavily regulated at an international level. Some businesses might take offence to that. That makes them uneasy because they don’t know what it portends. How much will it cost? And how will it affect my ability to compete? “There are a lot of questions,” said a participant.
We must take great care to ensure that the legislation being enacted is of sufficient quality by checking that it is both clear and easy to follow. When compared to what, how does this affect competitiveness? Can it be tracked if it’s put into action? It’s not common for businesses to publicly support government action, but we applaud this change.
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In general, we think it’s a good thing because it promotes openness and transparency in business. The government will take industry concerns seriously if we make compelling arguments. In an effort to shift the conversation away from ideology and emotion, we must present compelling arguments grounded in science and the facts.
The textile and fashion industries are undergoing a transition from a deregulated to highly regulated state. Some businesses might take offence to that. That makes them uneasy because they don’t know what it portends. How much will it cost?
Another participant stressed the importance of boosting the value of B2B interactions and the need for a cultural shift as the key to fostering further collaboration.
I stress the importance of us trying to develop such a culture within the ecosystem by emphasising the importance of having a conversation on a level playing field between industry, politicians, and other stakeholders from research, social aspects, etc. We need to have a conversation about how we can reimagine the fashion industry. Making use of one’s imagination while keeping in mind the various types of interested parties present is essential.
If you want to get specific, I suggest putting extra effort into the digital passport. The exchange of data between businesses is what has the potential to create real value for the planet and its climate. So, how can B2B principles be incorporated into the design of digital passports to maximise their utility for the next generation? So that we don’t create a lot of labels, a lot of databases that don’t communicate with each other, and therefore don’t add any value to the concept, we can extract the relevant information that consumers can actually use from the passport’s design, […] also giving consumers the possibility to give back feedback to the same database.
People have suggested that tax breaks would be a good way to encourage widespread adoption.
It seems so obvious to me that there must be incentives alongside any legislation. The current environment for running a business is expensive on every front, and if you’re a publicly traded company, you have to answer to your shareholders. […] We shouldn’t expect that to alter.
That other thing, marketing, is crucial, too. When I asked [the CEO of a brand] what they think about most, they told me, “marketing.” I found it fascinating that they integrated a marketing campaign and aesthetic into it […]. If you believe that marketing accounts for 80% of the process, then you must discuss sustainability and must muster the guts to do so.