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Copenhagen fashion summit: seven things we learned

Now in its third year, the Copenhagen fashion summit is one of the world’s most important events on sustainable fashion. It gathers more than 1,000 decision-makers and thought leaders in fashion, business and politics – this year including Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, the patron of the summit, as well as eco-fashion champion Livia Firth and photographer Mario Testino. Here are the highlights from the ground.

Denmark’s royals are right-on

Princess Mary started proceedings by announcing that she was not wearing old favourites, as might be expected at a fashion sustainability conference, but new pieces by Danish brand Designers Remix. The pale blue sweater and wide A-line midi skirt were created especially for her. “The only thing not sustainable in the outfit is the zips, so we had to use a recycled one,” she said.

Kering is going green …

Marie-Claire Daveu, the chief sustainability officer for the Kering group – owner of Stella McCartney, Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent, among others – said that Kering had aspirations to become the world’s most sustainable luxury goods conglomerate. This is a significant ambition. Ethical brands are generally not considered remotely high fashion, but if Daveu’s plan comes to fruition this could change. Daveu said that by 2016 she hopes Kering will be close to having sustainably sourced leather, wool, gold, diamonds and python used across their brands. She also revealed that they are working towards their packaging, stores and offices becoming becoming green (Bottega Veneta’s Italian HQ has just won an award from the Green Building Council). It all sounds a bit too good to be true, but the directive comes from the top. Daveu finished her keynote speech with “staying silent and doing nothing is no longer acceptable”.

… and so is Mario Testino

“I want to learn how to live my life a bit better,” he said. “Unless you get with the plan you are out of the plan. Honestly, I think it is time we all look at the way we use things every day in our life. I am here because I want to learn from the experts. It was interesting to hear that Bottega Veneta have built an eco headquarters, for example. And they collect their rainwater! We should all do that.”

Livia Firth turned #insideout for Fashion Revolution Day

Firth – whose consultancy, Eco Age, promotes green fashion – strode on to the stage looking low-key in chinos and a jacket, then proceeded to turn the jacket inside out to raise awareness of the campaign to highlight garment workers who died at Rana Plaza a year ago today. “Sixty million people work in the garment trade globally and it is an industry worth $2.5tn, yet somehow we have divorced the clothes we buy from the fact that living, breathing people make them,” she said. “It’s a case of out of sight, out of mind. We cannot keep eating from this big, cheap fashion pile without thinking about who made our clothes.”

Washing matters

Do you wash your clothes after one wear? Do you wash at 60C? If so, Stella McCartney wants a word. She popped up at the summit with a video message introducing Clevercare, a new garment labelling system, created with Ginetex – the company that owns washing symbols – with the aim of better educating us all on how to care for our clothes. “The less you wash your clothes, the better,” said Stella. “I was told that by the tailors on Savile Row when I worked there and it’s true, clothes last longer if you wash them less and care for them more. And less washing saves water and energy.”

There is more demand for ethical fashion than ever

Helena Helmersson is head of sustainability at HM, one of the sponsors of the conference. Helmersson spoke about HM’s eco efforts, including their “Don’t let fashion go to waste” in-store garment collecting programme. Last year they had 5,000 tonnes of used clothes dropped into the recycling bins in their stores, the equivalent of 15m T-shirts. She said that HM had carried out research that suggests their shoppers are 21% more interested in ethical clothing than they were a year ago. And she said: “Ethical clothes only work when they look good and are affordable.”

Capsule wardrobes are more sustainable

Journalist Vanessa Friedman is a few weeks away from taking up her new post as chief fashion critic of the New York Times. Her message is that the fashion system as it stands basically sucks. “Designers are expected to do six to eight collections a year; high-street retailers bring new collections in every week. The system is based on planned obsolescence, and guess what? It is unsustainable. It is a runaway train and we all know that eventually they crash. The question is, what to do now? The answer lies not in sustainable fashion, which as a phrase makes no sense, but by building a sustainable wardrobe. That works and has value for the person who has built it – I bring the same four dresses, two jackets and two pants with me everywhere. When I talk to designers now, what we discuss is creating special things.”

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