How Copenhagen Fashion Week sets a good example for sustainable fashion

  • Style
  • Friday, 17 Feb 2023

Featuring brands like The Garment, Copenhagen Fashion Week is the most sustainable in the world, setting an example to the major fashion capitals. Photo: AFP

The fashion world is abuzz, with New York Fashion Week having just ended, before moving on to London, Milan and Paris – four cities known for their creativity and expertise in the ready-to-wear sector.

However, there is one area in which they struggle to excel – sustainability.

That said, this is one of the priorities of Copenhagen Fashion Week, the world's greenest of such an event. It may be less well known, but this Scandinavian showcase is setting an example for the world's greatest fashion capitals.

It's no secret that Scandinavian fashion has been gaining ground for several years, and Copenhagen is no stranger to this rise in renown.

Not content with being lauded for its street style, as well as for its brands with minimalist aesthetics, the Danish capital can boast of being at the forefront of sustainable fashion.

This influence can be attributed to Cecilie Thorsmark, president and CEO of Copenhagen Fashion Week, who has chosen to combine fashion and eco-responsibility since 2020.

This bold move, based on strict sustainability standards, has not only attracted attention to this event, but could also serve as an example for other fashion capitals to follow.

Read more: Young brands in vogue at New York Fashion Week, while most big names absent

Strict standards

After three years of relentless efforts, Copenhagen Fashion Week's 2020-2022 Sustainability Action Plan proved to be a great success during the latest edition of the event, held from Jan 31 to Feb 3, 2023.

Now officially implemented, these new standards are not only aimed at the brands featuring on the calendar of this fashion week – which are excluded in case of non-compliance with the standards – but are also applicable to the event itself.

No less than 18 minimum standards covering six areas of action over the entire value chain were imposed for the event.

Actions include a ban on destroying unsold merchandise from previous collections, an obligation to create 50% of collections from clean, recycled or upcycled materials, a ban on the use of fur, zero-waste fashion shows, recycled invitations, electric cars, carbon footprint compensation, and more.

In fact, nothing was overlooked in the quest to make this fashion week ethical and sustainable.

In its annual report on sustainable development, unveiled in December, Copenhagen Fashion Week claimed to have achieved 35 of the 37 objectives set.

A success, which does not prevent the event from regretting its two failures, directly related to carbon emissions.

"Our action plan set out to reduce our carbon footprint with 30% by 2021 and 50% by 2022 compared to 45 tonnes of CO2 measured in August 2019, but already by 2021, we realised the hardship of meeting these reduction goals," reads a news release.

Emissions related to international flights, necessary to accommodate foreign guests (those from neighboring countries travel by train), are at this stage the most difficult to reduce, the organisers explain.

But Copenhagen Fashion Week intends to step up its efforts to reach all of these goals in the years to come.

Read more: How about clothes made out of algae? The future of fashion now grows in a pond

241,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent

Without being perfect, this Danish Fashion Week proved that it is possible to make these most popular fashion events of the year more sustainable.

While it's difficult to make direct comparisons between Copenhagen Fashion Week and those of the four major fashion capitals, because of the smaller number of shows (29 shows in Copenhagen, compared to around a hundred in Paris), there's no doubt that efforts can be made to reduce the waste generated by these exceptional events.

French fashion's governing body, the Federation De La Haute Couture Et De La Mode (FHCM) has, in fact, taken steps in this direction with the provision of two tools to assist its member companies, offering support and eco-design assistance.

The objective is to measure the environmental, social and economic impact of Paris Fashion Week and to undertake actions to make it more responsible.

And that's not all, since the Federation is also committed to supporting zero-carbon mobility, and to favouring the reuse of materials and set decors.

These various actions show that the Paris Fashion Week is also slowly but surely embarking on its green transition.

These efforts now need to be stepped up in order to make all the world's fashion weeks more sustainable. Something that the major players involved in staging these events, showcasing the luxury goods sector, have well understood.

"I think what Copenhagen is doing is setting an example," said Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council Of Fashion Designers Of America (CFDA), speaking to the New York Times.

He goes on to state that, while the Danish Fashion Week was inspiring, it would be difficult to impose such standards on the many designers on the official New York Fashion Week calendar.

Plus, given the scale of the event, as in Paris, London and Milan, the issue of international flights will inevitably remain a major issue.

Published in 2020, the "Zero To Market" report, conducted by Carbon Trust and, revealed that travel associated with the fashion weeks of the four fashion capitals was responsible for the emission of 241,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent over one year.

An impressive figure that is equivalent to the annual emissions of 51,000 cars, or lighting up the Eiffel Tower for 3,060 years.

Resorting to the virtual, and perhaps even the metaverse, could therefore be a solution, although it would profoundly alter the nature of these events. – AFP Relaxnews

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