Set on sustainability, can Copenhagen become the world's next fashion capital?


Copenhagen is establishing itself as the capital of sustainable fashion. Photo: AFP

Once upon a time, the fashion world looked exclusively to New York, London, Milan and Paris; now Copenhagen is shaking things up.

In just a few years, the Danish capital has established itself as the world's fifth fashion capital, thanks to its numerous commitments to sustainability.

For its latest fashion week, which runs until Aug 11, we take a look at how exactly the world's greenest fashion week works.

Plus, here's looking into the runway show of London-based Paolina Russo, winner of the first-ever Zalando Visionary Award, which awards creativity, innovation, social impact and... sustainability.

The Scandinavian country may not (yet) enjoy the same reputation as Paris or Milan when it comes to ready-to-wear, but it can already claim a significant lead in terms of sustainability.

Some may say that this is due to the smaller number of shows – 31 scheduled for this August, compared to a hundred or so in Paris – but it's actually the result of a rigorous action plan implemented starting in 2020, under the leadership of Cecilie Thorsmark, the event's CEO.

The exacting standards to which brands must adhere – or they risk being banned from this fashion week – have made Copenhagen Fashion Week a benchmark in the field.

Read more: How Copenhagen Fashion Week sets a good example for sustainable fashion

Requirements in terms of sustainability

Until now, no fashion week has imposed such rigorous sustainability-oriented requirements as Copenhagen, with no fewer than 18 action points to which brands must adhere as of the Autumn/Winter 2023 season.

These include not destroying unsold merchandise from previous collections, finding a second life for samples, being totally transparent with customers, banning fur, creating 50% of collections from sustainable, recycled or upcycled materials, banning single-use plastic packaging in stores or for online orders, organising zero-waste fashion shows, and offsetting the carbon footprint of shows.

A long and detailed list that testifies to the event organizers' determination to not make fashion a burden on the environment.

And while these objectives may at first appear difficult for such an event to achieve, keep in mind that Copenhagen Fashion Week has set the bar very high.

According to its annual sustainability report, presented in December 2022, it has achieved 35 of its 37 objectives.

The only area where it fell short was in terms of carbon emissions: Copenhagen Fashion Week was unable to reduce these as much as it had hoped, in particular due to the fact that guests arrived via international flights.

However, the event intends to remedy this problem with its new summer edition, this time dedicated to the Spring/Summer 2024 season.

Recognizing designers committed to the cause

Indeed the brands invited to show at Copenhagen Fashion Week must meet strict sustainability requirements, but they must also be committed to creativity and innovation and having a positive social impact.

These three essential values are not (necessarily) included in the event's action plan, but they are at the heart of the Zalando Visionary Award, the successor to the Zalando Sustainability Award.

The very first edition of this new award honored London-based Paolina Russo in June.

A long-term partner of this fashion week, the e-commerce platform awards prizes ahead of the event to forward-looking designers who distinguish themselves through innovative production techniques and commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion, both in-house and through their campaigns and collections.

Plus without forgetting compliance with sustainability standards, essential for taking part in Copenhagen Fashion Week.

"With the Zalando Visionary Award, we want to... put the spotlight on initiatives that positively contribute to the fashion industry," explained Lena Sophie Röper, director of designer and luxury at Zalando, in a statement.

This past June, London-based Paolina Russo won the very first Zalando Visionary Award, presented by an international jury including Cecilie Thorsmark.

The label, founded in 2021 by Russo and Lucile Guilmard, won a prize of €50,000 (approximately RM251,000), and a precious invitation to present its new collection on Aug 9 as part of the official fashion show programme.

A blend of artisanal techniques and industrialized manufacturing, this young brand already stands out for its futuristic aesthetic and innovative knitwear – ethically produced – with sportswear accents.

Read more: 'Human dimension': Tunisian fashion brand turns sea plastic into 'green' couture

A tech-savvy fashion week

Thirty-one fashion shows will take place in Copenhagen during this week dedicated to the Spring/Summer 2024 season, alongside a host of events, presentations and discussions.

And the comprehensive programme is not exclusively the preserve of hand-picked guests, but accessible via the Copenhagen Fashion Week YouTube channel or directly on the home page of its online platform.

An initiative that not only helps to propel the creative talents of this fashion week onto the international stage, but also (and above all) enables the public to discover the new season's shows live, all over the world.

This year, Copenhagen Fashion Week has also teamed up with Snapchat to offer a series of unique experiences around the event.

In addition to a special mirror welcoming guests at Copenhagen airport, this partnership will see the launch of a guide with the runway show programme and the presentation of brands participating in the "CPHFW NEWTALENT" programme, which aims to support emerging Nordic brands.

It will also highlight the use of augmented reality, particularly at the American social network, within the fashion and beauty sectors – and there are many.

Sustainable, inclusive, committed and connected, Copenhagen Fashion Week has everything it takes to establish itself as the capital of sustainable fashion. – AFP Relaxnews

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