Everything That Happened At Copenhagen Fashion Summit
Vogue’s sustainability editor Clare Press shares her diary.
Last week the Copenhagen Fashion Summit happened. What’s that? Think the Davos of sustainable fashion, with everyone who’s anyone in the green scene, globally, coming together to network and discuss ways to make fashion a better deal for people and planet.
Sunday May 13
Glorious weather in Copenhagen. The good thing about coming from Australia is you can justify arriving a day early to get over the jetlag. Walked mine off in the 400-year-old Kongens Have (King’s Garden) under the watchful eye of Hans Christian Andersen, whose statue sits on a plinth that depicts a scene from The Ugly Duckling. The statue everyone goes to see, though, is the one of the Little Mermaid. I know I should go find her, but the lure of lolling is too strong. I find a patch of bluebells and doze.
Monday May 14.
The I-SKOOL talent prize for denim design is announced by Peter Copping, a former creative director of both Rochas and Oscar de la Renta.
He and his fellow judges, including Vogue India’s Bandana Tewari, are unanimous in their decision: Japanese designer Morine Uramoto wins for her “clever design nuance - for instance turning a skirt into a jacket, a pant into a top - that makes her clothes timeless and genderless.” One to watch.
Catch up with VAMFF CEO Graeme Lewsey. We’re on a mission to persuade the summit’s founder and president Eva Kruse to come to Australia. She’s never been. Eva is amazing. I’ve been working on a podcast collaboration with the summit, and my interview with Eva was first up.
She told me, “The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest [and] that in itself is powerful. If the fashion industry decides to change, even minor changes will have huge impacts.” Hear the full conversation here.
Welcome drinks at the Skt. Petri, a gratifyingly green hotel. All their electricity comes from wind power, they turn their food waste into biogas, don’t use products with palm oil and serve only MSC certified fish. Love. At the drinks, I spy a fabulously dressed brunette and swoop on her – she turns out to be Canadian stylist Sarah Jay. Her dress is upcycled from old denim and men’s shirting, but you’d never know. It’s by Montréal-based label Thirtythree47. Canada’s sustainable fashion game is strong.
The Aussies are out in force. Kirri-mae Sampson from the Australian Fashion Council is here, as is Peppermint magazine’s Roxane Horton. The team from Good on You is in town – they’re about to expand into Europe. Great to meet Karina Seljak, the Copenhagen-based Australian behind the Seljak label, which she runs with her sister Sam. They make beautiful blankets using recycled Australian merino wool.
Conversation with the sustainability manager for Alexander McQueen turns to the royal wedding. I try to persuade her to tell me if they made The Dress. I fail.
Tuesday May 15.
Spot US Vogue fashion director Tonne Goodman in the lobby. She’s on a panel tomorrow – interested to hear her perspective on eco chic. Meet Julie Gilhart. She was pushing eco fashion as fashion director at Barney’s NY before most people had even thought of it.
The conference opens at the Copenhagen Concert Hall with Amber Valletta and Tim Blanks as hosts. As Vogue’s first ever sustainability editor, I’m chairing a panel about The Future of Transparency. There are 1300 people at this conference, including key media and top CEOs, and the sessions are livestreamed. No pressure then. I consider being nervous then decide this is not the time and place. My fellow panellists - Fashion Revolution’s Carry Somers, Baptiste Carriere-Pradal of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, techspert Rachel Arthur, Paul van Zyl of Maiyet and Arket’s Karin Brink - make it easy.
A standout session is the one on circularity with Cradle to Cradle icon William McDonough, Vestiaire Collective’s Sébastien Fabre, and Giulio Bonazzi, boss of the company behind Econyl. That’s the nylon made from recycled “ghost” fishing nets and old carpets – it is the hot thing in the swimwear market, especially in Australia. “For a circular economy to be a virtue, we have to have goods and services not bads and services,” says McDonough.
I’m interviewing him tomorrow, and I can’t wait. And Ellen MacArthur. ELLEN MACARTHUR. Yes!
Go to a beautiful dinner with Bandana and Chinese fashion editor Shaway Yeh, in the home of AIAYU designer Maria Heilmann. Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan of this Danish label, and I can see why. They work with artisans in Bolivia to hand-knit incredible homewares from super-soft llama wool.
Wednesday May 16.
Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Denmark gives her opening address, dressed in a mint-green-and-silver brocade skirt from H&M’s Conscious Exclusive Collection. She speaks of the magnitude of the challenge ahead, but says companies must embed sustainability deep within their cores. The Princess is super knowledgeable about sustainable fashion, and uses her position to advance the conversation. How great is that?
Today is the day the students from the Youth Summit present their ideas for shaping fashion’s future. It must be terrifying standing on that stage, with a royal audience, and a room packed full of the sorts of people you’re hoping might employ you, but they ace it. 112 students were selected to take part this year, including 3 from RMIT: Amanda Morglund, Julia English and Lisa Kjerulf. Afterwards, I ask them how they found the experience, and their answers are all about collaboration, energy, creativity and coming together. Brilliant. The future is definitely bright.
I have a podcast interview with Anna Gedda, H&M Group’s head of sustainability, but she’s in a hurry and we have to improvise a studio on site. We end up backstage in a dark corridor. Seems quiet enough, until music starts blaring on the other side of a door. I knock and ask them to turn it down. “I work for DR. Who are you?” says the disturbed DJ. We’ve stumbled into the national radio’s studios!
Stella McCartney is being interviewed on stage by Graydon Carter (who was editor of Vanity Fair for a quarter of a century). His first question is about McCartney’s rock star parents. She answers honestly and charmingly, but it’s the eco stuff that is most absorbing. “The fashion industry cuts down around 150 million trees a year,” she explains, with reference to viscose production. “It was actually 100 million last year, and it’s 150 this year.” Yikes. McCartney uses only sustainably produced viscose. She just keeps on leading.
In a session called How do we Talk About Sustainability Outside This Room?, model/actor/entrepreneur Lily Cole speaks beautifully about the need for strong storytelling. “Sustainability is becoming sexier,” she says. “I think ultimately it’s a branding challenge and I think we’re meeting that challenge of how to make it beautiful and engaging and inspiring.” Could not agree more. But Tim Blanks thinks sustainability is still a daggy – dirty? – word. He says, “Sustainability is referred to as the ‘s’ word in some quarters which sounds quite disparaging.” Really, Tim? I think we’ve moved on! Amber Valletta reveals that she’s made a film called The Changing Room featuring influencers pushing out the sustainable fashion message. Can’t wait to see it.
I run back to the hotel to interview Paul van Zyl. A former human rights lawyer, Paul is one of the people who inspired me to write Wardrobe Crisis, From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion. Actually, I first met him at VAMFF – he spoke at the Business Seminar in 2014. He’s completely fascinating.
Tonight is the celebration dinner at the Hotel d’Angleterre. I arrive in an incredible balloon-sleeved, tartan coat made for me by Estelle Michaelidis from Micky in the Van. I sit next to the American model Molly Bair, who is studying marine biology, and tells me she came to the summit to learn.
“There’s so much to learn,” she says. I tell her I feel the same.
Her Royal Highness at the next table with Eva Kruse, Amber Valletta and Nike’s COO Eric Sprunk. The Princess looks supremely elegant in a simple white shift dress.
Follow Clare on Instagram @mrspress