Review: Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2017

©Catarina Marques Teles

The Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2017 took place last week focussing on Commitment to Change. A review

Commitment to Change. This was the overarching theme running above the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2017, which began last week in the modern yet festive Copenhagen Concert Hall. This is already the fifth edition of the most important conference on sustainability in the fashion industry, and the fact that something has to change is something that everyone in attendance already knows. So it’s no surprise that Cradle to Cradle (C2C) movement co-founder and sustainability pioneer William McDonough opened this year’s nine-hour summit with the words “being less bad is not being good.”

Guests like Miroslava Duma (Founder and CEO of Fashion Tech Labs Venture Inc.), Livia Firth (Founder and Creative Director of Eco Age), Mark Langer (CEO of Hugo Boss), Cecilia Strömblad Brännsten (Circular Lead of the H&M Group), and many more were lead by Amber Valletta and Tyler Brûlé through the dense program.

The summit’s morning program was dedicated to the topic of circularity and the question of how companies must restructure themselves to close their production circle. The most inspiring contribution on this theme was especially the panel talk with Eileen Fisher. Under the header of “Innovation with the Next Generation,” the clothing company founder explained how important circularity is for all businesses and how new strategies and technologies must be developed to show coming generations new paths.

The round conducted by moderator Peder Michael Pruzan-Jorgensen (Senior Vice President of BSR) with Martijn Hagman (CFO of Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe), Miroslava Duma, and David Roberts (serial entrepreneur and thought leader at Singularity University) was the most interesting and specific panel. It was about how to invest in sustainable growth. In this context, Miroslava Duma talked about how Fashion Tech Labs invested in a San Francisco company that produces leather and fur in a lab – without hurting animals. Or an Italian company that, after a two-year testing phase, creates fibers from discarded orange peels and in that way recycles a “throw-away product” and turns it into something completely new. The list was long and for me these were the most tangible examples of how technology can shape the industry into something more sustainable.

The committee tried to counteract previous criticism of not being integrated enough with so-called “Breakout Sessions” and “Lunch Sessions.” For those who registered for these in advance, there were different focal points to choose from to obtain a more specific impression of a certain topic by entering into a dialog directly with the participating speakers. From “Circular Design” all the way to “Supply Chain Transparency,” the topics were diverse.

Yet, what set this year’s summit apart from the ones that came before was the publishing of the first data-driven report on the fashion industry. Pulse of the Fashion Industry is the first document of its kind to present and evaluate gathered facts about the fashion industry. Even though the data it contains is not verified and only a very small part of the industry is presented, it’s a daring undertaking to summarize an entire economic sector.


The biggest success of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2017, however, is that in the end some large companies committed themselves to sustainable restructuring over the coming years with the launch of the Call to Action for a Circular Fashion System. Eva Kruse, CEO of Global Fashion Agenda, said: “I’m very pleased that some of the world’s leading and biggest companies signed our Call to Action for a Circular Fashion System. I take this as a clear sign that the industry is not only aware of the need to change and the need to strive towards a closed loop system, but also ready to act.”

With many impressions and the interaction between companies, the economy, and politics, the summit is to be understood as a platform presented on concepts and the exchange of ideas and innovations. Because here, like many things in life, communication and exchange are the strongest mediums with which to bring about change.

Those who would like to see the entire talk can do so here:

Pulse of the Fashion Industry was made by Global Fashion Agenda in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group and can be downloaded here. It is an expandable document that at first will form a basis for further analysis and data.

All other information can be found here on the website.

Translation: Melissa Frost