Last week the great and the good of the ethical fashion world came together in the capital of sustainability, Copenhagen, for the Copenhagen Fashion Summit.
Two years since the last summit and there was a palpable change in tone. Whilst 2014's conference was all about waking people and the wider fashion industry up to the need for change, this year's summit took on an altogether more urgent feel. Opened by HRH Mary Princess of Denmark, the summit was attended by some of the biggest names in fashion, we can only hope that the message that immediate action is required was taken on board.
What's in a name?
One of the recurring topics at the summit was the question of how the ethical fashion movement should be defined. Or whether it should even be pigeonholed. Business of Fashion founder Imran Amed made the point - "Good design is sustainable design" so why should we have to come up with a name for it, it is just simply, good, properly thought through fashion. The problem is that in the age of fast fashion, we have become disconnected with what good design actually is, instead brainwashed into buying more and more at cheaper and cheaper. Whilst this the case surely it is useful to be able to differentiate clothes that have been made in a sustainable way, whatever the word that differentiates might be (ethical, sustainable, or simply good). The consumer needs to be educated to be able to make the right choice.
The Role of the Media
And on subject of education, once again the summit hit on the fact that the media has a key role to play in making a change. The issue is not talked about enough in the mainstream media , and with big advertising contracts no doubt having an impact, we consistently see the big fast fashion brands in fashion roundups with very little coverage given to ethical brands. In one panel session the compare asked the question, "What would it take for an ethical brand to feature on the front cover of Vogue...." . The idea shouldn't be so absurd, it should be the magazine's duty to be ensuring that their cover looks are always sustainable. Just as it is no longer acceptable to glamourise fast food or smoking, we should not be glamourising fashion that is so inherently bad for the environment and for people.
Transparency has long been a marketing buzzword but putting the word radical infront of it some how adds gravitas and urgency. The notion that consumers want to know more about their clothes is no longer abstract, it is becoming more and more the case and that should be encouraged. Fashion Revolution asks the question Who Made Your Clothes?, we should add to that how, where, when. It is time to demand radical transparency so that there is nowhere for retailers hide - the next generation certainly will be asking those very questions.
The Next Generation
A powerful moment came in the form of a presentation of a group of young people from previously held Youth Fashion Summit giving their demands for the future of fashion and how to integrate the UN Sustainable Development Goals into the fashion industry. During the summit they handed their demands to the President of the UN General Assembly who promised to take them to the UN. The fashion industry would do well to listen to this generation which has grown up more environmentally and socially aware then any before and make the changes that are so desperately needed.