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Strutting their stuff. How Copenhagen Fashion Week promotes sustainability on the catwalk.

URBAG investigates the activation and application of sustainability within the curated collections that international fashion weeks provide. Let’s see if London, New York, and Paris can match the ambitious Copenhagen with their upcoming fashion weeks.

A Fashion Week, so what?

Fashion Weeks are the most highly anticipated events in the fashion industry. It's a time when designers showcase their latest collections, models strut down the runway, and fashion enthusiasts flock to the city to see what's new in the fashion world. However, as the fashion industry grows, so do its environmental impacts.

One of the most significant issues is the amount of generated waste. Fashion weeks require many resources, including water, energy, and materials. Many materials used in fashion, such as fabrics and dyes, have a significant environmental impact. Look at our recent article on the environmental impacts of dyeing to discover the true costs of colour.

Copenhagen Fashion Week: bold but brilliant

Today sustainability has become a buzzword in the fashion industry, as brands and consumers alike are becoming more conscious of the impact of fashion on the environment. Copenhagen Fashion Week, however, streamlines the jargon by setting specific standards for sustainability in the fashion industry.

As with every fashion week, there is an annual theme, and this is where Copenhagen excelled. Copenhagen’s 2023 theme was sustainability. By placing the environment at the core of their operations, they openly and actively attempt to accelerate the fashion industry to change.

Agenda setting – A Sustainable Action Plan

Copenhagen had been ahead of the trend for a while. They have been agenda-setting since 2020 when they declared their Sustainable Action Plan.

The plan aimed to make Copenhagen Fashion Week a zero-waste event by 2020 and to ensure that at least 50% of the collections showcased were sustainable.

The event also introduced a set of 18 requirements that brands must meet to be eligible to participate in the fashion week.

One thing is for sure, if you are in, you are in! These 18 requirements go above and beyond since they include six main areas that attempt to cover the entire supply chain.

The six areas are:

  1. Strategic direction

  2. Design

  3. Smart material choices

  4. Working conditions

  5. Consumer engagement

  6. Shows

Yet they don’t stop there. Even though this season is the first time that all the Sustainable Action Plan requirements have been met, they intend every year to add a new condition. Copenhagen is on a mission! These additional requirements hope to incur long-term change within the fashion industry. Cecilie Thorsmark, the CEO of CPHFW, summarises,

Going forward, we’re going to introduce one new standard a year. But will work with the existing standards to ensure that they’re strict enough”.

London is an inspired city

The rationale behind these sustainability requirements was to motivate other organisations to lead in the field of sustainability, and it worked!

By setting standards for sustainability and promoting eco-friendly designs, the event has encouraged additional fashion weeks to follow suit. For instance, London, inspired by Copenhagen, has considered incorporating sustainability into its framework and schedule.

As always, London Fashion Week is an exciting event to showcase the latest trends in fashion. This year, they have slightly adjusted. London will feature many young sustainable designers. We have gathered insight into young designers making waves at London Fashion Week. Take a look. You will not be disappointed:

Patrick McDowell – young, wild, and free (from guilt)

Patrick McDowell is a young designer from London who is making a name for himself at this year's London Fashion Week.

Patrick's commitment to sustainability is apparent in his designs, which focus on reducing waste and using natural materials.

He is also committed to supporting local businesses and charities, working to reduce the environmental impact of fashion.

Conner Ives – natural and notable

Conner Ives' minimalist, timeless aesthetic designs use natural materials, such as organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo.

He is committed to creating sustainable and stylish clothing, and his designs have been featured in several fashion publications.

Ray Chu – sustainable self-expression

Ray Chu is a fashion designer who specialises in sustainability.

He believes that fashion can be both stylish and environmentally friendly. Ray uses only sustainable materials in his designs, like degradable vegan leather and organic cotton and works with ethical manufacturers to produce his clothing.

He is committed to reducing the fashion industry's environmental impacts and promoting more sustainable practices.

Ancuta Sarcá – unconventional but feminine

The way to go is out with the old and in with the new. Meet Ancuta, who is changing the footwear game.

Her innovative designs take recycled material cutouts to bring them to life. In a recent collaboration with Nike, she took abandoned trainers and transformed them into heels. In this partnership, there was a combination of conscious creation with a subversion of the traditional masculine sneaker.

Here come the girls!

New York, too scared to fall behind?

New York Fashion Week is driving the future of style, yet is it ensuring its operations are sustainable? Well, for 2023, they have made sure they will be. This year, designers are on their schedule that put environmentally conscious practices at the forefront of their creations.

For instance, designers are encouraged to use eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton and recycled polyester. Many designers also repurpose materials from previous collections to create new pieces. You only have to look at Gabriela Hurst to see this in action.

Beyond just the clothes, New York may even aim to alter the entire experience. One way to transform the traditional is to make some shows completely digital. This digitalisation reduces the need for travel and paper invitations. Overall, the industry is making progress towards more sustainable practices in fashion.

Paris is now part of the trend.

Paris Fashion Week has taken steps in recent years to become more sustainable.

In 2019, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, which organises the event, announced it would work with the Paris Good Fashion collective to promote sustainable practices within the fashion industry.

Some of the steps to be taken by Paris Fashion Week to promote sustainability include:

  • Encouraging designers to use sustainable materials.

  • Providing a platform for sustainable fashion brands to showcase their collections.

  • Promoting circular fashion through initiatives such as clothing swaps and upcycling workshops.

  • Reducing the event's environmental impact by using energy-efficient lighting and encouraging public transportation.

IG: @atleinparis

One brand that is driving sustainability is the Paris-based fashion house Atlein Paris.

Its mission is sustainability, achieved by sourcing fabrics saved from landfills or destruction and using the materials to influence the new collection.

Simply no more and no less. Genius, right?

These efforts are part of a broader trend toward sustainability within the fashion industry as consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental impact of fast fashion.

Copenhagen is undoubtedly a trendsetter.

Copenhagen Fashion Week has become a trendsetter in sustainability, promoting eco-friendly designs and sustainable practices in the fashion industry.

The event's initiatives and requirements have set industry sustainability standards, and its influence has encouraged other fashion weeks and brands to prioritise sustainability.

As the fashion industry continues to evolve, sustainability must remain a priority. Copenhagen Fashion Week has shown that sustainable fashion is not just a trend but a necessity for the industry's future.

Read more on fashion and sustainability

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