Models backstageStine Goya show, Backstage, Spring Summer 2020, Copenhagen Fashion Week, Denmark - 08 Aug 2019

COPENHAGEN — It’s time to move the sustainability conversation forward and take more drastic action, say Denmark’s leading fashion labels.

As Copenhagen Fashion Week kicks off, designers are banding together to set a new set of standards for the decade — and inspire the rest of the industry.

Up-and-coming label Carcel opened the four-day event with a bold statement: an empty catwalk, without models and without any new clothes. Instead, the label invited its guests to get on the catwalk and take a walk themselves, in a move that symbolized the importance of collective action and turned into a performance art piece. Artist Kristian Kirk filmed guests as they got together and walked up and down Carcel’s empty catwalk.

That’s not to say that the label will not produce a fall 2020 collection, but its intention was to shout about the need for industry-wide change and rethinking the purpose of fashion week.

“Fashion is able to revolutionize mind-sets and fashion weeks are more important than ever because that’s where the entire industry meets. But we need to change [the reasons] we meet about. Instead of talking new styles and colors, we need to pause for a second to question the fast cycles and quick expiration dates,” said Carcel founder Veronica D’Souza who was also the 2019 winner of the “Magasin du Nord” award, Scandinavia’s answer to the LVMH Prize.

“We need new business models, new ways of thinking and different notions of growth, and we need them now — basically a cultural and economic revolution of the perception of fashion in society. And we need to work together to figure this out. The status quo is unacceptable and the current business model of fashion is broken. The climate crisis has arrived on our doorstep, and being spectators is not how any of us want to be remembered,” added the designer, who is known for her commitment to using all-natural materials and employing female prisoners across Asia to produce the brand’s seasonless collections.

On the same day, the Copenhagen Fashion Summit and the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair revealed plans to launch a business space dedicated to sustainable innovation dubbed C+, at the next Copenhagen Fashion Week in August.

The aim of the space will be to exhibit sustainable solutions and host panel talks to help fashion brands further their sustainability mission, by linking up with some of these solution providers.

“Despite improvement, the pace of positive change doesn’t match the projected growth of the fashion industry, which will put an unprecedented strain on planetary resources. This collaboration is a great opportunity to inspire more fashion brands to embark on or further their sustainability journey,” said Kristian W. Andersen, chief innovation officer at CIFF.

The rental model is also starting to be directly incorporated into some Danish brands’ businesses, as they look to further promote the circular economy and also enhance their ethos of inclusivity.

By Malene Birger, which has been undergoing a revamp in the last year by designer Mathilde Torp Mader, will be making some of its key fall 2020 catwalk looks available for rent to end consumers, right after its show on Thursday.

“It’s a great way to allow the runway collection to be more accessible and dynamic,” said Mader, who earlier this month also created a capsule of wardrobe staples for Net-a-porter’s latest “Net Sustain” edit.

Mathilde Torp Mader

Mathilde Torp Mader  Courtesy of Thomas Nielsen

Ganni, arguably the city’s market leader, has also introduced rentals in Denmark last year, through its “Ganni Repeat” scheme and creative director Ditte Reffstrup said the brand is now ready to roll out the service globally later this year.

Another key player is Stine Goya, which has been making all its showpieces using 100 percent sustainable materials. It has now been working toward implementing some of those principles into its main, commercial collections and introducing organic cotton T-shirts, knits made of 100 percent recycled polyester and outerwear made using 40 percent recycled fabrics.

In addition, Baum und Pferdgarten has pledged to meet the U.N.’s sustainable development goals in the next five years, by working toward initiatives like product take-back programs, supplier mapping and fabric solutions such as replacing all cotton with organic and recycled options.

Copenhagen Fashion Week has been a key driving force of these initiatives. It’s been a benchmark-setter when it comes to hosting a fashion week sustainably, having banned single-use plastics and partnered with sustainable hotels, clean beauty companies and electric car providers to transport guests.

It has introduced a set of sustainability requirements brands will have to fulfill in order to participate in the event. There will be a pilot test throughout 2020 where brands will be graded on different criteria and as of 2023 they will only be granted access to the event if they achieve a certain score.

By Malene Birger x Net-a-Porter featuring influencer and sustainability advocate Doina Ciobanu

By Malene Birger x Net-a-porter featuring influencer and sustainability advocate Doina Ciobanu.  Courtesy Photo

“Scandinavian brands sense the state of emergency we’re in and they’re changing,” said Cecilie Thorsmark, chief executive officer of Copenhagen Fashion Week. “The way we developed our requirements provides really good guidance in terms of how to work with sustainability in all different areas of your value chain, from strategy to design, materials and working conditions. It’s like a checklist,” she added, pointing to the importance of shifting our focus to this bigger mission and looking beyond the ongoing search for newness.

“On this journey, we’re taking Copenhagen Fashion Week from being a traditional event to being a platform for industry change. If we succeed at being an event that promotes more than new collections, that’s what can bring back value to a fashion week.”