COPENHAGEN — Sustainability — from concept to commerce — was the overarching theme at Copenhagen’s trade shows, which took place at the same time as the Danish capital’s fall 2020 fashion week.
“Young consumers consider sustainability a matter-of-fact. It puts tremendous pressure on everyone who engages with an audience that demands change. I’m not the one who can change all the brands towards sustainability, but I hope that by leading that way forward we can introduce solutions and offers to the industry, and inspire brands, everyone to have a focus on sustainability,” said Kristian W. Andersen, chief innovation officer of the trade show’s parent company North Modern.
Among the initiatives are a trial for a professional online order platform powered by Ordre.com, which Andersen described as a “third new service to help buyers prepare or reflect on their selection, but [isn’t meant to replace physical occasions like the show] because losing the personal connection would mean losing everything” and the show’s role as an incubator to young talent, such as London-based Bethany Williams and Amsterdam-based Duran Lantink, whose denim-based silhouettes were exhibited in an installation at CIFF.
Stavros Karelis, the show’s special projects curator and founder of London store Machine A, said that this edition was daunting because it was hard to gauge “if we know enough, if we have done enough, if we are going to do it right,” but that these projects hinged on “trust[ing] the young generation because what we do is for all of us but will stay for young people.”
An installation called A.R.T., an acronym that stands for “Alter Repair Transform,” in collaboration with denim brand Lee, was one such initiative aiming to foster dialogue with the wider consumer audience for those who wanted a more hands-on approach to a series of free talks and presentations around denim. A large pile of deadstock jeans and bolts of fabric provided by the denim specialist was quickly being picked through by visitors who used the mending bar and the specialized crafters on hand to customize or create their own pieces, using a combination of laser, creative stitching and other techniques.
“If we keep looking at waste as something that is horrible and useless, we aren’t going to change anybody’s mind. We want to inspire in large and small ways: this can be done at home, or at scale,” said Orsola de Castro, who advised the A.R.T project and is the founder of Fashion Revolution, a not-for-profit organization campaigning for industry-wide supply chain reforms towards transparency. “All we have to do is welcome experimentation. We are looking at realities that are small — with menders — and as big as [this pile of deadstock], and CIFF.”
In the show’s Raven section were brands exploring sustainable options such as Paris-based Mansour Martin, founded by Belgian designers Mansour Badjoko and Martin Liesnard, which aims to reach sustainability through limited runs of genderless garments produced in Europe.
For The Jewellery Room, the biannual jewelry showcase launched by sisters Charlotte Møbjerg Ansel-Henry and Pernille Møbjerg Knudsen as an official partner of the Copenhagen Fashion Week, this season’s selection brought to the fore younger labels and brands with visible initiatives.
“We are not the sustainable police,” said Møbjerg Knudsen, a non-judgmental stance shared earlier by CIFF’s Andersen. “But we celebrate all brands having sustainable initiatives. No one does everything, but every small thing is a step in the right direction of supporting Copenhagen’s vision and mission.”
One such small amount was the 0.036 grams of gold found in a single cellphone. German brand Vieri, already centered around sustainable fine jewelry, sourced the metal for its yellow and rose gold Essential lines through Closing the Loop, a company working to address electronic waste and its impact, particularly on African communities. “It takes 40 phones to get the one gram of gold necessary for a ring, but to get the same amount from mining, you’d have to move a ton of ore. So it’s a better deal,” said founder Guya Merkle.
The selection also included Polar Jewelry, which forewent diamonds for crystals and fast-growing bamboo corals and produces using partners who are part of the United Nations Global Compact, a non-binding pact to encourage sustainable and responsible practices in businesses; and With Love Darling, which creates its pieces symbolizing the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals using recycled silver and gold.
The U.N.’s graphic signage provided visual cues at the Revolver trade show, where some brands such as Stockholm-based label Self Cinema had chosen to display the goals they are reaching for with their second season, such as “responsible consumption and production.”
“We are not just sustainable, we are responsible. We manufacture only with suppliers we know and who have transparent practices,” said creative director Samuel Thomas, a Gucci, Burberry and Loewe alum who cofounded the brand with Acne alum Anthony Rock, pointing out a puffer jacket made with down from ReDown or a nylon parka cut from regenerated nylon yarn EcoNyl, a material also used on Prada’s Re-Nylon line.
For the pair, sustainable was “the right way. After being in the industry a long time, most people sit it out but you get sick of seeing rails of garments that end up at outlets or destroyed,” Thomas said, noting that their brand would carry styles over from one season to the next, offering season-appropriate additions or style twists in the form of prints.
Others relied on the visual appeal of their virtuous production cycle to attract attention. Hosiery brand Swedish Stockings, which uses recycled postconsumer nylon in its products, has hooked up with buzzy label Ganni and will launch a range with By Malene Birger in March. Underwear label Organic Basics, which recently introduced lines using preconsumer nylon and cashmere obtained by the processing of production of off-cuts into new fiber, but also promotes product longevity through treatments such as silver salt odor control.