Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2020: Vogue speaks to founder Eva Kruse

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For the past decade, fashion’s leading figures have gathered at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit every year to discuss how the industry can achieve a more sustainable future. This year’s event though—which will be taking place virtually for the first time, from 12 to 13 October—is arguably the most important to date, with time quickly running out to tackle the climate crisis.  

“We have a chance now to use this moment to actually reset,” Eva Kruse, CEO of the Global Fashion Agenda and founder of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, tells Vogue. “It’s ever more relevant to discuss exactly how sustainability can be a huge part of the rebuilding of the fashion industry after [the Covid-19] crisis.”

Eva Kruse, President and CEO, Global Fashion Agenda talks at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2019.

© Photography Getty Images

The move to digital 

Taking place via the new CFS+ platform, the digital event will feature a series of conversations between the likes of H&M CEO Helena Helmersson and professor of environmental science Johan Rockström, as well as Omoyemi Akerele, founder of Lagos Fashion Week, and Samata Pattinson, CEO of Red Carpet Green Dress. Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri will also be taking part in a live interview, while other speakers will include Chanel president Bruno Pavlovsky, Ganni founder Nicolaj Reffstrup, and Amina Razvi, executive director of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. All talks will remain on the site beyond the virtual event, and there will be a digital matchmaking service for brands and innovators to meet, too. 

The new format reflects the way in which industry conferences are having to adapt during the pandemic, with the Circular Fashion Summit taking place via VR technology earlier this month. “This disruption with Covid has made us think about how we bring these conversations to life in a different way, and create something that can have a much longer life than just one day,” Kruse says. “We can reach a much bigger audience [virtually]. I’m very excited that the CFS+ platform is open to everyone—there is no expensive ticket, and it doesn't require a flight.” 

Including diverse voices was a key focus, particularly in light of the global reckoning on racial injustice we’ve seen in 2020. This year’s event has, however, faced criticism for not including the voices of garment workers— considering how heavily they’ve been impacted by cancelled orders during the pandemic—although Mostafiz Uddin, founder of manufacturing company Denim Expert Ltd in Bangladesh and an advocate for workers’ rights, is on the lineup. 

“We haven’t been good enough at prioritising [diversity] in the past,” the Copenhagen Fashion Summit CEO admits. “We’ve been more focused on getting those in power to speak and unfortunately, it is still [the case] that there are not enough diverse voices in leadership positions.” 

The value of fashion 

It’s fair to say the past few months have given most of us a chance to slow down and reflect on what’s important to us—with early indications suggesting that shoppers are becoming more eco-conscious as a result. Fittingly, then, the theme of this year’s virtual summit is ‘redesigning value’, highlighting why we all need to value our clothes more. “How can we get back to a place where you appreciate a thing has a price because it has cost something not only for the worker, and the fabric, but for the forest, the water and pesticides used, the CO2 emitted?” Kruse questions. 

It’s a subject that was also addressed in the open letter to the fashion industry, led by Dries Van Noten, calling for delivered collections to coincide with the appropriate season, and discounting to happen only at the end of the season (not mid-season, as it does now). It’s a proposal Kruse agrees with: “Massive discounts have decreased the value of the product and made us as consumers used to getting things at a discounted rate. When everything is discounted, you also often buy too much.” 

On a personal level, the question of value is central to the former magazine editor’s approach to her own wardrobe. “I have to value products that I buy more; I have to need it more,” she explains. “It’s about reducing, reusing and recycling. When I buy something new, I have to get rid of something as well—either resell it, give it away or recycle it—so there's a flow in my wardrobe.”

The need for urgent action  

While sustainability has been the talk of the fashion industry of late, real progress is still slow. “In all of our surveys, we can see about 50 per cent of the industry is doing something in the space of sustainability, but still 50 per cent is lagging behind,” Kruse says. “The question is if they will [take action] on their own, or if they need to be pressured by legislation, say, a price on water and on CO2, a ban on incineration.”

The Global Fashion Agenda CEO hopes the impact that Covid-19 has had on the fashion industry will speed up the process. “The pandemic has shone a light on sustainability as a business imperative,” Kruse says. “We’ve seen how a company that has a leaner supply chain, more control over their natural resources and their production, are the brands doing better. Sustainability is not just the right thing to do in terms of what’s right for people and the planet, it’s also the right thing to create more resilient business models in the future.” 

The Copenhagen Fashion Summit has certainly come a long way in moving the conversation forward over the past decade—when it first launched in 2009, sustainability was rarely talked about within the industry. Does this make Kruse hopeful for the future? “I’m definitely optimistic,” she concludes. “I really hope that people will take this opportunity to not just go back to what we had before. It’s about being focused, and narrowing down what really matters. I think that can drive us to a good place.”

Also read:

“If fashion doesn’t bring joy, then what’s the point?”: Marni’s Francesco Risso on fostering a global community in a time of crisis

Nicolas Ghesquière shares his hopes for the future of the fashion industry

Gabriela Hearst on making her Paris debut, and why she’s continuing to push the boundaries for SS21

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