6 Industry Leaders Reflect Post-Copenhagen

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Image: Deb Johnson of the NRDC’s Linda Greer in Copenhagen

Fashion has been called one of the most powerful industries in the world. Whether members of that industry choose to make positive impacts with that power is another thing. Enter the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, a powerful platform where 1200 people from the apparel industry gathered to inspire, be inspired and take action with the hopes of transforming fashion into a more sustainable, ethical, and environmentally stable industry.

It’s already been more than a month post-Copenhagen and based on conversations we’ve been part of at the Brooklyn Fashion+Design Accelerator, many people are still energized by the summit’s three day experience. We reached out to 10 VIP colleagues who attended the Copenhagen Fashion Summit with us to see what really resonated for them and what they hope people will incorporate into their thinking moving forward.

What impressed them most? Read below.

lewis perkins copenhagen photo

Image: Lewis Perkins, Copenhagen Fashion Summit

Lewis Perkins, President, Cradle to Cradle

“For me, the powerful declarations of the Youth Summit felt like a call to action from one generation to the next. An accountability from a rising group of leaders who are saying, YOU are in power now, but we will be next. Their mandate for commitments and change reminded me of the critical role the leaders of today have in turning the wheel now, so that the momentum can begin. We don’t have time to sit around another generation as our planet heats up and our impact lends for toxicity and depletion of critical resources. Now is the time we must start the acceleration of positive impact which will be continued by our children and our children’s children. We owe this change not to our corporation and economies, we owe this to our descendants.”

burak cakmak

Image: Sara Kozlowski

Burak Cakmak, Dean of Fashion Parsons School of Design

“Sitting on the plane back to New York, I was moved by the all personal commitments to a future for design that considered not only improving products but advancing people’s lives and experiences. As the leading innovator in design education, Parsons is challenging its students to understand the larger systems and societies into which they’re intervening, so that they can offer better solutions. After hearing all the positive feedback from brands and companies about the direction we’re urging our students to think, I left Copenhagen feeling immense hope that our graduates would in fact be educating brands, rather than companies training new employees.”


Image: Julie Gilhart (far right) in Copenhagen with Nadja Swarovski  and Susan Rockefeller

Julie Gilhart, Fashion Consultant

“I thought The Copenhagen Fashion Summit was a benchmark event leading into a new time where many designers are questioning the way they create. The Summit serves as a gathering place to learn, debate, converse, and activate. I’m continually inspired by Rick Ridgeway at Patagonia who speaks about staying true to creating clothes that have a longer life. Hannah Jones at Nike continues to push on innovation in materials and processes. Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times drives hard the point that sustainability needs to be “sexy.” I moderated a panel with Susan Rockefeller and Nadja Swarovski, both women who have legacy names, that are pushing for better practices. We need leaders and Copenhagen gave us a platform for leaders to gather and inspire.”

mara hoffman

Image: Dana Davis, Director of Production & Sustainability at Mara Hoffman, Celine DeCarlo, Director of Brand Communications, Head of Environmental & Social Affairs at Mara Hoffman

Celine DeCarlo, Director of Brand Communications, Head of Environmental & Social Affairs, Mara Hoffman

“Leaving a conference with even more energy than when you arrive is a rare feat. But my time in Copenhagen did exactly that. Granted this was my first sustainability conference, there were moments that have truly contributed to the growing momentum of the changes we are implementing at Mara Hoffman.

One of these moments came during Patagonia’s Rick Ridegway presentation when he declared, ‘Sustainability- you have to know you’re never going to get there…be aware. Get Active. Use your talent to do good. And remember the power of just one individual.’ This, for me, was the ‘Aha!’ moment for a simple reason. When embarking on a journey of sustainability, feeling overwhelmed is prevalent. Where do you start? Which direction do you take? What do you prioritize? Breaking down the notion that there was indeed no end goal only empowered the actions we as a company are taking. Without an end in sight, we can only move forward, grow and keep implementing positive change in the way we manufacture. Rick reminded me to always move forward, that there’s always something to be done, to stop talking and to start doing.”

sara kozlowski

Image: Sara Kozlowski of Copenhagen’s alternative energy skyline

Sara Kozlowski, CFDA, Education and Professional Development Director

“Copenhagen reminded me that fashion is largely a reflection of societal and economic trends and ultimately our culture is increasingly one of transience. However, the presence of global policy makers and institutional leaders triggered optimism and a sense that the power of ‘we’ is stronger than a silo of one. Today and tomorrow, collaborative infrastructures coupled with technological innovations, and new supply chains will be key in creating impactful fashion strategies. We now have a glimpse of a future where take back systems will drive the circular economy into action via breakthroughs in textile mechanical & chemical recycling processes. These inventions have the potential to break barriers and make closed loop material systems a possibility for small and mid-scale creative makers.”

copenhagen 1 from DEb

Image: Deb Johnson

Deb Johnson, Executive Director, Brooklyn Fashion+Design Accelerator

“A week of being surrounded by 1200 leaders working to drive change was a heady experience, but along with the pledges to reduce impacts and induced optimism came some caution to remind us that our strategies might still be flawed. When H&M’s president announced the company was striving to create a closed loop system and Nike’s brilliant head of sustainability announced a commitment to reductions of 50% while doubling their size – a prickly and awesome British designer Livia Firth stuck her ground and told her truth, ‘The elephant in the room is fast fashion.’ Later on, an also awesome Linda Greer from the NRDC was determined to break the magic spell. She spoke on behalf of humanity making it clear that, ‘The industry is actively creating a race to the bottom in the developing world.’

Most poignant perhaps was Renzo Rosso, a very successful fashion entrepreneur, who was both poetic and crushing.’The speed of life leaves no time to dream,’ he said. He said it in English but his sigh was all Italian.”

*This story first appeared on the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator blog.

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