6 Inspiring Insights from the 2023 Global Fashion Summit to Drive Action

2023 Global Fashion Summit
2023 Global Fashion Summit

Despite the significant increase in discussions surrounding sustainability in the fashion industry over the past five years, progress towards tangible action remains disappointingly slow. Recognizing this urgent need for change, the 2023 Global Fashion Summit held in Copenhagen centered around the theme of “Ambition to Action.” This annual gathering of prominent brands aspires to drive the industry towards a more environmentally conscious and sustainable future.

“Now is not the time to say we’re going to do [this] in five or 10 [years], or whatever the goal is that they want to create,” Federica Marchionni, CEO of the Global Fashion Agenda—the non-profit organization that arranges the summit—tells Vogue. “It’s about what they’re going to do, and what they are already doing; sharing their practices and the challenges.”

The Global Fashion Summit commenced with an insightful discussion led by Jonathan Anderson, the creative director of Loewe and JW Anderson, alongside Antoine Arnault, the head of image and environment at LVMH. They shared their unique approaches to sustainability, setting the tone for the event. The main stage featured prominent brands such as Nike, Kering (the owner of Gucci), and Inditex (the parent company of Zara), each offering their valuable perspectives.

To align with the overarching theme of “Ambition to Action,” the 2023 Global Fashion Summit introduced three additional stages to enrich the discourse. Among them, one stage showcased compelling case studies from industry leaders. Allbirds, for instance, unveiled the prototype of its groundbreaking carbon-zero shoe, while Chloé and Vestiaire Collective showcased their collaborative effort in launching instant resale earlier this year. On the innovation stage, Ganni shone a spotlight on Rubi Laboratories, a promising start-up from California that revolutionizes textile production by capturing CO2 from manufacturing waste and transforming it into textiles. These diverse stages provided attendees with valuable insights into the practical implementations of sustainability in the fashion industry.

Textiles waste remains a major issue

One of the most powerful discussions of the summit came via The Or Foundation, a non-profit in Ghana that works to tackle the enormous textiles waste problem at Kantamanto Market in Accra. There, 15 million garments arrive every single week, with young girls and women risking their lives transporting enormous bales of clothing on their heads. “People are dying; the local textiles industry is almost dead,” Sammy Oteng, the non-profit’s senior community engagement manager, says of the desperate reality of the situation on the ground. “It’s not the time to debate this anymore; we need action.”

At last year’s summit, The Or Foundation revealed it was receiving $15 million in funding from ultra-fast fashion brand Shein in order to help tackle the issue. As we wait for the European Union to announce its proposal to implement extended producer responsibility (EPR) regulation—which would make brands financially responsible for the collection, sorting, and recycling of goods at the end of their life—Oteng called for brands to introduce voluntary EPR initiatives to speed up action.