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Trailblazing sustainability initiatives were unveiled at Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2019, we were there to find out how we can lead the way…

This May key players from 48 countries across the globe representing the fashion sector, politics, NGOs, academia and the media gathered in the eco-hub of Copenhagen for the 10-year anniversary of the world’s leading annual business event on sustainability in fashion. More than 75 high-level speakers took to the stage to discuss topics that ranged from climate change and circular economy to the power of creatives and how fashion can address over-consumption. The focus of the Summit revolved around the pressing need for environmental change and innovation in the world of fashion.

We were there to represent and to engage in this important conversation, we joined the 1,300 strong audience in search of answers, and in search of change.

In her opening address, Eva Kruse, the founder and CEO of the Global Fashion Agenda (and something of a spirit leader in the world of sustainability), said, “We have not come far enough fast enough; let’s be inspired, but let’s put that into action.”

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Eva Kruse the founder and CEO of the Global Fashion Agenda at Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2019.


One of the big changes over the last 10 years at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit is that its attendees have grown from sustainably focused brands to the biggest brands in the world, as the urgency of the climate crisis has mounted. HRH the Crown Princess Mary of Denmark shows her support every year with her opening address and this year model and eco-influencer Arizona Muse, Vogue’s very first Sustainability Editor Claire Press, and Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times all made their mark on the summit.

Key speakers at the event included: François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO, Kering; Paul Polman, Chair, International Chamber Of Commerce and The B Team as well as designer and activist Katharine Hamnett, Connie Nielsen, actor and activist; and the Head of Sustainability, from H&M Group and many more.

From our business the Chairman of Selfridges Group, Alannah Weston, Brown Thomas Fashion Director Shelly Corkery, Head of Sustainability, Dorothy Maxwell and sustainability leads from department stores across all of the Selfridges Group were in attendance.

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Alannah Weston Selfridges Group Chairman is passionate about environmental issues and has been pivotal in making sustainability a core business focus at Brown Thomas and is actively focusing on these issues.


Every year at the Summit the Pulse of the Industry report is presented, this year the report shows that fashion’s sustainability progress has slowed down. This means that fast action is needed. There are just 10 years left before climate and ocean tipping points are irreversible for maintaining a 1.5°C world. The answer? Paul Polman had some comments: "To solve the issues we have today, we don't have to send people to Mars to find the answers. We have the answers; we only need the right leadership and our willpower."

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The Selfridges Group heads of Sustainability and Brown Thomas Fashion Director Shelly Corkery. From left to right: Rosanna D’Alessandro, Holt Renfrew, Dorothy Maxwell, Head of Sustainability, Brown Thomas Arnotts, Justin Paraig, De Bijenkorf, Shelly Corkery, Fashion Director, Brown Thomas, Sara Neame, Selfridges.


Fashion Director Shelly Corkery says "I think that many people, even those within the industry, didn’t truly realise the impact of what was happening. The industry is not changing fast enough. When you look at the volume of clothes going into landfill it’s frightening."

When I started at Brown Thomas 19 years ago, the fashion business was so much smaller. We had Gucci and Prada on the ground floor and we had a rail of ready-to-wear for each. The fashion industry has exploded. We need to take immediate action and we realise it takes action at every level of this industry to make change.

Shelly Corkery, Fashion Director


The unfolding climate emergency were echoed throughout the event. No longer are these topics being discussed by sustainability practitioners alone, the CEO's of fashion retailers and brands are citing the same. The modern luxury fashion sector was highlighted as having a special responsibility. According to Francois Henry Pinault, CEO Kering Group "Luxury fashion is an opinion leader, which influences the whole sector and often society, so it can drive change."

Our Head of Sustainability, Dorothy Maxwell noted: "We all need to act and also collaborate across the industry to drive change quicker and faster. In our business we are members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and we are also an Associate Partner of the Global Fashion Agenda which runs the Copenhagen Fashion Summit."

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Another topic on the agenda that made waves at the summit was the idea of the end of ownership and shifting fashion consumption models as a way of staying relevant. The State of Fashion Report 2019 says: "The lifespan of the fashion product is becoming more elastic as pre-owned refurbished, repair and business models begin to evolve." This is something we have seen gain ground this season with our Vestiaire Collective pop up which was launched in our Dublin store this May, the response to this pop up was amazing and reflected the mood of the customer right now.



Action, speed and collaboration were keywords that drove discussions at this year’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit, with key brands now feeling a sense of urgency to turn ideas into results. It’s time to start re-writing fashion. The good news is we no longer need to nor have to compromise on style to make sustainable choices. Join us in the many ways we can be more conscious about what we buy, wear and consume.