4 takeaways from the Global Fashion Summit for fashion SMBs

26 Aug 2022

The Global Fashion Summit returned to Copenhagen in June for the first physical event since 2019. Each year this international forum hosts the best of the best as they discuss sustainable initiatives for the future of fashion. 

This year, the theme was “Alliances for a New Era” and focused heavily on promoting collaboration between brands (even competitors). The hope? An industry-wide transformation in the name of sustainability.

4 key takeaways from this year’s Global Fashion Summit

Brands need to start considering how to decarbonise their supply chains

It’s no secret that fast fashion significantly contributes to climate change, largely thanks to the complex supply chains in the fashion industry. 

According to a 2016 report by Quanitis, apparel and footwear industries were responsible for an estimated 8.1% of global climate impacts (3,990 million metric tons CO2eq). Footwear alone takes credit for approximately 1/5 of the apparel industry’s impact, sitting at roughly 1.4% of global climate impacts (700 million metric tons CO2eq). Meanwhile, the apparel industry accounts for 6.7% of global climate impacts (3,290 million metric tons CO2eq).

To combat the fashion industry’s massive carbon footprint, we need to start focusing on ways to improve our supply chains. The most effective way to do that is by adopting renewable energy and energy efficiency across the supply chain. Crucially, this needs to happen at an industry-wide level to be truly effective. 

Key areas of the supply chain that need to be addressed include dyeing and finishing, fibre production, yarn preparation, fabric preparation, and assembly. These are much tougher areas to improve the environmental impact of but will have high-level benefits for local communities, public health and, of course, the industry’s carbon footprint.

Considering the impact of fashion on garment workers 

Following on from that last point, something that is often (unfortunately) overlooked is the impact fashion has on garment workers. 

In recent years, the problematic nature of fast fashion has come to light. Stories of underpaid, overworked employees have tainted the fast fashion sector, pushing many to seek more sustainable and ethically sound products.

Textile workers often work incredibly long hours, sometimes over 60 hours per week. Their pay is dismal, with many receiving between 2 to 6 cents per garment, and there is no overtime pay. In fact, in 2019, Oxfam found that 0% of Bangladeshi garment workers and only 1% of Vietnamese garment workers earned a living wage. Textile factories are also renowned for their poor health and safety practices. 

Of course, the need for fast fashion is obvious. Brands like Primark and H&M have thousands of stores across the world and are loved by consumers. The ability to buy cheaper clothing is especially important during the recent financial crises, and it’s not something consumers are willing to give up. 

To help manage the impact of fast fashion, major players in the sector need to take a leaf out of a purpose-driven fashion retailer’s book. Patagonia and Everlane are at the forefront of this area, and fast fashion brands can learn a lot from these purpose-driven retailers. These brands don’t just consider how their operations affect their workers at home and abroad. They pride themselves on actively trying to improve their workers’ lives. 

Big brands are introducing circular strategies

One of the big headlines from the summit was Ralph Lauren’s “Live On” strategy. This new promise is part of Ralph Lauren’s “Timeless by Design” approach, which looks to ensure its timelessness philosophy is baked into everything the brand does. 

“At Ralph Lauren, we have always believed in creating things that last— that never go out of style,” said Katie Ioanilli, Chief Global Impact & Communications Officer. “Today, as we unveil our Live On promise and Timeless by Design approach, we are embracing Ralph’s vision of timelessness more deeply and boldly than ever before.”

The new strategy is based on three foundational pillars to guide Ralph Lauren’s initial goals: 

  • Design for circularity: Ralph Lauren has committed to designing its products according to circular principles by 2025, including a goal to make five iconic products C2C Certified®. In addition, the Company will offer high-quality products made with 100% recycled cotton.
  • Enable circular consumer experiences: The Company has committed to extending the life of its products by piloting ways for its consumers to rent, repair, and recirculate Ralph Lauren products by 2025 in select top cities. 
  • Advance the circular economy: By 2025, Ralph Lauren will also invest in scaling regenerative practices and innovative technologies. 

To coincide with the new strategy announcement, Ralph Lauren introduced a change to one of its most iconic pieces. Their cashmere sweaters will be the first-of-its-kind luxury Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certified product. 

While this isn’t the first circular strategy Ralph Lauren has introduced — simply a part of their existing circulatory strategy — it’s sure to inspire other brands to adopt similar strategies to ensure the betterment of the entire fashion industry. 

Technology is more important than ever

It will come as no surprise that technology is the key to creating a better, more sustainable industry. Incorporating the latest technology into the fashion industry could revolutionise supply chains, garment factories, and even how we sell our products. 

During the summit, British leather goods specialist Mulberry announced its intention to adopt digital IDs for its products. Mulberry is using the digital IDs to help “revolutionise the way luxury brands and customers connect and steward circularity in luxury fashion”. 

As an established member of the Sustainable Markets Initiative Fashion Task Force, it’s no surprise Mulberry is leading the way once again. They plan to add these digital IDs to all of their products by 2025, starting with vintage “pre-loved” bags from its circular economy program, the Mulberry Exchange.

These digital IDs will empower customers to make better, more sustainable choices through technology. Customers can tap their smartphone on the NFC-enabled tag to access a personalised digital experience. They can learn about their item, including its history and origins, as well as exclusive content and services such as authentication, repair, and resale. This is a great step towards boosting the life cycle of each of their products by creating a resale market based on honesty and trust. 

Meanwhile, Danish fashion brand Ganni is looking to shake up the entire textiles industry with its three new fabric innovations; Mylo, Stem, and Circulose. These “Fabrics of the Future” have been created to make a more circular industry and create lower-impact materials. Ganni hopes these new fabric innovations will help them reach their goal of a 50% absolute carbon reduction by 2027. 

Creating a more sustainable fashion industry with technology

One of the first steps to making your fashion SMB more sustainable is getting a complete overview of your supply chain, inventory, and orders. That’s what we’re passionate about at Workhorse. We can help you get a detailed view of your entire operation and help you make eco-friendly changes. 

To see how Workhorse can help you, request a demo today!

And be sure to read our blog for more posts about incorporating fair trade practices into your textile warehouse management, how to embrace ‘ReCommerce’, and how to get started with inventory automation in the apparel industry.

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