Calling for action and collaboration — our takeaways from Global Fashion Summit

Beyond the glamour of runways, the Global Fashion Summit cast a powerful spotlight on the pressing global sustainability challenges within the fashion industry. The international event, an extension of the renowned Copenhagen edition, was the second edition that fostered global co-operation in the industry.
October 02, 2023

The end of September is undeniably the most busy period in fashion. After fashion weeks occurring in New York, London and Milan, all eyes are currently directed towards Paris, where brands are showing their upcoming spring/summer 2024 women’s collections. However, fashion’s most important event has been taking place in a less fashion-y city — namely, Boston — when Global Fashion Agenda hosted the second international edition of their renowned conference, Global Fashion Summit.

The Global Fashion Summit has since 2009 been arranged yearly in Copenhagen and has established itself as the industry’s foremost event when it comes to agenda setting within the industry when it comes to sustainability, social and ethical issues. Last autumn, the first international edition took place in Singapore. This time it travelled west to the USA and Boston. 

Federica Marchionni, CEO of Global Fashion Agenda. Photo: Global Fashion Agenda/
Global Fashion Summit 2023

— Over the years, we have seen such tremendous influence from the Copenhagen Edition, that it seemed only right that we expanded this experience to reach people around the world, in keeping with the very essence of Global Fashion Agenda. By bringing the renowned forum to different locations, we are able to spotlight even more voices from across the value chain in the programme, to discuss global sustainability challenges, differences, and opportunities to collaborate. Our Summits also feature educational and action-oriented business case studies — offering tangible learnings and concrete recommendations from different contexts. International players are critical in these dialogues, explains Federica Marchionni, CEO of Global Fashion Agenda, to Scandinavian MIND.

Preppy style aside, fashion and Boston are to many an oxymoron. But, according to Marchionni, the choice to host the summit in Boston was a fairly easy decision. 

— Boston is the cultural and financial centre of the Northeastern United States and a renowned hub for technology and education. It is a historically rich city and acts as a nexus point for knowledge and innovation — the Innovation Forum is always a major highlight of our Summit, making this a particularly apt location. The United States is also home to some of the world’s most renowned fashion brands and leading retailers – it was the largest apparel market in the world in 2022, thus making it a logical location for our next Summit. Plus, following the summit on 28 September, select attendees are meeting for a closed-door workshop at MIT, giving insight into a new model of innovation to solve climate challenges in the textiles sector.

The summit was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The organisation gathers different actors from the textile and clothing industries to create a collaborative effort to drive change in said. The SAC are also the creator of the Higg Index, a standardized measurement of sustainability within the value chain.

The Global Fashion Summit itself gathered over 40 speakers from leading companies and organizations within the textile- and clothing industries. The theme of the summit ’Ambition to Action’ was the same as in Copenhagen this summer. During panel talks, fireside chats and round tables, the theme was discussed in relation to finance, policy and retail.

During the day, Global Fashion Agenda presented its latest report, the Fashion CEO Agenda. The report is a guide on how fashion leaders can future-proof their companies. The report takes hold on some of the most pressing issues when it comes to social and environmental sustainability and provides guidance on how to navigate these concerns. In regards to the Fashion CEO Agenda, GFA also published the 2030 Fashion Sector Vision, a report that examines where the fashion industry should be in 2030, in terms of sustainability goals.

Photo: Global Fashion Agenda/ Global Fashion Summit 2023

— The Fashion CEO Agenda supports the establishment and implementation of leadership strategies to achieve a net positive fashion sector that puts back more into society, the environment, and the global economy than it takes out. In a first for the publication, this edition has been developed to include subsequent action areas for brands, retailers, and producers. I urge fashion leaders to align their corporate strategies to the priorities and actions laid out in the Fashion CEO Agenda and for the wider sector to support and foster a conducive environment for scaling this transformation. To achieve a net positive fashion sector, it is imperative the industry moves from ambition to taking holistic action, explains Marchionni.

GFA also launched the GFA Policy Matrix: Americas. A non-exhaustive document that frames policy efforts and legislations in the textile industries across the Americas. The new document complements the GFA Policy Matrix: EU edition, published in June, this year.

Javier Sancho, Head of Global Issues and Innovation, European Union Delegation to the
United States. Photo: Global Fashion Agenda/ Global Fashion Summit 2023

Just like in the EU, a slew of legislation and policies are awaiting, or already being implemented in the Americas. Hence, the summit put the topic under scrutiny. Javier Sancho, Head of Global Issues and Innovation, European Union Delegation to the United States, presented what is happening in the industry and in a panel talk leaders from NGOs and fashion brands shared their experiences in dealing with upcoming changes.

Andy Ruben, Founder and Executive Chair, Trove. Photo: Global Fashion Agenda/ Global
Fashion Summit 2023

In the panel talk ”Resales Role in Decarbonizing Fashion”, the report ”Where Are Circular Models Effective Sustainability Strategies for Fashion Brands?” was presented. The report is conducted by Trove, one of the fashion industry’s forefront resale platforms, and Worldly, a data analytics firm focusing on ESG and the licensee of the Higg Index. The report looks into how brands could set up efficient and sustainable resale models. The study found that fast-fashion retailers won’t be able to cut down their emissions from resale programs. However, premium brands could make a significant difference by implying resale and by 2040 lower their annual carbon emissions by 15–16%.

The Global Fashion Summit is certainly a vehicle of change to the fashion industry’s most pressing issues. Even though change is happening, the need for urgent action is evident. Which according to Marchionni, only happens through collaboration at large.

— Promising pockets of development confirm the industry’s commitment to change and demonstrate actions to revolutionise the garment sector. Nevertheless, there is still so much more to be done towards social and environmental sustainability. The current pace of improvement is too slow. Though, shifting to sustainable business models can take time, there is an urgent need for accelerated implementation to achieve the systemic change needed, and stakeholder action is required across the board. Progress towards establishing a living wage and fair compensation for all must be driven in tandem with significant decarbonisation and the decoupling of virgin resource use from business growth. Success will not be achieved without people, nor at the cost of people’s livelihoods.