The 2023 Global Fashion Summit: Copenhagen Edition

A landmark in the journey towards a more sustainable industry

The Global Fashion Summit, presented by NGO, Global Fashion Agenda, kicked off on 27-28 June 2023. Formally referred to as the flagship summit of the year, the event took place in Copenhagen and saw more than 1000 guests in attendance. The programme was jam-packed with expert insights and featured 137 speakers, representing 28 countries. 

The list of speakers read like the ‘who’s who’ of the sustainable world and included HRH The Crown Princess of Denmark, fashion pioneer and creative director, JW Anderson, as well as Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries at the European Commission. It was great to see our friends from Spin Ventures there too - we’re big supporters of the work Nic Gorini and team do there investing in startups promoting circularity.

In just two days, the summit facilitated more than 350 meetings between brands and sustainable solution providers. The objective? To bring together global industry leaders, change-makers and thinkers to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable fashion industry.

A snapshot of the 2023 Global Fashion Summit

The Global Fashion Summit serves as a platform for open dialogue, knowledge exchange, and collaborative efforts aimed at transforming the fashion sector into a force for positive change. With a primary focus on sustainability, inclusivity, and innovation, the summit aims to shape the future of fashion in a way that benefits both people and the planet.

This year’s theme for the summit was ‘Ambition to Action,’ with panels and speaker topics touching on the practical ways that the fashion industry can contribute towards building a more sustainable world. As one of the world’s most significant polluters, in terms of waste, chemical by-products and carbon emissions, many leaders at the summit agreed that a large part of the solution must come from within the fashion industry. 

Images Courtesy of

Themes and talking points

Circular fashion was a major point of discussion, advocating for a shift from the traditional linear model (produce, use, dispose) to a circular one, where materials are reused, repaired, and recycled. This approach promotes responsible consumption and production, and is an essential step towards achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

The summit also showcased various eco-friendly materials and cutting-edge technologies. From organic and regenerative textiles to innovative 3D-printed fashion, attendees witnessed how sustainability can seamlessly integrate with style. For many of the attendees, the summit played a pivotal role in demonstrating how technology and innovation can revolutionise the fashion sector for the better. Virtual fashion shows, digital showrooms, and augmented reality experiences are reshaping how consumers interact with fashion, reducing the need for physical products and their associated environmental footprint.

Advancements in material science, such as lab-grown leather and plant-based alternatives to synthetic fibers, have gained significant traction, particularly over the past few years. The potential to scale these technologies presents an exciting opportunity for the industry to reduce its reliance on resource-intensive practices and animal-derived materials. Technology can be a powerful enabler of change, and as speakers at the summit confirmed, there has never been a better time in history to adopt an innovation-first mindset. 

Beyond environmental considerations, the 2023 Global Fashion Summit highlighted the fashion industry's potential as a catalyst for social change. Discussions touched upon inclusivity, diversity, and fair labour practices. Several thought-provoking sessions emphasised the importance of integrating different cultures, body types, and identities in fashion, challenging the norms that have dominated the industry for too long. Sustainability; as we know, should have as much of a human face as it does an environmental one. 

Another important aspect of the summit was the emphasis on education and collaboration. Industry leaders stressed the need for ongoing learning and knowledge-sharing to drive collective action towards a sustainable future. To do this, collaboration between brands, governments, NGOs, and consumers will become increasingly important.

Additionally, consumers were empowered during the summit to make mindful choices and demand transparency from brands about their sustainability practices. A shift in consumer behavior can significantly influence industry practices, prompting more companies to adopt sustainable measures and responsible policies.

Several important industry bodies, platforms and tools were launched at this year’s summit. These launches drove home the fact that issues and solutions around sustainability need to translate into material and practical learning opportunities and action points. Here are 3 of the most important developments to come out of this year’s summit:
Change afoot in the global textile production industry

Top of mind for attendees of this year’s summit was the establishment of the Global Textiles Policy Forum (GTPF). The forum aims to align textile producers and industry players with governments, and charter a more sustainable way forward. Going forward, the forum will also become an important voice behind supply chain transformation. Initiatives like these will continue to play a pivotal role in how the fashion industry of the future is regulated and how progress is monitored. By addressing the need for global policy coordination, the forum will provide a roadmap for textile production.

Setting the standard
⁠The summit also saw the launch of the The Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook by the United Nations Environment Programme, in partnership with the UN Climate Change. The Playbook is one of the capstones of what the future of fashion will – and should look like. The playbook provides invaluable insights on the role of marketers, brand managers, imagemakers, storytellers, media and influencers as agents of change. 

The playbook shows communicators how to take action through countering misinformation, reducing messages perpetuating overconsumption, redirecting aspiration to more sustainable lifestyles, and empowering consumers to demand greater action from businesses and policymakers. Ultimately it intends to help communicators explore how to assist in decoupling value creation from resource extraction and volume growth, while improving wellbeing.

“The balance between the science of sustainability and reimagining the fashion narrative is where communicators can excel. There is so much power in the stories fashion tells. If the fashion sector is to meet its sustainability targets, we need its enormous marketing engine to redirect its efforts towards sustainable consumption. 

But there is a notable void for participation in this change from communication stakeholders. The Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook provides the practical guide that is needed. Importantly, it highlights how there is scope for huge creativity to envision and realise the world we want to live in,” said Daniel Cooney, Director of Communication, UNEP.

Together towards circularity

This year also saw the launch of the CTI Fashion Initiative, a brand new collaborative effort to actively promote the creation and adoption of circularity in the fashion industry. The initiative is headed up by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), VF and the VF Foundation and Deloitte Switzerland. One of the most important outcomes of the initiatives is its globally recognised metrics system of Circular Transition Indicators, which is a quantitative, data-based and flexible framework that provides an internationally applicable system of metrics that will set the sustainability standard for brands, innovators and large corporations. 

According to Jeff Turner, Senior Advisor at WBCSD: "As a beacon of creativity and innovation, the fashion industry has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to lead the way in the transition to a circular economy. Large-scale implementation of circular solutions is still lagging, however, and circular fashion must prove itself beyond its promise and deliver tangible impact. That's where the true value of CTI comes into play. CTI provides consistent metrics for measuring circularity within the industry and creates the building blocks for promoting accountability, sustainable value creation and operationalisation of circularity at scale.” 
What’s next?

Global Fashion Agenda is gearing up to host another International Summit in Boston on 27 September. This strategic choice of location reflects North America's significance as the home of renowned fashion brands and leading retailers, employing approximately 1.8 million people in the US fashion industry, with a majority working for apparel retailers.

Moreover, the proximity to South America, a rapidly growing apparel and footwear market with a substantial retail value of $98.9 billion in 2023, reinforces the summit's aim to drive transformation within the fashion industry. 

Building upon the theme of 'Ambition to Action,' the forum in Boston will feature a stronger presence of retailer voices, providing deeper insights into their challenges, differences, and opportunities in creating a more sustainable value chain. In collaboration with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the summit will be hosted the day after their Annual Member Meeting, further enhancing their commitment to sustainability and collective action within the fashion sector.

Sign up to our newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest tips & trends for the home, your style and your beauty regimen.