“Somebody has to pay for transparency.” That was the impassioned plea made by Mostafiz Uddin yesterday during day one of the 2018 Copenhagen Fashion Summit. The Managing Director of Denim Expert Ltd, an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible garment manufacturing plant in Chittagong, Bangladesh, who also founded the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) to promote sustainable practices within the Bangladesh apparel industry, was speaking as part of a panel discussion on ‘Enabling transparency to create change’, and it was transparency that was the word on everyone's lip’s yesterday.
Now into its sixth edition, the 2018 Copenhagen Fashion Summit is currently taking place at the DR Koncerthuset, the Danish city’s renowned concert hall. Widely recognized as the world’s leading forum on sustainability in fashion, the theme for this year’s event is ‘Commitment to Change’, and we have joined participants from across the industry who have convened in Copenhagen to take part in this now two-day event.
Uddin’s vocal plea for a level playing field when it comes to transparency within the industry garnered applause from the audience. He argued that adopting transparent practices shouldn’t be a barrier for Bangladesh and leave the local industry at a competitive disadvantage, and that whether the consumer pays for the associated costs or the brands foot the bill, the message has to be effectively communicated.
Another impassioned speaker was Simon Collins, the founder and CEO of Fashion Culture Design Series, who also spoke about the need for effective communication. Originally a fashion designer and then creative director for brands including Nike, Polo and Zegna, he delivered a talk urging the audience to stop preaching to the converted and to focus their efforts on convincing those who have yet to act about the message of sustainability. "Those of us who care about responsible consumption must engage with others who don’t,” he said. “In these polarized times we can’t hope to make progress by simply talking to ourselves."
The former Dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons School of Design and now an industry commentator, Collins issued a call for action rather than words which centered around the premise of forcing ourselves out of our comfort zones. From an employee point of view he spoke about the merits of getting fired “if what you feel you’re doing is the right thing to do”, and addressing company owners he remarked, “If you’re running a company and you’re not doing something that makes you mildly uneasy you’re not trying hard enough.”
Feeding into both the issues of transparency and communication, TheCurrent’s Chief Intelligent Officer Rachel Arthur spoke about the need to build trust. The award-winning business journalist and former senior editor of the market intelligence team at trend forecaster WGSN was part of a panel discussing ‘The future of transparency’, and she voiced the view that “People want to understand a brand's values. People want brands to stand for something. Like Patagonia standing up to Trump, or with Gucci and gun reform."
Stay tuned for our highlights from day two.