copenhagen fashion week sustainability

Sara King Moura reflects on Copenhagen Fashion Week’s sustainability efforts

Sara King Moura is a fashion writer and stylist, but most of all, she views herself as an incubator of emerging brands. With the likes of Forbes, WWD, Financial Times, Vogue Scandinavia, and Marie Claire UK, she knows how to use her voice within the industry. We talked to King Moura about her look at Copenhagen Fashion Week’s sustainability efforts and the general topic of (and problem with) sustainability. “There is still an unfathomable subjectivity across vocabulary, leading to many gaps, awkward silences, and deflections. Despite, Copenhagen Fashion Week has created a framework of operations that can be replicable and applied to major fronts within fashion.”
Cover photo: James Cochrane

Sustainability at Copenhagen Fashion Week

“There is a writer I have enjoyed since I was a little girl,” Sara King Moura starts. “Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said that one could see rightly only with the heart. To him, what’s essential is invisible to the eye. This is a strong metaphor for what sustainability should mean, right?” Sara King Moura starts right away when we ask her about her view on Copenhagen Fashion Week’s sustainability efforts. “It’s undeniable the blazing impact that CPHFW has been having in not only highlighting how the industry (from its very supply chain to its main ambassadors and enablers) needs to deconstruct this enormously complex concept but in making it a mission to cement how urgent it is to proactively create a framework of operations that can, irrevocably, be replicable and applied to major fronts within fashion.” 

Three years ago, the organization behind Copenhagen Fashion Week developed the eighteen Minimum Standards – a set of minimum requirements all participating fashion houses must comply with. The fall/winter 2023 edition marked a milestone: all 29 participating brands were approved by the CPHFW Show Committee and the CPHFW Sustainability Committee. And so, Copenhagen Fashion Week became the first fashion week in the world, making the value chain perspective equally crucial as the fashion design criteria. The Minimum Standards tap into Strategic Direction, Design, Smart Material Choices, Working Conditions, Consumer Engagement, and Show. 

Copenhagen Fashion Week CEO Cecilie Thorsmark is beyond thrilled: “We wished to rethink our platform and use our position to contribute to accelerating the sustainability efforts of the fashion brands that make up Copenhagen Fashion Week. Ever since, we have been working closely with the brands to support them through various knowledge-sharing activities and to prepare them for an extensive application process this season. I’m utterly impressed by the dedication the brands have shown in making the necessary strides to live up to the Minimum Standards.”

Also, read: Copenhagen Fashion Week’s most viral moments spread an important message

Subjective vocabulary

While Sara King Moura is equally impressed, she views sustainability critically. “There is still an unfathomable subjectivity across vocabulary, leading to many gaps, awkward silences, and deflections. Words like “responsibility-sourced” or “preferred materials” are too lyrical for my taste,” she explains. “It makes me scratch my head. Aside from my role as a fashion writer and stylist, I incubate, mentor, and consult for emerging brands. Many of them have been evolving considerably from a sourcing point of view, betting on materials like pineapple and cactus leather. Others produce in family-owned studios, sticking to tiny quantities and celebrating traditional techniques – every one of them working with leather partners with the LWG (leather working group), the biggest authority for leather responsibility. For me, enumerating the type of materials and quantities used or included in a garment makes for true transparency, leaving ambivalence out of the sustainable equation – one that needs to be sharply communicated to positively influence people. You know, like positive debt, positive peer pressure is a thing and can lead to a more visible and swift change.”

To help emerging brands and young designers set the tone for the future, CPHFW NEWTALENT, supported by Circulose®, recently launched. It aims to nurture, develop, and promote emerging Nordic talent globally, designing a future-proof fashion industry driven by sustainability. 

A two-folded problem

The sustainability problem doesn’t only lie on the sourcing side; it’s part of the way in which brands communicate and market themselves as well. King Moura: “In my opinion, the problem is two-folded: sure, sourcing x supply chain has been thought to be quick and reactive rather than slow and considerate. However, for me, how a brand positions itself from day one will play a huge part in how it plays its role and caters to its purpose. The way we market a brand and its design and collection will play into the world of trends and how that community, specifically, will consume those same ideas. Trends are the engine that ignites consumption, and overconsumption is ignited by how brands market their creations during the life cycle of said garment. To me, solid knowledge of branding, management, pr, business development and pricing, social media, and copywriting is foundational in determining how the brand will be perceived and, therefore, defining how it will articulate and operationalize its design and production process and timelines.”

Doubtful choices

Traditionally, GANNI’s show marked the closure of Copenhagen Fashion Week on Thursday. Front-row guests were covered in yellow confetti at the end – made from recycled materials only, of course. King Moura has her doubts. “The Ganni show introduced us to a visual experience created by recycled confetti… I wonder if that fact alone makes it okay for us to drop hundreds, if not thousands, of little yellow papers on the floor. How delusional are we to consider that “sustainability” when the whole concept speaks to the goal of “letting go of what’s unnecessary”? It seems illogical to see a focus on digital invitations to witness this very confusing moment.”

Moved by the right goals 

However, King Moura remains optimistic about the motives that are the driving force behind Copenhagen Fashion Week. “Ultimately, the event is moved by the right goals, developing the backbone of what’s needed across the big four (London, Paris, Milan, and New York, Fashion Week red.) that still fail at paramount aspects and core pillars as far as environmental management goes. It’s a work in continuous progress and a steal learning curve for the organization and brands aiming to be part of it – after all, someone is at the helm, and that someone is Denmark. Regardless, a more methodic, objective, reformatory, and transparent approach must be implemented, from A to Z – including business and marketing departments. We need to instrumentalize awareness and thoroughly assess.”