Copenhagen Fashion Week

Earlier this month, Copenhagen Fashion Week (CPHFW) took over Denmark’s capital in a vibrant display of style diversity. Regarded as the fifth global fashion week, CPHFW is the biggest in Northern Europe welcoming a global network to four days of shows, presentations, installations and events unified by a common ambition for a major re-imagining of the fashion industry’s sustainability measures.

“Sustainability is the core tenet to our vision of Copenhagen Fashion Week as a forward-thinking representation of Nordic talent to our global community,” says Cecile Thorsmark, CPHFW CEO.

With a huge environmental impact, the fashion industry accounts for up to 10% of global carbon dioxide output (more than international flights and shipping combined!) and its water footprint is also enormous. Textile waste is rampant with up to 85% of textiles ending up in landfill where they take a significant amount of time to decay due to the prevalence of synthetic fibres. With an intricate supply chain often adversely affected to the point that the consumer is copping the cost of material scarcities (pushing up demand and therefore price points) and myriad other disruptions, the inaccessibility of many more sustainable brands becomes a barrier for those wanting to buy better. In an effort to disrupt the system, CPHFW has introduced a set of minimum standards — The Sustainability Action Plan — that all show scheduled brands must abide by.

After launching the first Action Plan in January 2020, CPHFW is entering the next stage of its sustainability strategy at a time when it’s even more urgent for the global community to accelerate their vital work to decarbonise operations and supply chains. Last years UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) reminded us that there are less than seven years left to combat the severe impacts of climate change and legislation in the EU and beyond.

Spanning six focus areas covering the entire value chain, The Sustainability Action Plan outlines a set of Minimum Standards which address strategic direction, design, smart material choices, working conditions, consumer engagement and the actual show. The visionary processes outlined demonstrate the possibility in better practices and a commitment to cultivating an industry wide overhaul. If the largest fashion week in Northern Europe can host only brands that adhere to the Minimum Standards, it goes without saying that a lot of clothing is being produced sustainably which in turn, means that the end cost will hopefully be reduced as those outputs become the norm.

The world is still far from rectifying the extreme damage caused by the fashion industry, however CPHFW has emerged as an exemplar of a greener fashion industry. It has proven that innovation, creativity and style are far from compromised but rather bolstered by the introduction of sustainability constraints which drive the way fashion is designed, manufactured, marketed and retailed. Adding an invaluable dimension to consumer culture, CPHFW has taken action to restore balance, extending a silent proposition to Paris, Milan, New York and London to follow in their stead to reduce the industry’s impact.

Melbourne-based documentary fashion and portrait photographer Liz Sunshine headed to Copenhagen to photograph street style and events at CPHFW 2023. Through her lens, a picture of stylistic diversity and expressive freedom has emerged, demonstrating the breadth of sustainable fashion in and around this year’s event. Leveraging an eye that has quietly collected and catalogued attendees and street style surrounding myriad Fashion Weeks around the globe over the past decade, Liz’s photographic aptitude opens a window into a future which dovetails quiet luxury, environmental awareness, expressive personal style and action.

Words by Tiffany Jade. Images by Liz Sunshine.