By: Sangeeta Haindl
The glamorous world of fashion is not really associated with being the world of socially responsible companies or sustainability. Yet one woman is changing this: Eva Kruse, CEO of the Danish Fashion Institute and Chairman of the Nordic Fashion Association. In the last month, she has pulled off the largest sustainable fashion summit in the world and launched a global social media campaign aiming to forever change the way we look at our clothes. Eva’s aim isn’t for all of us to start wearing dull clothes; it’s to have sustainable fashion that is desirable and wonderful in every way to create the “brilliance with less impact on people and the planet.”
Eva Kruse is forcing all companies in the industry to declare sustainability a key value and to become socially responsible companies. She says, “I have worked in the fashion industry for nearly 20 years, and it is a wonderful and exciting industry, but it is also one of the largest and most polluting in the world…That is why it is so important that we address this … because of the size of the industry, even a small change can make a big difference.” The fashion world is known for its large consumption of water and fertilizer in cotton production, chemical processing at plants, the pollution of waterways and environments, safety issues for workers, fair wages and child labour.
Eva Kruse’s movement to get fashion houses to think and act like socially responsible companies is in full swing. Last month in April, she gathered more than 1,000 people—Hollywood celebrities, international designers and other industry professionals—at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit to explore sustainable solutions. It ended with a suggested Code of Conduct for the Fashion and Textile industry, created in conjunction with the United Nations, and will be presented alongside the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June.
This is also the goal of her latest venture, an online campaign called NICE (Nordic Initiative, Clean and Ethical). It aims to have the industry join forces around change and to educate consumers to make conscious choices. Those leading the charge are socially responsible companies like Swedish chain store H&M with their Conscious Collection, Patagonia, Danish design house Trash-Couture, and the PPR Group with brands like Gucci, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Puma. H&M’s head of sustainability, Helena Helmersson says, “Customers are becoming more and more aware and want transparency, which makes companies improve their sustainability performance and make more sustainable products. As a big player we can help drive demand.”
Overall, this campaign means that fashion suddenly gets new meaning with the term ‘fashion statement’ – making it one of value. It has the potential to push other industries to become socially responsible companies. Eva Kruse’s drive is making big fashion brands and designers care, making them show and tell that they care. This means we as consumers could also begin to think differently about how we spend our money.